BANGOR — You want to take this outside?

New England Fights will settle its differences Friday night in a dramatically different venue than it has employed in its successful, 17-month history.

Maine’s mixed martial arts promotion ventures north of Lewiston for the first time and makes its inaugural appearance outdoors in NEF VIII — dubbed “Nations Collide: Canadian Invasion” at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion.

Traditionally a popular concert venue, the pavilion hosted rock bands Daughtry, Three Doors Down and Halestorm on Wednesday night.

Now the main stage is home to the octagon-shaped fight cage that has been the centerpiece of near-sellout cards in Lewiston and Biddeford since February 2011.

“We’ve promised to bring NEF’s brand of MMA to every corner of the state so that every Mainer has the opportunity to experience the world’s fastest-growing and most exciting sport in a live format,” NEF matchmaker and co-owner Matt Peterson of Rumford said in a press release. “By bringing NEF to Bangor we are once again breaking new ground. We made an early pledge to mixed martial arts fans that we would innovate with every event and (this one) will be no different.”

Weather is not expected to be a factor. All but a small corner of the caged area will be covered, shielding it from any of the intermittent rain that has plagued Maine almost daily the past three weeks.

As of Thursday afternoon, 13 bouts — five professional and eight amateur — were listed on the docket. Opening bell is scheduled for 7 p.m.

True to the advance billing, both the main event and co-feature will put a hometown favorite against an opponent from the other side of the international border.

In a scrap for the inaugural NEF featherweight (145 pound) championship, Ray “All Business” Wood (3-0) of Bucksport takes on Lenny “The Show Stealer” Wheeler (6-2) of Cornwall, Prince Edward Island.

Wood stopped New York’s Ahsan Abdullah with an armbar in the second round of their May bout at NEF VII in Lewiston.

The 24-year-old was 5-1 as an amateur before quickly establishing himself as one of NEF’s primary pro attractions.

“Fighting for the NEF featherweight title in front of my home crowd on the Bangor waterfront is a dream come true,” Wood said. “I’m excited to take that next step in my career. Adding a title to my resume will just prove I am a top contender in the New England 145-pound division.”

Wheeler, 26, has shown no difficulty living up to his moniker and playing the spoiler.

Nine months ago, in his most recent fight, Wheeler traveled across his native land to Alberta and stunned Adam Lorenz with a guillotine choke in the opening round. Lorenz was ranked among the country’s top 10 in the weight class at the time.

“Ray Wood earned this opportunity to fight for a championship the old-fashioned way, through hard work and determination,” NEF promoter and co-owner Nick DiSalvo noted. “When it came time to crown our featherweight champion, we knew Ray would be one of the guys vying for it. He’s at the peak of his game physically and skill-wise right now.”

In the chief supporting bout, 34-year-old Jon Lemke (3-0) of Bangor will take on Matt DesRoches (4-0), a stablemate of Wheeler at Wulfrun MMA, at 160 pounds.

Neither fighter has tasted defeat in the cage as a pro or amateur. All four of DesRoches’ pro encounters have ended by technical knockout.

Because of their connection to the new market, fighters from Marcus Davis’ Bangor-based Team Irish dominate the card. Two pros and six amateurs hail from that gym.

One has strong local connections, however. Charlie Stambach, 25, of Newport, will make his amateur debut against Derek Shorey (2-6). Stambach is a 2005 graduate of Lisbon High School, where he starred in football and wrestling.

And fighters with tri-county connections are heavily represented, particularly on the amateur portion of the program.

Ramone Saintvil (1-0) of Central Maine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Auburn is paired with Jacob Cameron (0-2) at 185 pounds. Saintvil made his debut in May with an 86-second, one-punch knockout of Mike Secord.

The other CMBJJ representative, Rob Higgins, enters the octagon for the first time against Scott Lavoie (1-0) of Team Irish in a 180-pound bout.

Caleb Hall of Dixfield will try to run his career-opening unbeaten streak to three against Zackary Adams (0-1) of Young’s MMA.

Hall, who turns 19 in August, stopped his first two opponents by taking them to the mat early and often. It’s a strategy that would be expected to serve him well, given his success as a wrestler at Dirigo High School and Plymouth State University. Friday he’ll face a foe in Adams whose background in jiu-jitsu makes him equally comfortable in a ground-and-pound affair.

Frosty’s First Class MMA, the Topsham gym managed by Lewiston’s Brent Dillingham, sends two fighters into battle.

Former Mountain Valley High School wrestler Trevor Hebert aims to bounce back from a loss by submission in his May debut. Hebert will square off with Stephen Desjardins (2-2) of Team Irish at 130 pounds.

Also representing Frosty’s, John Raio seeks his initial pro victory against newcomer Damon Owens of Young’s MMA.

Other pro bouts pit Andrew Hughes against Joe Palazio and Bruce Boyington versus Asa Zorn.

Tickets start at $27.75 and are still available. Go to or call (800) 745-3000 for details.

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