“NEF 24: PROMISED LAND” takes place the night before Father’s Day 2016 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine. In anticipation of NEF 24, all week we will be profiling “Fighting Fathers,” or, “dads that could beat up your dad.” Find out what drives these working dads as they battle to build a better life for their children. In this first installment we speak with featherweight mixed martial artist, Matt Denning.


How many children do you have and what are their ages?

I have one daughter. She’s 7 years old.

What does being a good father mean to you?

Growing up without my father, being a good parent to me means always being there for my child and helping her grow up to be an amazing adult. I’m truly blessed with how awesome my daughter is!

What do your children think about their Dad fighting?

She knows I fight and how often I train, but she doesn’t think much of it. She says I have big muscles and I wrestle!

If your children decide at some point that they would like to train and compete in combat sports, will you approve and what are your feelings on it?

Hollie isn’t very interested in doing jiu jitsu or fighting, but if she wanted to train, I wouldn’t mind if she did.

If you intend on allowing your children to compete in combat sports, how do you plan on introducing them to training and developing a competitive mindset?

If she ever chooses to compete, I’d tell her to give it her all and make sure she prepares herself properly for it.

What type of legacy do you hope to leave as a father and how does that dovetail with your combat sports aspirations?

I want people to know I chose fighting to make a better life and future for Hollie—that all my hard work and sacrifice was to make life easier for her.

As you prepare to compete on June 18th, the day before Father’s Day 2016, what is your message to your children and your dreams for their future?

Fighting the day before Father’s Day against another father is hard. We both want to win and show our kids we did well and worked hard. I want my child to follow her dreams just as much as I am—and I’ll stick behind her in what ever she chooses.