FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (November 9, 2019)
Some people shy away from entering the family business.
Maybe the footsteps are too large, or the work is too demanding. Others are concerned about crafting their own identity, so they veer in a different direction.
Caleb Austin’s ego, emotions and ethics never got in his way. Raised on Rumford’s fighting spirit, born into a family that has embraced it for at least three generations, Austin, 20, seems content with the pressure-packed assumption that he has born for the mat, the ring or the cage.
“My dad (Eric) was a wrestler and had two MMA fights. My grandfather boxed,” Austin said. “That’s kind of how I was raised. I knew I didn’t have much of a choice.”
Austin was plenty motivated not to live in those shadows, however.
He excelled as a wrestler at Mountain Valley High School, crafting a sensational record of 208 wins and only 11 defeats while winning two 126-pound state championships. Three times he was named to the all-state squad.
And two months before receiving his diploma, Austin wasted no time taking the next step. Just over the legal age threshold, he entered the New England Fights mixed martial arts cage for the first time.
Life and college studies intervened, but Austin recently returned to the cage in resounding fashion, flooring Cory Richards fewer than 90 seconds into their amateur flyweight scrap at “NEF 40: School of Hard Knocks” last month in Orono.
With NEF’s next card, “Collision Course,” looming tonight, November 9th at the state-of-the-art Aura in Portland, Austin can’t wait to stay busy and tackle the next challenge.
“I want to get serious about it now. That’s why I asked for a fight in November and stayed right in training,” Austin said.
Like most kids in his generation who have a background in hand-to-hand combat. Austin was enamored with the relatively new sport that was all the rage on pay-per-view in his childhood.
“For as long as I can remember, I was always a huge fan of Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, guys like that,” Austin said. “Then, going to Lewiston and watching my dad in the cage, and I knew right then it was something I wanted to do. My first fight was probably two months after I turned 18.”
Eric Austin won two hard-fought bantamweight contests in NEF’s debut year of 2012.
Also a youth wrestling coach, the elder Austin played an integral role in developing a bumper crop of recent MVHS wrestlers – including Nate Boucher, Eddie DeRoche, and his son – who have made the transition from mat to hexagon.
Caleb Austin went on wrestle at the University of Southern Maine, where he is an athletic training major. Once that stint ended, the thirst for a new challenge was too strong to turn down a sip.
“When you wrestle all your life and into college and it ends, you do wonder what’s next,” Austin said. “There’s not much else to satisfy your competitive nature as an athlete. MMA was kind of the natural way to do that.”
All those wins, coupled with the vast experience fighting in front of large, throaty throngs, were a natural jumping-off point to his next endeavor.
Many who have wrestled before transitioning to MMA also believe it is the most natural path, and Austin won’t argue.
“I would absolutely agree with that,” he said. “Everything wrestling taught me, from the self-discipline to the competitive aspects to the killer instinct you need to have, it all applies to what I’m doing now.”
Much as Peyton Manning was probably born with a football in his right hand and Dale Earnhardt Jr. probably had a circle of die-cast race cars around the edge of his crib, Austin more than likely took some of his first steps in a dimly lit room at the community center.
“Yeah, probably my earliest memories involve wrestling,” he said. “Honestly I don’t even remember the first time I was on the mat. It’s just something that has always been there.”
Of course, none of those predispositions guarantee success, and acquiring the boxing and jiu-jitsu skills (to name only two) that are necessary to be successful in MMA is no overnight project.
Austin is grateful for the NEF community at large that has helped him along the way.
“My background obviously is wrestling. I’ve worked hard on my boxing. That’s more self-taught, I guess,” he said. “I haven’t really had the opportunity to go somewhere and take a class on it. CMBJJ has helped me out a lot with the rest of my game. Recon (Fitness), Kam Arnold, Matt Probin and those guys, they’ve also been a huge help to me. And even on my days off, I work out in my own gym, hitting the heavy bag, working on areas I know I need to improve.”
Those journeys south from the River Valley have aptly prepared Austin for his busy autumn itinerary.
If there were any nerves or rust restricting the relative newcomer after more than two years away from the sport, they didn’t show in his rapid dispatch of Richards.
“It went pretty well. I was really excited to get the win,” he said. “I did train really hard for it and wound up with a first-round TKO. I’m really proud of my performance and looking forward to the next one.”
Austin added that he’s fine with taking another fight on short notice, and even less time to prepare for a specific opponent.
“I feel like I’m ready for whatever they throw at me,” he said. “Whoever Matt (Peterson, NEF co-owner and matchmaker) tells me to fight, I’ll be happy to fight. I don’t plan on stepping back anytime soon.”
For tickets to “NEF 41: Collision Course,” call (207) 772-8274 or go to www.auramaine.com. Tickets will also be available at the door this evening.
About New England Fights
New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.