About 10 years into his glittering football career, Jared Turcotte is happy to have finally found another physical outlet.
The former Lewiston High School and University of Maine standout, who is considered one of the finest football players Maine has produced, will have his first MMA match on Saturday, July 30, as part of the New England Fights’ “NEF 48: Heatwave” at Thompson’s Point Ice Rink in Portland.
“I’m easier to be around, but before I get to the end of fight camp, right now, I’m a bit of a bear to be around,” Turcotte said. “But having the frame and being able to physically train through things and incorporate it into my daily life is important for my mental health after not having it for so long.
“I was trying to achieve the same effect in other ways that weren’t necessarily physical, and it wasn’t something my brain is capable of doing. I need a physical outlet to get this energy out or it manifests in different ways.
Turcotte started training jiu jitsu last August and did so until Thanksgiving when he caught COVID-19.
After a few months off, and shortly after resuming training in February at Central Maine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the Main Street gym in Lewiston, Turcotte began to seriously consider fighting in a sanctioned mixed martial arts match.
“Roughly when I got back, my coaches and I hadn’t really talked seriously about the competition, but it wasn’t something that was guaranteed or anything like that,” Turcotte said. “They asked me if it was something I wanted to do, and committing to it was the only obstacle in front of me.”
With his decision made, Turcotte began training as if he was going to fight May 14 on New England Fights’ “NEF 47: Battle of L/A” card at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn – even if he wasn’t, but training with that mindset gave Turcotte an idea of what it takes to prepare for a fight.
“When I came back they were in camp for the May card and I wouldn’t have been ready, but I trained through that card,” Turcotte said. “I went through the weight reduction process for this card, but obviously didn’t fight.”
After “Battle of L/A”, Turcotte began preparing for a real fight.
Turcotte, 32, will enter the octagon for the first time against Seth Godfrey. “NEF 48: Heatwave” is New England Fights’ first outdoor battle map since NEF 8. Turcotte will fight in the light-heavyweight division at 205 pounds.
“It was like, ‘Okay, yeah, I’ll do it,'” Turcotte said. “Why have the tool in the tool belt if you’re not going to see how it works, that sort of thing.”
Dustin Veinott, Turcotte’s striking trainer at the gym, said the former football star learned MMA quickly.
“He’s come so far in the six or seven months that he’s been here,” Veinott said. “He didn’t know how to throw a punch (and now he does) knocking people out of mouthpieces, knocking my pads off, lifting people off the ground with his kicks. Sure, there’s a size advantage, don’t get me wrong, but the explosiveness is there. His background helps him a lot. He studies fast, he learns fast and he has improved. The first fight, we’ll see.
Veinott, Jesse Erickson, and Central Maine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu owner Travis Wells teamed up to help coach Turcotte with MMA details. Veinott said Turcotte’s football background helped him physically, but also accelerated his understanding of fighting concepts.
“Football you have to learn plays, and there are so many more plays than kicks,” Veinott said. “Being able to learn all these plays and move on to hitting, and that’s a game-changer. He opens his mind to learn faster because he knows how to learn.
“The biggest thing we saw was his willingness to learn,” Wells added. “He’s trying to get better at something new, and now we’re trying – he has potential but we’re bringing him together to help his wrestling, punching and jiu jitsu game. … He’s always willing to learn and listen to improve.
Turcotte found that MMA and soccer have some similarities, but some soccer habits had to be changed.
“Extending seems quite similar to breaking a tackle,” Turcotte said, referring to MMA techniques used to avoid takedowns. “Just a lower center of gravity, being aware of how your body is moving with someone else as their goal is to take you down. I can’t use my head. As a running back, that was my biggest weapon, I was putting my face through your face. Now I have to get used to putting my fist in your face and pushing my face away. There are real consequences to having poor technique other than getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
Turcotte adapts quickly and although it has been several years since he tested himself so physically, he remains confident in his athletic qualities.
“I wish I was 22 again. I wish I had started doing this back then when I had a little more gas in the tank, but I haven’t exceeded the peak of my athletic ability, I’m probably just at the peak of my athletic ability,” Turctotte said. “It feels like home. It’s learning a new language.
Turcotte trains occasionally at Young’s MMA in Bangor, but has mostly trained at the gymnasium in Lewiston. He said he was both prepared, excited and nervous for his first fight.
“It’s the first time, so there are these nerves because it’s something I’ve never done before,” Turcotte said. “I’m really excited to get out there and see how naturally I flow with the adrenaline flowing. To get back to that mindset of trying to inflict pain on another human being. It was pretty fun to go back in that part of my brain.
“Every emotion you might have. I’m excited and nervous. It’s the same emotion, but it’s colored by the state of mind I’m in. It’s excitement if I have a positive spirit, but nervousness if I am in a negative spirit.
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