FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (July 8, 2022)

Being a mechanic, and one who recently graduated with an associate’s degree to expand his credentials in that department, Curtis Ouellette is adept at diagnosing issues and crafting the correct fix to make an engine purr and the wheels turn.

After being saddled with a loss in three of his first four amateur appearances with New England Fights (NEF) as a mixed martial artist, Ouellette wasn’t afraid to take inventory and work with coaches Jesse Erickson and Dustin Veinott and teammates at Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ) to repair those trouble spots.

Twice a winner already this year in addition to his professional and academic acclaim, Ouellette (3-3) has reaped the reward of a shot at the vacant NEF amateur welterweight title against New Hampshire’s Kyle Hill (2-0).

It’s one of the many intriguing showdowns set for Saturday, July 30 as part of NEF 48: “Heatwave” in the center of a scenic, outdoor venue at Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine. Opening bell time is 7 p.m.

“I was so excited,” Ouellette said in a recent episode of the Between Rounds Radio podcast with Ryan Jarrell, referring to the call to battle for a belt. “Right up to the last fight we were talking about who we were thinking about me fighting next. My coaches brought up ‘title fight,’ and I was really surprised. I thought I was gonna have another fight or two before I started looking at a title, but they thought I was ready, and I’m pumped to do it.”

After a three-year break that included combat sports’ required respite during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ouellette was set back by losses to Zach Faulkner (unanimous decision) and Derek Lambert (first-round technical knockout) in back-to-back bouts at the end of 2021.

Undaunted, he used his fists to stop Christopher Smith and George Demers in succession and earn the showdown against Hill.

“It was pretty rough those two losses, especially the knockout,” Ouellette said. “I just told myself I had to get better and stay in the gym. Never stop going to the gym, always getting better, I just stayed ready for a fight, stayed ready to go, and here I am now fighting for a title.”

Ouellette said one specific area of his repertoire has evolved during that winning streak.

“Definitely my striking,” he said. “If you look back at the very beginning, my striking wasn’t very clean. I kinda just relied on my power. Lately I’ve been stringing it together, flowing more, knowing what I’m doing, feeling more comfortable out there.”

Demers, in particular, was an impressive physical specimen who had knocked out his most recent opponent in 38 seconds.

“That fightI felt good all fight camp, really good coming off a win and everything,” Ouellette said. “Didn’t know much about the guy, could only find one or two videos. Jesse doesn’t tell me my opponents. When it gets announced is when I find out, so I can’t look ‘em up. I can’t look at them. When I found out who it was and checked him out, the videos were six years old, so I had nothing to go off. I didn’t know anything until I saw him at the weigh-ins.

“Just to see the shape he was in, I knew it was gonna be a good fight, and I was ready for it. He came out, swung hard and got me with some good kicks, and I knew it was gonna be a good fight Didn’t know it was gonna end in the first, but I’ll take it. To get a finish, an actual knockout felt so good. I had a couple TKOs before, the ref stopped it, so to have a definitive knockout where the guy fell on his face just felt so good.”

Erickson, who recently hit the milestone of 20 professional bouts in his own right, has adjusted to Ouellette’s personality and made the up-and-coming fighter’s training more about himself than his opponents.

“I trust Jesse. Jesse knows. He’s been in the fight game for a while. He knows how to match us up,” Ouellette said. “I’ve had trouble in the past where he’s told me opponents and I’ve overstressed. I’ve worked myself up and made it worse for myself, so to keep me from doing that, he just doesn’t tell me. Then when I do find out, I look them up and get fight nerves, but it’s only like two weeks out so it doesn’t overstress and it actually puts me in a good mindset to fight, so I don’t really mind.”

Ouellette has resisted the temptation to break from that recent tradition against Hill, who has a split-decision victory and stoppage to his credit.

“I got a name when they gave me the title fight,” Ouellette said. “I looked him up on Tapology. I know his record. I know how he won his fights. I know when he fought, and that’s about it. I haven’t watched any film or anything on him, That’s Jesse’s job. Jesse’s gonna make the gameplan and Jesse’s gonna orient camp the way I need to fight so I don’t have to stress. I just have to fight.”

Karate was Ouellette’s childhood door into combat sports, through a mutual friend and then shortly thereafter through his own lessons at a local school.

Bellator 93 then landed in Lewiston in March 2013. Ouellette felt his jaw drop and his heart race and knew he’d found a new dream to chase.

“When I was a kid, I had a friend who did karate. I always wanted to try karate, wanted to do it, would wrestle around with him a little bit. Finally, when I was 12, I got into karate. A few months later I got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and then in middle school, Bellator came to Lewiston,” Ouellette said. “We ended up getting free tickets at the dojo. I went and saw it and said, ‘I want to do that. That’s what I want to do.’ My sophomore year of high school, my dojo shut down, and I ended up going to CMBJJ.

“It’s history from there. Now I’m doing what I wanted to do since I was 13. The dream would totally be the UFC, be UFC champion, and the realistic goals while I’m here are win some titles, win some regional titles. I just want to have a name that everyone knows in New England.”

Of course, every successful goal has a backup plan, and Ouellette has used some of his other aptitudes to build a potentially different but also rewarding future with his hands.

He wore his graduation mortarboard to the cage for his scrap with Demers in May.

“I got my degree in automotive technology from Central Maine Community College, and I’m actually a mechanic over at VIP over in Lewiston, so it fits right in, works great,” Ouellette explained. “I work six days a week, and then I train Monday through Thursday. There’s a lot of extra work to do, andbeing a mechanic’s not really easy on the body, so it keeps me in shape, kinda moving and stuff. It kind of helps with the training a little bit, but it also tires me out and can be a little rough.”

Ouellette’s shop is beyond supportive of his athletic side hustle.

“They love it. They’re at least half my ticket sales usually. My coworkers, my boss. My district manager, everybody’s so supportive,” he said. “I’ll take a fight on short notice and I’ll be like, ‘I need this weekend off,’ and he’ll be like, ‘OK, go for it, just find someone to cover you,’ and I’m all good to go.”

Even with all his recent activity, Ouellette admitted to what will be a drastic weight cut between now and fight night.

“I have a terrible diet, and I’m a kid, I love to eat junk,” Ouellette said. “I usually get up to over 200 pounds, so the cuts down to (170)can be a little rough sometimes if I don’t start early enough. It’s been a little more strict the past couple weeks,kinda cutting out the sugars and sodas and stuff. The pounds will start coming off fast.”

Ouellette has prepared for Hill by training primarily with another big body of note, Jared Turcotte. The former Lewiston High School and University of Maine football star recently started working out at CMBJJ and will make his MMA debut on the same card.

“He’s large, he’s athletic, which is really helpful in getting me the work and tiring me out and matching me with the strength,” Ouellette said. “Everybody at CM is jiu-jitsu-based, so we have a ton of guys that give me advice, and Jesse knowing the MMA side of it. Sometimes you’ve gotta shut off the jiu-jitsu side, because it’s a different mindset, But Jesse knows that so well, so I’ve just gotta start listening to him. I’m working on that, and it’s showing a lot in my game.”

In addition to being excited about the unique setting and another short commute for his fans and friends, Ouellette has dared to daydream a bit about what another win would mean to his career.

“It would show me that everything I’ve been doing these past 10 years, past six years at CM, it’s paying off and I’m getting better,” Ouellette said. To go from last year finishing the year 1-3 to midyear this year having a title fight and winning it, it would be surreal. It would mean so much.I just feel like I have the tools to do it any way it needs to be done, submission, knockout, even a decision. I just see me getting my hand raised.”

NEF 48: “Heatwave” is the second outdoor card in the history of the organization. The main event is a pro heavyweight bout between Ras Hylton and Cody Lightfoot. Tickets are on sale now at NewEnglandFights.com.