FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (July 7, 2022)
At the tender age of 21, Kyle Hill considers himself already a strong practitioner of all the disciplines needed to become an amateur champion in mixed martial arts (MMA).
He believes the diverse cast with whom he trains every day at Nostos MMA, not far from his hometown of Northwood, New Hampshire, gives him an even greater edge as he chases those early glories.
Hill (2-0) gets his chance to put it all together and walk out of the New England Fights (NEF) hexagon with a strap around his waist Saturday, July 30, when he confronts Curtis Ouellette (3-3) for the vacant 170-pound NEF amateur title.
It’s one of the primary attractions of NEF 48: “Heatwave,” to be held in the scenic outdoor venue at Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine. Opening bell time is 7 p.m.
“We got literally a whole squad of killers there, and we’ve been training together for so long,” Hill said on a recent episode of the Between Rounds Radio podcast with Ryan Jarrell. “Having a bunch of savages in the room, it sharpens you. Iron sharpens iron. We always say it. We’re ready to show that.”
Despite his relative lack of experience compared to his opponent, Hill has already proven he can go the distance in an unfamiliar environment.
For his cage debut on February 20, 2021, Hill traveled all the way to Tampa, Florida, where he pulled off the rare feat of a split decision victory on the opponent’s home turf. Hill had his arm raised after a nine-minute grind against Charles Keenan.
“I honestly liked that a lot. I liked hearing the crowd not liking me. I’m coming in with my team, We’re the kill crew. We’re coming in to win,” Hill said. “Having the crowd boo honestly hypes me up more. He was a game opponent. I’ll always give Charles props. He was a D1 wrestler, and he threw me on my ass a few times. I knew I was in hostile territory. I felt like I did enough to win, but when you’re in enemy territory you know the judges can really go either way, and luckily they gave me that nod.”
Hill backed it up with a win much closer to home in Manchester, New Hampshire by tapout to rear naked choke over Evan Aubry just 10-seconds from the bell in the waning moments of round one on October 29, 2021.
“I was happy with it,” Hill said. “It’s not my favorite fight. I think I could have done a lot better, and I’m looking to do a lot better with this one.”
Ouellette has been the busier fighter, with back-to-back wins this year balancing his ledger at the .500 threshold and earning the title shot.
The fighters’ common denominator is one of Hill’s training partners at Nostos, Derek Lambert, who dispatched Ouellette by technical knockout this past November.
“Some injuries, whatnot. I’ve been stepping back and coaching some of the fighters, but also just training a lot,” Hill said of the reasons for his nine-month hiatus. “I’ve been really trying to refine my jiu-jitsu and striking. (Ouellette) fought my buddy Derek Lambert a week after I last fought, and Derek was one of my training partners for his camp and my whole camp.”
With that single degree of separation in mind, Hill is happy to get his own shot at Ouellette.
“I like it. Honestly all the fights that I’ve had so far, I loved the matchups. I love testing myself. I love fighting the best guys, and right now Curtis is the best guy in this division,” Hill said. “I’m not taking anything away from this kid. Derek and him fought, and Derek is one of my main training partners. I haven’t fought since October. He’s had two fights. He’s stayed active. But I’m excited. I like this matchup.”
Hill has the advantage of being able to examine a bigger body of work in Ouellette, whose career dates back to 2018.
He sees the improvement that has fueled Ouellette’s recent rally in the win-loss column but believes he has the same weapons in his own arsenal.
“I’ve watched a bunch of film on him. I’m sure he’s tried to look up stuff from me too,” Hill said. “He looks a lot more patient. He’s got heavy hands, I’ll give him that, but I think everyone who does this sport trains right to have that power.”
Hill began honing those skills earlier than most, three years before fighters are permitted to enter the cage.
While other fighters often gain their introduction through wrestling, jiu-jitsu or some other piece of the MMA puzzle, Hill believes cross-training from the get-go affords him an advantage.
“Ever since I started doing this when I was 15, I feel like I’ve been waiting for this moment, and it’s here,” Hill said. “I feel like I’m ready. I feel like I’m prepared. This is one of the hardest camps I’ve had. I’ve trained with some of the best guys. They know how to wrestle. They know how to fight. I’m ready.”
The itch to compete started much earlier than high school.
“I was pretty young. I think I was like eight or nine and remember watching MMA with my stepdad. It was always fun to watch, and I always thought about doing it,” Hill said. “When I was 15, I said, ‘Aw, I gotta try it,’ and I started with jiu-jitsu and been doing it ever since.
“I’ve got my own style. I do it all,” he added. “I’m not a one-dimensional just stand-up. I don’t just wrestle. I don’t just play jiu-jitsu. I’m doing it all. I don’t fit into a category of one or the other. I’ve been doing MMA since I started, and that’s how I define myself. I love it all. I love the sport. The sport’s what I fell on love with from the start and doing it all is what I want to do.”
Hill appears to be the more natural welterweight, which is a double-edged sword.
Ouellette’s heavier walking-around weight could conceivably give him an edge in the power department, but the counterpoint is that Hill may be sharper after not having to cut nearly as many pounds.
“170 isn’t too bad. If I keep my diet in check and I know I’ve got a fight coming like now, it’s not too bad. For now, I’m gonna stick to 170. Maybe in the future go up, but I doubt it. I feel like my body is right for this weight class,” Hill said. “He might be bigger, sure. He might weigh a little bit more. But I’m in the same boat, dude. I get to 200 pounds outside of fight camp too, but I’m not gonna be cutting from 200 to 170 in a month. That’s how you get damaged easier in a fight. You lose that water in your brain, it’s gonna be easier to KO you.”
Mike Murray vacated the NEF 170-pound amateur belt after a split-decision triumph over Zach Faulkner in February.
While insisting that he isn’t looking past Ouellette, Hill called out Murray as the type of opponent he would like to fight as he pursues his future goal of turning professional.
“It means a lot. I’m happy, and I’m super excited to fight Curtis, but I was looking forward to that Mike Murray fight. I want to win that belt. I think if Mike and I fight, it’s gonna be a striking match for sure,” Hill said. “We’re both very competent on the ground. He’s a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. It’d be fun. That’s what I’m looking for in the cage. I want to have fun. I want to show off, show my skill set, but I also want to have a good time, be myself. I love jiu-jitsu so much that if anyone takes me down, I’m like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ This is my world. Once we get on the ground, I’m gonna show that.”
As for when he might take that leap to the pros, Hill said his trainer, UFC veteran Devin Powell, isn’t holding him back.
“He was talking about me going pro sooner than later. I told him I want a good amount of fights in amateur,” Hill said. “I don’t want to overstay my welcome, but I’d like to get my feet wet in amateurs. As far as ceiling, he says the sky’s the limit, and I’m going for the stars, dude.”
While it’s an hour north of the home base, Hill and Nostos will bring a hometown flavor from Somersworth to Maine’s rockbound coast.
“I’m really excited. I’m excited to show up, show off and show out, man,” Hill said. “I think we got six or seven guys fighting on the card, including myself, so I’m gonna have that whole venue packed out. I’m excited to hear the crowd roaring.”
Asked where he sees a key advantage that will lead to victory over Ouellette, Hill didn’t leave a box unchecked.
“I think everywhere I got this for sure,” he added. “I’d love a sweet KO obviously. That would be fantastic. It’s one of the best feelings. But I’m cool with a submission too. I think if he takes me down, I’m gonna submit him. He hasn’t felt jiu-jitsu like mine, I know where he trains. I know the guys he trains with, and the guys I train with are absolute savages.”
NEF 48: “Heatwave” is the second outdoor card in the history of the organization. The feature fight of the evening is a scheduled pro heavyweight bout between Ras Hylton and Cody Lightfoot. Tickets are on sale now at NewEnglandFights.com.