BANGOR — “Ladies and gentlemen, we are live!”

With that, UFC Fight Night in Bangor was underway. If you’ve only been to the Cross Insurance Center for the high school basketball tournament, you wouldn’t recognize the place. Where the basketball court would be stood the cage, the octagon encased in chain link, the center of attention.

Dana White brought his party home.

The president of Ultimate Fighting Championship, White graduated from Hermon High School in 1987. When the Cross Insurance Center opened last year, Maine finally had an arena in which White could showcase his sport for this home crowd.

White wasn’t the only Mainer with something to prove. The event was also a homecoming of sorts for fighter Tim Boetsch. A four-time state champion wrestler at Camden-Rockport High School, Boetsch grew up in Lincolnville. Boetsch entered Saturday night’s fight against Brad Tavares with a 17-7 record, and he was one of the big draws of the night.

The Cross Insurance Center wasn’t completely sold out on Saturday night, but it was close, and it was loud.

Frankie Saenz and Nolan Ticman, the first fighters of the night, opened the night with an entertaining, albeit fairly one-sided fight. Saenz won a three round unanimous decision, but if the opening fight’s job was to engage the crowd, it succeeded.

Quiet as the fighters sized each other up, the volume rose when Saenz took Ticman down. Have you ever heard close to 6,000 people gasp as one? It happened when Saenz lost his footing and stumbled in the second round. Would Ticman take advantage and deliver a blow? He did not, and if the crowd wasn’t on Saenz’s side already, it was now.

The spectacle has always been an important aspect of sports, maybe more so in ultimate fighting. Saenz waved his hands to the crowd after the third and final round of his fight, acknowledging and encouraging its support. When he left the arena, Saenz gave high fives to fans on his way back to his locker room.

English fighter Tom Watson entered the ring wearing a gorilla mask while the “Ghostbusters” theme filled the arena. The musical choice was perhaps a nod to the pale complexion of his opponent, Sam Alvey. Whatever the reason, it worked. Watson picked up a few fans, and made some throw their support behind Alvey. Every fight needs a villain, and Watson seemed pleased to play the role. His unanimous decision win in a close fight drew as many boos as cheers.

In the coming days, we’ll here about ticket sales and full hotel rooms in Bangor, but here’s how to tell UFC Fight Night in Bangor was a success. Early in the third round of his fight, Alvey unleashed a flurry of punches on his opponent. Watson was trapped against the chain link, taking the blows. The moment was the loudest of the early fights. Close to 6,000 people leaned forward together and screamed.

Ladies and gentlemen, you were live.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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