FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Portland, Maine (November 6, 2018) – Two things have provided a compass for Zac Richard through his admittedly challenging journey into young adulthood: Combat sports, and the fighting spirit of his older sister, Lacy.
Richard will combine those influences in a powerful way when he enters the New England Fights mixed martial arts cage Saturday, November 17 for “NEF 36: Battle For the Gold” at Aura in Portland. Opening bell time is 7 p.m.
The former high school state champion wrestler from Waterboro, Maine, undefeated in two short MMA forays, will take on Chris Lachcik. It’s a weekend with unforgettable significance for Richard and his family: That weekend will mark the six-year anniversary that Zac’s sister, Lacy, 23, passed away after a battle with cancer.
“It’s a weird thing losing your sister. It’s certainly going to help motivate me,” Richard said. “A lot of the fans that are going to be there will be wearing T-shirts that we made with my sister’s picture on it. I think it will be an emotional night.”
Lacy’s death came early in Zac’s sophomore year at Massabesic High School.
It fueled his development as one of the top schoolboy wrestlers in the state. After losing an overtime decision at the Class A state meet as a junior, Richard finally grabbed 145-pound gold in his senior campaign of 2015.
“That was always my thing,” Richard said, “I remember a wrestling match my senior year. I was getting my ass kicked by this kid and had no energy to get up. That’s all I could think about was if Lacy could get up, so can I. I ended up winning that match, too, so it’s kind of crazy.”
All-state and New England competitions were in play that year, as well, but Richard said his postseason was cut short for disciplinary reasons.
It began a cycle of a year or two in which Richard – the only remaining child of Glen and Shelly – struggled to find his way in life.
His relationship with his parents suffered. Memories of their inseparable bond during his wrestling career ultimately provided Zac’s wake-up call.
“Starting in middle school, my parents drove me to New Hampshire every single day to practice. They drove me all around the country. They bought me a sauna to cut weight in. They always loved the sport,” Richard said, “Once wrestling ended, I was just kind of being a (jerk). They stopped talking to me as much and we weren’t as close.
“I always missed (wrestling). I had nothing to keep me out of trouble. Wrestling was what always did that for me. It sounds corny, but once 2018 came it was like, “All right, let’s get your (stuff) together.’ It was time to do something with my free time.”
Richard joined forces with Nostos MMA in Somersworth, New Hampshire, home of former NEF Lightweight Champion and current Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) fighter Devin Powell.
It didn’t take long for Richard to find a home and follow his mentor into competition. His docket to date includes first-round technical knockouts of Gabriel Diaz and Clifford Redman.
“Devin is definitely cool. He took me under his wing when I first went in there,” Richard said. “I went to the NEF fights in February when I first started, and he brought me in the cage to get a feel for it and stuff. He’s always given me good advice and told me which fights I should take and which ones I shouldn’t.”
Coincidentally, both Richard and Powell are preparing for bouts that will take place the same day. Powell’s is on the first-ever UFC card in Argentina.
“We’re both training right now, so it’s not as one-to-one as much this time, but I love having him as a coach,” Richard said. “I drive 45 minutes every single day because it’s Devin, you know?”
Richard’s transition to the multi-dimensional MMA arena has been so quick that his repertoire remains a work in progress. He relies heavily on his wrestling acumen and the relentless personality that made him a champion on the mat.
“I love it because I can actually slam people now,” he said with a laugh. “I was a real scrappy wrestler. I had the most takedowns for my high school, which I crushed the record before me. So those two things help out a lot in MMA, the takedowns and the scrambling, because I don’t practice as much jiu-jitsu as I should. But my wrestling can usually get me out of most situations.
“I’ve always thought about doing MMA. Growing up as a kid I followed the sport. And I’ve always gotten into fights, so it was like, why not? I kind of hit it off pretty quick, and now I’ve fallen in love and I’m obsessed with it.”
That focus isn’t lost on Richard’s parents, who are heavily involved in his life – and budding career – once again.
Together, the family helped raise $33,000 for cancer awareness and research at an annual motorcycle ride in Lacy’s honor this past June.
Ticket and T-shirt sales also are part of their contribution, but they’re not afraid to get a little dirty, either. When Zac’s boxing coach was unable to attend the last fight, Glen took his place in the corner.
“My parents are very big supporters,” Richard said, “I love them. I love seeing them be happy with me again.”
He noted that they drove all the way to Bangor, between two and three hours, for a one-minute fight earlier this year.
True to his own tradition, Richard hasn’t spent much time watching film of his upcoming opponent.
“I don’t like to game plan. I just want to go in there and do it. If you fought a guy on the street, you couldn’t watch videos of him. That’s the way I look at it,” Richard said. “All through wrestling, I watched film of one kid because it was my state final and I’d wrested him like 12 times. We went back and forth so it was like, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ But that was different.”
Richard expects this fight to be a jumping-off point as he tests himself against the top competition NEF has to offer in the year ahead.
“I’m just going to take any fight I can get against the best guys,” Richard said. “You can sit here and say, ‘I could have been one of the best fighters’ and stuff, but you’ll never know until you try. Every fight I’m going to put my hardest into it.”
And through all the blood, sweat and tears, one guiding force will remain constant.
“I’m usually pretty irritated that time of year,” Richard said of Lacy’s anniversary. “Every fight and wrestling match, I’ve just thought to myself if your little sister – well, big sister, but she was tiny – can fight cancer and deal with all this (crap), there’s no way I’m going to back down.”
NEF’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 36: Battle for the Gold,” will see the company make its return to Aura in Portland, Maine. The event is scheduled to take place Saturday, November 17, 2018 with a bell time of 7 pm. Tickets are on sale now at www.AuraMaine.com.
About New England Fights
New England Fights (“NEF”) is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.