FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (October 21, 2022)
Former Lewiston (Maine) High School football coach Bill County once described the running style of his star pupil, Jared Turcotte, as “violent.” Turcotte parlayed that bull-in-a-china-closet approach into the Fitzpatrick Trophy, symbolic of his home state’s premier player on the schoolboy gridiron, and All-American status at the University of Maine.
When the retired bell-cow back reintroduced himself to the competitive arena as a mixed martial artist with New England Fights this past July, it took all of 35 seconds for Turcotte to make it clear he had no interest in reinventing himself as an athlete. It was the same, time-honored approach in a different environment.
Turcotte used that tiny window to take his fight with Seth Godfrey into the proverbial phone booth, pummel his fellow amateur light heavyweight into a prone position and lock in a rear naked choke for an electrifying tap-out victory.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I went in there and it worked out,” Turcotte said. “I kind of circled around a little bit for a couple seconds and I said, ‘Fuck it, let’s go,’ and just went. I’m glad it ended quick, because I don’t know how long my gas tank would have held up.”
Little more than three months later, the records, experience levels and roles will be reversed when Turcotte (1-0) puts that spotless ledger on the line against New Hampshire newcomer Regian Da Silva Jr. in NEF 50. The bout is inked for Saturday, November 12 at Aura in Portland, Maine.
Rather than sweat the details of what his opponent will or won’t try based on past performance, Turcotte relishes the idea of walking down the aisle and through the door fully focused on his own repertoire.
“I do like that aspect of it,” said Turcotte, who lives in Litchfield and trains out of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (CMBJJ) in his native Lewiston. “I think a lot of times guys get in there, and if they know their opponent, they can kind of psyche themselves out a little bit or develop a game plan and really try to stick to the game plan and get in their own way. I like to just get out there in the flow and see what happens.”
Da Silva studies under Bellator and NEF veteran Walter Smith Cotito at Karasu Tengu Academy. Turcotte, who started training in earnest about a year ago after gravitating to martial arts as a winter activity for his children, is content to keep his scouting report on the impending foe at that bare minimum.
“He’s a blue belt in jiu-jitsu. I know that much about him. I know he doesn’t have any sanctioned MMA bouts anyway. That is what it is,” Turcotte said. “If he did any sanctioned MMA bouts, I don’t know if it would be an advantage or disadvantage to try to watch him and game plan. I like the mentality of going in and fighting my fight and seeing how that works out. Getting too much of a game plan can hinder things.”
Despite his expressed concerns about being equipped for deeper waters in the debut, Turcotte pronounced himself ready and eager for such a challenge.
On the Combat Sports Now broadcast of Turcotte’s bout with Godfrey, commentators noted that he was fighting at his lowest body mass since middle school. Turcotte is some 25 pounds lighter than he was while bouncing off tacklers in Orono with the Black Bears.
“Honestly, I’m in better shape right now than I was when I was playing football, just from the emphasis on the cardio,” Turcotte said. “I’ll go for a run, and I’ll just go. It’s not as sport-specific as the training was for football, which was give me a five-second burst, and then you’ll have a minute to catch your breath, and then another five-second burst and rest up.
“It’s learning how to work through that lactic acid buildup and keep pushing,” he added. “It’s being in charge of your body. Your body’s telling you to slow down, and you keep telling it to shut up and keep going. That’s something that the long-distance runs help me with.”
The level of concentration required to slug it out in the cage wasn’t more or less than what was required in football, basketball or any of his prior athletic endeavors, Turcotte related, simply different.
“I was kind of surprised at how laser-focused my sense of perception really narrowed in,” Turcotte said. “I don’t want to say it was surprising, but more like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what that kind of focus is like.’”
Asked if his brief rookie venture into the hexagon exposed any vulnerability in his game, Turcotte was brutally honest and his own toughest critic.
“Not from my coaches,” he said. “Me personally, I look at the tape and I see a million things that I could have done better that are holes that I’m working on this time around.”
One thing that didn’t transpire, and Turcotte wishes it had, was getting the chance to test his chops after a punch or a kick from his opponent.
“I still have the same anxiety going into the second fight as I did the first one, just because I didn’t get hit,” Turcotte said. “Like, boo-hoo, poor me, I didn’t take any shots. I would have liked to at least eat my first shot in my first fight, so I don’t have to wonder and imagine what my chin’s gonna be like.”
Not that he’s in any rush to sample those flavors time around, either.
“Hopefully, maybe I can escape through the second one without finding out,” Turcotte said. “I do kinda wish that it would have lasted a little bit longer to see the stool, feel the fatigue, learn how to fight through that, all things that when the times comes for that to happen, I hope to be able to rise to the occasion.”
All the things coaches and writers said about Turcotte’s punishing approach when lugging the leather seem to apply now that he’s wearing it on his hands.
He quickly found a kindred spirit at CMBJJ in welterweight Curtis Ouellette, a veteran of seven amateur scraps.
“I’m coming with the smoke. Show me what you got. We’re here for a fight. Let’s fight. That’s kind of my mentality,” Turcotte said. “Curtis, my main training partner, that’s his mentality, and I think we work well together in that regard. We’re not afraid to stand in front of each other and throw and see what ends up happening.”
Unlike some victorious fighters who take a much-needed break and perhaps make up for lost time after a challenging weight cut, Turcotte said he stayed in fight mode through August and September while awaiting word on his next challenge.
“I took a little bit of time. Not a ton. I like the constant. I need to train. If I could, I’d train six or seven days a week, two to three hours a day. It’s in my DNA I guess,” he said. “I like pushing myself physically, finding my limits and then pushing past them and creating new ones, and then the next day doing the same thing all over again. Finding failure is something I don’t think a lot of people like to do, but I like seeing where my limits are. That gives me the information I need to improve in the areas where I need to improve.”
Of course, some of that daily attention to detail admittedly is necessary for a 33-year-old father of six.
“I took maybe a week off where I was still training but not as religiously. Still moving, didn’t let my weight get up too much, so I was trying to eat right and keep my body in as good a shape as possible,” Turcotte said. “I’m a little older. Keeping on top of my body is more important now than it was in my late teens and early 20s. You can’t really go out partying and chasing women until two, three, four in the morning and wake up for practice at six like I used to.”
Fighting outdoors at the summer card was well within Turcotte’s comfort zone as a former football star. On the flip side, he’s never even been inside the intimate Aura surroundings as a paying customer.
Wherever there’s a crowd gathered to watch men test the boundaries of body, mind and spirit, you can bet Turcotte is aptly acclimated to it.
“The spectacle is all kind of familiar territory to me. It’s been a decade since the eyes had been on me, so to speak, but it’s a welcome thing for me. I like pushing myself,” he said. “Some people shy away from having the eyes on them or fear of failure or whatever or just nerves. Everybody processes things a little bit different, but I enjoy that. It’s fun to be there and have the eyes on you and put your money where your mouth is and hoping that things go your way.”
Being in that arena was a dormant addiction. Now that he’s dipped a toe back into those waters, Turcotte, who said he was taking one fight at a time and didn’t know where it would lead prior to the July debut, sounds hooked.
“That fight, that high, that adrenaline rush and that feeling of winning after putting in so much work and pushing myself, I don’t want to say it ignited the fire, because that fire had already been reignited,’ Turcotte said. “But it definitely went from a small, little campfire to a big brush fire. I’ll be fighting for a while, I think.”
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.