FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (October 18, 2022)
Nathaniel Grimard is the opposite of a mixed martial artist whose strategy is plowing through over-matched opponents with a soft underbelly to supplement the bottom line on his Tapology profile.
It’s more than a mild surprise to see Grimard (2-1) schedule his fourth foray into the professional cage for New England Fights against a journeyman from Michigan who’s only had his hand raised in victory twice out of a dozen pro bouts.
Darren Gibbs is no ordinary have-mouthpiece, will-travel warm body hitting the highway in search of a paycheck at NEF 50, and his opponent Grimard is the first person to take up that case.
“He is 2-10, but you watch film on this guy and he’s not a 2-10 fighter,” Grimard said in a recent interview with Ryan Jarrell of Between Rounds Radio. “He’s very technical. He’s very tough. He’s gonna bring the fight, I’m expecting honestly a back-and-forth fight. He’s gonna bring his experience and his age to the cage, and we’re gonna expect a great fight that night.”
The 150-pound catchweight bout between Grimard and Gibbs is one of the featured attractions on the milestone card for NEF, which will be held Saturday, November 12 at Aura in Portland, Maine.
Gibbs is the first fighter with any blemish on his pro ledger to stand across from Grimard, although it’s a small sample completely squeezed into the current calendar year. Grimard, 24, won a February unanimous decision over Anthony Vasta in the paying debut for both combatants. He also won on all three cards over fellow unbeaten Andrew Provost in May before falling victim to a first-round guillotine choke against Jake Hixenbaugh in July.
No slouch at this stage of a career that started almost a decade ago and included 11 amateur scraps, Gibbs, 37, has a victory by submission to armbar and three unanimous decision losses in his past five fights. It’s a resume that dissuades Grimard from making any outlandish predictions.
“I think it’s gonna go the distance to be honest,” Grimard said. “Looking at his past fights, he’s tough. He’s not gonna crumble under any pressure or any hard shots. He’s gonna meet in the middle and swing if he can. I’m hungry for this fight. I’m coming to put him out as fast as I can if that’s possible. If not, I’m willing to go the 15 minutes of hard work to get that win,”
Grimard is entertaining what is commonly known in stick-and-ball sports as the classic trap game.
A heavy favorite fighting in his own backyard – Exeter, New Hampshire-based Grimard trains out of Nostos MMA in nearby Somersworth – Grimard knows those details are a double-edged sword.
“There’s definitely pressure with his record and me being the hometown guy, but at the end of the day the pressure’s not gonna help you win a fight,” Grimard said. “You’ve got to go in there and still perform.”
It’s a pairing of two tough dudes from different fighting backgrounds, which also makes it an intriguing match-up.
“Definitely my wrestling will be a huge advantage, but he’s also a great jiu-jitsu guy,” Grimard said. “I think he’s a purple belt, He has a good submission win recently, so I’m not sleeping on this guy at all. As far as I’m concerned, he’s my toughest opponent right now skill-wise.”
Adding a sense of urgency to the fight is Grimard’s need to bounce back after his initial loss.
In a card heavy with first-round stoppages, Grimard was the victim of one in against New York’s Jake Hixenbaugh at NEF 48: “Heatwave,” NEF’s summer outdoor event in Portland. Grimard, traditionally a featherweight, admitted to some minor regrets about accepting that bout at the lightweight limit.
“The weight might have played a big difference. It was up a weight class. He was a full 55er. He was pretty big in the cage. That morning I did the shakeout and I was still on weight. I weighed 156 pounds,” Grimard said. “It could have played a role. At the end of the day, it was just his night. He caught me. I made a small mistake. It’s super frustrating, especially watching it back. I keep watching it over, but the key is to learn from it and don’t make the mistake again.”
Grimard, who submitted three opponents in a 4-1 amateur run and had never been stopped at any level, saw stars by way of guillotine at 2:14 of the opening stanza.
That small mistake?
“I think it was just worrying about getting that top position,” Grimard said. “Not really fighting his hands and recovering my guard to stand up in a technical way, more just exploding into it, and exploded right into that guillotine. I was caught.He was a little bit bigger than me. Working with Devin (Powell) every day and guys at Nostos, they all have high level jiu-jitsu. You get caught in guillotines all the time where some of them might be tight, but you’re not gonna go out. He had a tight guillotine. It was his move, and he got me with it, so props to him.”
Grimard isn’t worried yet about the loss harming the perception of his talents with an international promotion.
“It’s part of it, I guess. Every fight you’re going in there with the risk of losing. I’m not taking easy fights either. I’m not padding my record fighting guys with 20 losses or 100 losses. I challenged myself in my third pro fight to go up a weight class and take on a tough kid,” Grimard said. “So yeah, it sucks, but I want those challenges. If I lose, whatever. You learn from it and you’re gonna get better. I’d rather fight the top guys in New England to get to that top promotion besides fighting the guys I kinda should beat.”
Nostos showcased its depth with seven fighters at NEF 48.
It was a mixed bag with four wins and three defeats. Victories by Key Baltazar, Kyle Hill, David Burke and Alex Morris offset learning experiences for Grimard, Cody Lightfoot and John Marcley.
“I think they’re proud. They obviously see where the holes were and what we could have done better as a team and individuals,” Grimard said of UFC veteran Powell and the coaching staff. “I think we had seven guys on the card, and going 7-for-7, winning all seven fights? We hold ourselves to a high standard, so maybe we should have won all seven, but that’s also tough to do.
“The other guy’s gonna be just as prepared as we are at the end of the day,” he continued. “We had some debut guys. They learned. Some pros. Everybody learned win or lose that fight, and it’s on the next one. Hopefully we can get seven guys on a card in the future and go 7-for-7 that time.”
Grimard didn’t waste much time rinsing the bad taste of the loss and putting himself back in the belly of the beast.
“I took a few days off after that loss, let it sting a little bit. It motivated me to get in the gym and work harder,” Grimard said. “I was so ready for that fight. I feel like I did everything right that camp, and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. This next fight, I have to do everything to make sure it does go my way and get back to that daily grind.”
Grimard, who has fought at six different venues in his young career, is enthusiastic about getting back to the intimate ambiance of Aura, where he made his pro debut.
“I’m excited to be there and represent (NEF). It gets pretty loud there. Everybody gets super close. The fans are right there standing next to the cage. It’s loud, and it’s an exciting place to fight,” Grimard said. “If I’m going for a takedown, the edge is right there. You’re so close to the edge of the stage. But once you step in there, it’s a fight. You go into that tunnel vision. You’re not really thinking about the crowd and everything else outside of the cage.”
After what will be his eighth fight in 21 months, including pro and amateur, Grimard doesn’t plan to change that approach.
“I’m just looking to stay active and keep that record up and keep chasing the dream,” Grimard said. “I’m hungry and motivated right now. I’m still young and healthy, so get as many fights as I can and keep that record up, and we’ll see what happens next year at this time. This time last year I was an amateur defending my belt. Now I’m going into my fourth pro fight, so I’ll keep training and hopefully get more wins.”
Grimard called out another up-and-comer in the NEF ranks when asked about potential marquee fights on that aggressive agenda.
“If they offer me to fight, I would never say no. There’s definitely a couple guys with NEF that I have my eye on that I’d really like to fight that would be a great fight I think for (matchmaker and co-owner) Matt Peterson,” he said. “I like fights that scare me. Jake Deppmeyer is on a tear right now with three first-round KOs, so he’s definitely on my radar. Hopefully I get him in February or maybe if they’re back in Portland later next year.”
Opening bell time for NEF 50 at Aura is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 12. Tickets are available now at www.ticketmaster.com.