PROVIDENCE, R.I. (July 28th, 2014) -- What started out as a business trip has turned into a personal vendetta for Julian Lane. A former contestant on Season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter, Lane will face Providence's Luis Felix on Friday, Aug. 8th, 2014 on the main card of "CES MMA XXV" at Twin River Casino airing live on AXS TV, a fight originally scheduled for June until Felix withdrew the week of due to an unspecified rib injury.
Forced to switch gears just two days before the event, the Mansfield, Ohio native instead faced Gemiyale Adkins at Twin River in June and won by unanimous decision, setting the stage for the fight he's been anticipating for the past three months, a five-round war with Felix for the vacant CES MMA Lightweight Title.
It's business as usual for Lane (7-3, 1 KO), who's looking to bring the belt back to Ohio and perhaps get another shot at competing on the sport's biggest stage following his brief run with TUF, but now it's personal, too, a feud that began the night Lane fought Adkins while the injured Felix (11-7, 4 KOs) sat cageside soaking up the pageantry.
"I don't think he was really hurt," Lane said matter-of-factly. "I think he just wanted to watch me fight before he fought me. He and his friends were sitting there trying to talk to me between rounds.
"I'm pissed off about that. I hope be brings his 'A' game because I'm going to be in there trying to knock his head off."
Lane's blunt accusation left the normally affable, easygoing Felix speechless.
"How do you even respond to that stupid nonsense?" Felix asked. "The interesting thing about modern-day technology is we have this thing called the internet, so I've already seen him fight, though I can tell you after watching him fight live I wish I had fought hurt.
"He can say whatever he wants. That's cool. Come Aug. 8th, we'll see who's the better man."
Pleasantries aside, the buildup for take two of Felix vs. Lane is even more intense than it was three months ago when the two were scheduled to face one another in the main event of "CES MMA XXIV." Not only is it personal, as Lane suggests, it's also one of four featured bouts on the main card of a nationally-televised event, adding even more hype to a fight that needs no such gimmicks.
"I would've rather fought in June, but I've now had more time to train and I came out of the last fight with no injuries. It all worked out for the better," Lane said. "This makes for a better fight, and I'll be headlining a live show. I like that idea."
Added Felix: "We get to fight in front of the entire nation. It doesn't get much better than this. It was almost a blessing in disguise sitting out the last fight. I'm pumped. I'm blessed to be involved with an organization like CES MMA that has moved up on the national level so quickly since I first got involved with them. From marketing fighters, to building up fighters and getting them to the UFC, this is something all fighters in New England need to appreciate. It's a blessing."
As far as strategy is concerned, expect to see a much different look from Lane than what he showed in June against Adkins. Facing a shorter brawler with a limited wrestling and jiu-jitsu background, the 5-foot-10 Lane used his height to his advantage, keeping Adkins at the end of his jab. Neither fighter hit the canvas and Lane won decisively on all three scorecards.
Felix is a different animal. He's not as one-dimensional as Adkins, but is known for his wrestling prowess, which began at nearby Cranston East High School and continued briefly in college.
"I expect a little more wrestling this time, but I'm confident in my stand-up," Lane said. "Every round starts on its feet. I'm going to stand and bang. I bet Luis is looking for the takedown. Not me. Once he feels my power, he'll try to take me down."
"I'm going to take him down nonstop," Felix said sarcastically, before taking on a more serious tone.
"I don't know how people perceive me or how they think I fight, but I'm a mixed martial artist," he continued. "I'm not a boxer. I'm not a wrestler. I haven't wrestled since college. When I go in there and fight, I can't say I'm just going to use my stand-up or do one particular thing. The game plan will evolve. I will do what I need to do in that cage. All that matters is I win, and finish the fight."
Make no mistake, this might get personal for Felix, too, by the time the calendar turns to fight week, especially with Lane accusing him of a thinly-veiled attempt at gamesmanship in June. Having to withdraw from the last event bothered Felix - "It sucked," he said - but he's moved on and is even more excited about the opportunity to finally get his shot at Lane on Aug. 8th.
"That was supposed to be my fight in June, but I'm over it. I'm at peace with it. I'm not killing myself over it," Felix said. "I took a couple of weeks off and got right back to training.
"The fight was still on the table, even though I didn't think it'd be on the table again, so I talked it over with my coaches and made the decision. I feel good. I feel much better now."
The fight falling apart two days before the event ultimately turned out to be more stressful for Lane, who took a gamble facing a backup on short notice with a reputation for being tough as nails, not to mention as the headliner of a fight card in a foreign venue.
"I was really nervous," Lane admitted. "I didn't know much about Gemiyale, but he had a lot of knockouts on his record, so my game plan was to stay on the move, not just sit there and exchange, go 15 minutes and not get knocked out. Beating him gave me a boost of confidence. I stood with him for three rounds and beat him at his own game."
Lane's no-nonsense, bulldog approach will be a tremendous challenge for Felix, who's already dusted off three UFC vets in his career. The best part is the entire saga - all the back-and-forth, all the bad blood that's developed over the past three months - will unfold in front of a national television audience in what could be the defining moment for whoever comes out on top.
"I love fighting live," Lane said. "You've got to put on your best performance because people all over the world are watching. This is a big opportunity for me. I've got a bright future ahead of me, a lot to look forward to. I'm trying to get this title and get back to the UFC."
In addition to Felix-Lane, the main card features the return of Brazilian lightweight Gil de Freitas (16-5, 5 KOs) of Ludlow, Mass., in a three-round bout against Newport News, Va., vet George Sheppard (15-7, 9 KOs); along with unbeaten featherweight Charles Rosa (8-0, 3 KOs) of Peabody, Mass., who now lives and trains in Delray Beach, Fla., battling Springfield, Ill., vet Jake Constant (5-4, 2 KOs). Middleweight Chip Moraza Pollard (8-6, 3 KOs) of Plymouth, Mass., looks to build off his win in March when he faces Harley Beekman (6-2, 3 KOs) of Amsterdam, N.Y.
On the preliminary card, Providence welterweight Eric Spicely (4-0, 1 KO) puts his undefeated record on the line against 37-fight veteran Nuri Shakir of Nashua, N.H.; Providence lightweight Keenan Raymond (2-0) battles Jay Bakanowski (1-1) of Northboro, Mass.; welterweight Tommy Venticinque (1-1) of Warwick, R.I., faces newcomer Wayne Alhquist of Nashua; and flyweight Billy Giovanella (5-1, 2 KOs) faces Andy Aiello (3-1, 2 KOs) of Bridgewater, Mass.
Middleweights Raphael Correia (2-1) of Danbury, Conn., and Terrell Clark (1-1, 1 KO) of Framingham, Mass., battle in a three-round bout; fan-favorite Tateki Matsuda (8-4, 3 KOs) of Boston faces Robbie Leroux (5-2, 4 KOs) of Fall River, Mass., in a bantamweight bout; and East Providence, R.I., welterweight Nate Andrews (6-0, 3 KOs) faces his toughest test to date in a three-round bout against Philadelphia's Gemiyale Adkins (8-8, 3 KOs).
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