FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (July 6, 2022)
Ryan Fredette flaunts a resume with many common denominators to the caliber of athlete that often graduates to the New England Fights (NEF) mixed martial arts (MMA) cage.
For starters, Fredette is a champion wrestler, although that description barely scratches the surface. He is in select company as a four-time Maine Principals’ Association state champion and capped his undefeated senior season at Winslow High School in Central Maine with a New England championship, a tournament in which he was also named the Outstanding Wrestler.
Winslow also won state championships in football, where Fredette was a two-way starter, and in track and field during his career. And while he has continued to stoke the competitive fires after graduation in 2018 with more accomplishments on the college mat, it’s hard to walk away from all that heavy metal in the trophy case.
Fredette will carve out new territory as an athlete when he takes on another highly decorated wrestler, New Hampshire-based David Burke, in his MMA debut as a middleweight at NEF 48: “Heatwave.”
The card is scheduled for an outdoor venue, scenic Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine, with an opening bell time of 7 p.m.
“I’ve thought about it for a long time. My football coach in high school, Wes Littlefield, I’d always talked to him about it,” Fredette said. “My mom (Carol) would not let me then at all. She doesn’t have as much say now, but she’s still not happy about it.”
Wrestling and combat sports never really got out of Fredette’s blood, but they returned to the forefront this past winter, when Fredette got on board with a unique work study program through Bath Iron Works (BIW).
Fredette works at the shipyard by day and takes part-time classes through Maine Maritime Academy. To supplement the academic piece, one extracurricular piece is a BIW-sponsored wrestling team.
“I got on to the BIW wrestling program, and Coach (John) Raio was on me about it pretty avidly,” Fredette said. “End of the season came. I took a month off, then decided I was gonna get back into it, and I loved it and ended up getting a fight scheduled.”
Raio, who operates First Class MMA, is an NEF and Bellator veteran. Fredette has been in his gym for a little more thanthree months.
“He has a bunch of different guys that teach different classes up there for him,” Fredette said of Raio. “I have a lot of different divergence in styles that I’m taking in that’s really helping me to grow my style.”
Despite his lengthy list of accomplishments in wrestling, a feeder system that has served many of its most successful practitioners well in NEF competition, Fredette readily admits he is raw to the MMA scene.
That’s true of experience both as a competitor and fan. Fredette said he never seriously studied MMA while growing up.
“Not even a little bit,” Fredette admitted. “Pretty much the only sports I watched growing up were football and wrestling. That was about it.”
He said there are inherent advantages and disadvantages for someone entering the cage with his extensive wrestling acumen.
“It helps with the hip positioning. It helps that I’m really good at catching someone’s neck,” Fredette said. “But there’s other times where I’m not good at fighting in those positions. I have a tendency of leaving certain things open that you shouldn’t leave open in an MMA match, but it’s fine in wrestling and stuff like that. It’s little things that could easily end a fight if I don’t correct them.”
Once a match goes to the mat, history suggests Fredette will be tough to beat.
Growing in a community that is in the conversation for most athletic trophies per capita of any city or town in the state, it’s almost a surprise that Fredette wasn’t born wearing a wrestling singlet or football shoulder pads.
He had his eye on the former arena almost as soon as humanly possible.
“I had a brother who was eight years older than me, and my dad (Kevin) was his wrestling coach, his peewee coach, his high school coach, whatever. He was in peewees when I was born, so when I was a kid, my mom would work late and my dad was the wrestling coach, so it was either I’m at work with mom or I’m at practice with dad,” Fredette said. “When I was really little, he could throw me in a corner in a crib, and he could go run his practice. But there came a time when I was old enough to crawl onto the mat, and that’s pretty much when it started, as soon as I could crawl.”
That journey culminated with a senior season straight out of Fredette’s wildest dreams.
After finishing as New England runner-up in 2017, he returned a year later and defeated Tommy Wrzesien of Chariho High School in Rhode Island to close out an undefeated season at 182 pounds. Fredette pounded out two decisions in his first two bouts at the tournament in Providence, R.I., before prevailing by pin in both the semifinal and final.
He was Maine’s fourth different New England champion in a three-year span.
“That was super cool. Honestly it was indescribable,” Fredette said. “For as I long as I could remember, I wanted to be high school New England champ, so it really was sick.”
In this era of specialization, Fredette bucked the trend with a starring role at Winslow in two football state titles. He also helped the track team hoist the coveted trophy, although he’s more self-deprecating about his role in that.
“I’ll be the first one to admit that I contributed minimally to the track team. I think I scored a total of five points for the team if that, but that’s still on the resume,” Fredette said. “I started both of the football games.”
Fredette had a brief stint wrestling at the University of Southern Maine, where he picked up a New England Wrestling Association wrestler of the week honor.
Wrestling is also the most familiar domain for Burke (1-0), who has a bout under his belt but one that didn’t give him significantly more time in the cage than this rookie opponent. The Nostos MMA newcomer needed only 19 seconds to knock out David McCarty at NEF 47: “The Battle of L/A” on May 14.
Not unlike many spectators at Maine’s Ali-Liston title bout of yesteryear, Fredette hadn’t yet made his way into the arena.
“You know about as much about him as I do,” Fredette said. “I was at the card that he fought at, but he was the first fight, and I showed up a little bit late, so I didn’t see that. There’s not much to go on. I hear he was a wrestler. I feel confident in my abilities against even a talented wrestler.”
Fredette said there’s no mystery to where he’ll try to lead the fight – down to the ground.
“That’s a given,” he said. “I spend a lot of time in sparring classes. Our flow rounds, I’ll work takedowns, but that’s as far as I go most of the time. I’m confident enough in my ground game. I still do jiu-jitsu classes here and there. Mostly I’m trying to work on my takedowns, because they’re a little different, and setting up off strikes. My striking is where I really need the practice.”
If things according to plan, Fredette is the type of athlete who could put himself on a fast track in the sport.
“I obviously haven’t been in the cage yet, but this is something I see myself being good at, I guess I could say, where I could potentially see a future, where I could maybe someday graduate to a pro, go to Bellator or something like that,” Fredette said. “That’s the high dreams. For now, we’ll see how we do day one. We’ll train hard for this first fight and see how it goes from there.”
Of course, getting hit and choked will be new experiences for Fredette, and that’s a sight at least one potential piece of his cheering section can do without.
The same mom who said no to Fredette’s football coach about branching out into MMA a few years ago hasn’t taken the news any better now.
“There’s support there for sure. My mom wants me to succeed. It’s not that she doesn’t want to see me do well. She doesn’t want to see me do it at all,” Fredette said. “She’s going to wait for someone to tell her how it went. She’s been very vocal about the fact that she will not be in attendance. My dad says he’s just gonna get the live stream, but all his friends are going, so we’ll see how that goes.”
NEF 48: “Heatwave” is the second outdoor card in the history of the organization. One of the headline attractions is a heavyweight bout between Fredette’s First Class MMA stablemate, Ras Hylton, and Cody Lightfoot. Tickets are on sale now at NewEnglandFights.com.