Jared Turcotte throws a punch at his striking coach, Dustin Veinott, during his warm-up at Central Maine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Lewiston last week. Turcotte is a former football player who have his first MMA fight in Portland on Saturday. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

About 10 years removed from his stellar football career, Jared Turcotte is glad to have finally found another physical outlet.

The former Lewiston High School and University of Maine standout, who is considered one of the best football players Maine has produced, will have his first MMA match on Saturday, July 30, as part of New England Fights’ “NEF 48: Heatwave” at the rink at Thompson’s Point in Portland.

“I’m easier to be around, but before I get to the end of fight camp, right now I am kind of a bear to be around,” Turcotte said. “But having the framework and being able to physically workout through things and have it be part of my daily life is important for my mental health after not having it for so long.

“I was trying to get that same effect through other avenues that weren’t necessarily physical, and it was not something that my brain is capable of doing. I need a physical outlet to get that energy out or it manifests itself in different ways.”

Turcotte started training in jiu jitsu last August, and did so until around Thanksgiving when he came down with COVID-19. 

After a few months off, and soon after he resumed his training in February at Central Maine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the gym on Main Street in Lewiston, Turcotte began to seriously consider fighting in a sanctioned mixed martial arts match. 


“Right around when I came back, my coaches and I had kind of not-very-seriously talked about competing, but it wasn’t anything that was guaranteed or anything like that,” Turcotte said. “They asked if it was something I wanted to do, and me committing to it was the only hurdle in front of me.” 

Once he made the decision, Turcotte began training as if he was going to be fighting on May 14 at New England Fights’ “NEF 47: Battle of L/A” card at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn — even though he wasn’t, but training with that mindset gave Turcotte a sense 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-cut process for that card, but obviously didn’t fight.”

After “Battle of L/A,” Turcotte started preparing for a real fight.

The 32-year-old Turcotte, who lives in Litchfield, will step into the octagon for the first time against Seth Godfrey. “NEF 48: Heatwave” is New England Fights’ first outdoor fight card since NEF 8. Turcotte will fight in the light-heavyweight class at 205 pounds. 

“It had been like, ‘All right, 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 kind of thing.”


Dustin Veinott , Turcotte’s striking coach at the gym, said that the former football star has learned MMA quickly. 

“He’s come so far in the six or seven months he’s been here,” Veinott said. “He didn’t know how to throw a punch (and now he is) making people lose mouth pieces, 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’s a quick study, he learns quick and he has improved. The first fight, we will see.”

Veinott, Jesse Erickson and Central Maine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu owner Travis Wells have teamed up to help coach Turcotte in minutiae of MMA. Veinott said Turcotte’s football background has helped him physically but also has expedited his grasp of the concepts of fighting.

“Football, you have to learn the plays, and there’s so many more plays than striking,” Veinott said. “Being able to learn all those plays and move it over to striking, and it’s a game changer. He opens his mind to learn quicker because he knows how to learn.”

“The biggest thing we’ve seen is his drive to learn,” Wells added. “He’s trying to improve at something that’s new, and now we’re trying — he has potential but we are bringing it together to help his wrestling, striking and jiu jitsu game. … He’s always willing to learn and listen to get better.”

Turcotte found that MMA and football have some similarities, but some football habits have had to be changed. 


“Sprawling seems pretty similar to breaking a tackle,” Turcotte said, referring to MMA techniques used to avoid takedowns. “Just lower center of gravity, being aware of how your body is jiving with somebody else while 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 through your face and moving my face out of the way. There are actual consequences for having bad technique other than getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage.”

Turcotte is adapting quickly, and though it has been several years since he’s tested himself in such a physical manner, he remains confident in his athletic ability.

“I wish I was still 22. I wish I would have started doing this back then when I had a little bit more gas in the tank, but I haven’t come over the peak of my athletic ability, I’m probably right at the peak of my athletic ability,” Turctotte said. “It feels like being home. It’s learning a new language.”

Turcotte works out occasionally at Young’s MMA in Bangor but mostly has been training at the gym in Lewiston. He said he is a combination of prepared, excited and nervous for his first fight.

“It’s the first time, so there’s those nerves because it’s something I’ve never done before,” Turcotte said. “I am definitely excited to get out there and see how I naturally flow with the adrenaline flowing. Getting back into that mindset of trying to inflict pain on another human being. It’s been kind of fun to get back into that part of my brain.

“Every emotion you could have. I am excited and nervous. It’s the same emotion, but it’s tinted through whatever mind state I’m in. It’s excitement if I am of a positive mind, but nervousness if I’m in a negative mind.”

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