When Bruce “Pretty Boy” Boyington had the CES featherweight title wrapped around his waist in his last bout, he could feel the culmination of his hard work paid off and he knew where he stood among the elite on the regional scene. Boyington took on UFC veteran Sean Soriano and was able to finish him with a rear naked choke in the second round. Now “Pretty Boy” will defend his title in the main event of CES 56 against Dan Dubuque on May 31.
But the road to the title hasn’t been as a pretty of a road for Boyington. With a record of 16-11, the Bangor, Maine native struggled at points to put it all together. There have been many hurdles, including taking risky fights when he wasn’t prepared and not having a team to train with. But his biggest hurdle was his mentality.
“I know the fight game real well, I’ve been doing it a long time I know it’s the same thing with a lot of people but they won’t admit it, but I went into some of my earlier fights, mentally…knowing I didn’t train as much as I should’ve. Not by choice but because I didn’t have enough people in the gym or I didn’t have enough opportunities in front of me. I had health issues that were holding me down. So I’d go into a fight unprepared. Mentally I was just in my head, I has having some health issues so I was struggling in the fight, really tired and I’d go in there and more or less give up on myself in a fight. It’s really easy to say, I’m going to let this guy choke me out, it’s kinda the easiest way to get out of a fight. You can just tap the ground and say I’m done and quit. I know there’s tons of fighters out there that have done it they just probably won’t admit it. I have no problem admitting it because it’ll just never happen with me again. I crossed that hurdle and I just know I will never give up in a cage. It’s something that makes me a lot more confident going into a fight because it’s like something just snapped and it changed for me. In the past, yea I’d give up in the fights, not because I was scared or anything like that but I had some trouble with my health and some other issues for preparation and when you get past that hurdle it’s really a different ball game when you’re in the cage.”
Boyington also took fights he knows he shouldn’t have, like when he fought Nate Andrews.
“I just won’t take the fight again; I’m not going to take a fight at 155 when I’m walking around at 155 and I don’t have a team behind me.”
For the longest time, Boyington didn’t have a team behind him. He is from Bangor, Maine where there are limited training opportunities. He had to deal with gym drama, working normal jobs to feed his family and limited coaching. It’s been mainly his talent that has gotten him by so far.
“You go into a fight, you’re not a 100 percent, you know you haven’t put in the work but I’ve been able to do as well I’ve done because I have just enough skill to get by.”
There’s not a lot of options for gyms, and the reality is, this sport is a real camaraderie kind of world type of thing, it takes a lot of pressure to leave a gym. If you’re somebody like me, I held on for a couple of years knowing I wasn’t happy there, just because I didn’t want to be un-loyal to someone. I didn’t want to leave with someone that I’ve been with so long. Finally, I said I gotta do this, I just wish I did this sooner because of how well it turned out.”
What’s amazing about this is that Boyington only joined Titan Athletics right before his fight with Soriano, so it’s a new version of him fans will be witnessing.
“It wasn’t right after Nate Andrews; it was actually right probably just after I beat Sean Soriano. So I captured the title and then I switched gyms. Even with Sean, I didn’t have the support, I was at Young’s MMA, I didn’t really have the support.”
Now Boyington has a team behind him at Titan Athletics. He is also travelling four hours on some weekends to spar at Joe Lauzon’s gym as well. In addition, after helping Alan Jouban during his fight week when the UFC visited Maine, he has made the trip to Los Angeles the past two years to train with Blackhouse MMA and spar with fighters such as Kevin Lee. However, for this fight, one of the biggest factors heading into the fight against Dubuque is that Boyington will be healthy heading into it. In his last fight against Soriano, Boyington tore his MCL after being suplexed by a teammate a week before the fight. Now he says he is healthy.
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Thanks once again to what feels like an extended family out in LA! Blackhouse MMA is not your average group and to have them let you in and treat you as one of their own is a real special thing. I’m blessed with two power house teams because @titan.athletics is great in every way back home and then that other look out in Cali with these Animals #blackhouse #titanathletics #ces #topgamemanagement #mma #ufc #bellator #pfl #
“I had to go into that fight with a torn MCL and that really really made it hard for the fight. Which is why I’m just now getting back to fighting I had to rehab that, went through a lot of therapy. Now I’m pretty healthy, probably the most healthy I’ve been before a fight in a long time.”
Heading into his current fight, Boyington is excited to show the world the best version of himself. He believes many see his age (39) and his record (16-11) and write him off, however he believes he has a lot of fight left in him and those are just numbers.
“If they just look at a number and they think he’s old, number one that’s a given, they underestimate that alone. And that age thing, the only thing age comes into play is that some people aren’t as hungry as they get older but things have lined up where I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I haven’t’ slow down, my speed or skill hasn’t changed.”
“I do get underestimated because of the losses; I think it’s changing after a little bit of time. People who have been watching my game, I’ve been submitting my last couple of opponents. A lot of people underestimate me early on saying “man, his ground isn’t that good, I’m just going to go in there and submit Bruce” and that was a common thing. I think that’s changing a little bit, people are starting to respect that a little more. But with that said, they still always think things are going to be different in there when they get in there with me. But I love that part of fighting that I could look forward to knowing when I’m going into my fight, I know that this guy, whatever he’s training or working on, it’s going to change when we get in there.”
He also realizes the UFC doesn’t always look at fighters with his type of record despite facing some of the toughest fighters in the Northeast.
“UFC is always looking at guys that have a zero at the end of their record. I mean they have fought nobody, a lot of them have fought nobody. Most of their wins are from guys with losing records. So I don’t really understand that part of things and why the UFC doesn’t chase these people who have tough fights and prove themselves to be tough. But all I can do is keep running them out and beating the tough guys that are put in front of me.”
Though he had his own team supporting him for the first time and he is the featherweight champion of the organization he is going to be fighting for, he doesn’t have the support of Jimmy Burchfield Sr. the president of CES MMA. A week before the fight, CES held a press conference in Hartford, CT where the fight will be taking place (and the hometown of his opponent). Boyington wasn’t able to attend the press conference because he was given late notice and it was a five-hour drive from his hometown, instead he sent quotes for CES to give to the crowd. However, before reading the quotes, Burchfield questioned Boyington’s manhood and said he is rooting for his opponent who was at the press conference (video can be watched here).
Boyington and his family were not pleased as his wife’s Facebook post shows, however Boyington declined to comment on the situation, instead he’d rather focus on the fight.
Speaking of the fight, it’s one that should elicit fireworks. The challenger, Dubuque, is entering the fight at 8-2 and is coming in on a four-fight win streak. With all due respect do Dubuque, Boyington believes he isn’t as skilled as some of his past opponents like Soriano.
“When you’re coming off a fight with Sean Soriano, most anybody is going to look good compared to him. Sean’s record is very deceiving, because he’s way better than what his record reflects. Dan, I don’t want to disrespect the guy but compared to him and some of the guys I’ve fought, he’s a breath of fresh air. So I’m really excited to go into a fight like that and have some fun.”
Boyington see’s a few scenarios for the fight and he see’s a finish happening in all of them.
“I don’t really watch a lot of Dan and how he fights, I haven’t really seen much, my coaches and teammates have worked on that and shared a lot of what goes on with him. They say he’s gonna stand and strike with me, and I entertain that for, I hope he does that and stands and strikes with me. If he does that, I think we’ll get a knockout by sometime in round two. If he gets in there and he’s like “man I don’t like striking with Bruce,” and he tries taking me down, I think he has some mediocre grappling and what not. He’s probably underestimating my grappling; I don’t want to sound the wrong way but I’m not worried about where things go grappling. I think I should control him grappling and maybe even submit him if that’s where it goes. I think we’re going to stand and strike with him and I think sooner or later, he’s going to mess up with something, he’s going to get overzealous or confident trying to do something and he’s going to find himself in deep water, over his head and get caught with something.”
This win will mean a lot to Boyinton as he believes that winning the belt isn’t enough, it has to be defended to be recognized as a champion.
“This one is more important to me than the first one. In my mind I don’t feel like the champion, I think you gottprove it wasn’t just one fight, you can do it again and at the top, they line the next guy up and you can beat him. I think that says you are the champion, to me it’s a really important fight.”
Boyington vs. Dubuqe will take place on May 31 in Hartford, Connecticut and it will air on UFC Fight Pass.