The city of Boston is a large and simmering fight market. To the cities south, along the shores, just before the dreaded stretch of melted steel, tar and stone known as the Sagamore Bridge, lays the unassumingly quaint and beautiful town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. There, on the edge of the cold and unforgiving Atlantic, sits the otherwise dormant home of Boston’s premier Mixed Martial Arts promotion, Cage Titans Fighting Championship. Dormant by standard of comparison to the excitement brought to the town’s only suitable venue, Plymouth Memorial Hall, when the MMA comes to the coast.
Upon third party investigation, the size of the South Boston promotions’ home venue may not indicate the extreme decibel level which its crowd achieves. Anyone daring to challenge that assertion, may do so. It happens as so, an opportunity presents itself in a little over a week. April 14th, hosts the 38th installment of Cage Titans, at its aforementioned home, Plymouth Memorial Hall, where a new Lightweight champion will be crowned.
A familiar cast of characters descends upon the historic Oceanside town on that night. Six athletes return to Plymouth after appearing on the previous Cage Titans card (Cage Titans 37). Four fighters put their undefeated records to the test, and two amateurs are set to play back one of the most exciting fights in Cage Titans history. All this and a main event featuring two of the best Lightweights, New England’s regional circuit has to offer, battling for Cage Titans gold.
Two locals are set for five rounds, Connecticut’s, Dan Dubuque meets, Massachusetts’, Jimmy Manning in the evening’s final bout. It is a clash between top 15 New England regional Lightweights (rankings by tapology.com; Dubuque #12, Manning #11).
Both local men hold the accomplishment of Cage Titans Lightweight Champion in high regard while also sharing a genuine respect for each other. Without the forefront emotion, the match-up should prove extremely calculated and technical. These Lightweights, towards the top of New England’s hierarchy hill, while sharing many things, one they do not is the horizon they look out upon.
In speaking to Dan Dubuque ahead of the upcoming contest, he looked out upon a journey bringing him to the pinnacle of mixed martial arts competition, in his opinion. When asked of his aspirations, he explained them as so, “It would be great to make a career of it, but the money at this level isn’t good enough for it to be a career. If I could get to that point, that would great. But the goal is to make it to the UFC…” He continued, “That’s what I’m striving for and I’ll keep working, and training, and fighting and grinding and doing what I have to do to get there until I do”.
The man they call, ‘Blue Collar’, finds himself in a peculiar situation. As he described himself, not before he exclaimed, “This isn’t a professional answer at all, that’s a bad question”, with a quick grin and chuckle. Dubuque is scheduled to fight for the vacant Cage Titans, Lightweight title, which is fine by all accounts according to him. The issue is, Dubuques real weight class is Featherweight. Before he could wipe the grin from his faced, he delivered the crux behind his move up in weight, “Eating cookies”.
He elaborated, “I fought four years in a row, after the holidays… (and) one of the promotions in Connecticut is Reality Fighting, they always have a January card. And I’ve had terrible luck with opponents dropping out… So I would always end up trying to get it in before the holidays and it wouldn’t happen, then I’d end up getting stuck on the January card…” He continued, “I said, ‘This year I’m eating as many cookies I want. I’m going up to 55, and I got an opponent, it was actually supposed to be Joe Giannetti, for (Reality Fighting). He was 6-0, and obviously, he went on the Ultimate Fighter… So that was really it, I just really wanted to eat and I didn’t want to kill myself over the holidays”.
While his attitude towards his situation was jovial, his opinion of his opponent was not. He claimed, “I’m expecting the best version of him and he’s very good. I expect him to be good on the feet, good on the ground. I’m ready for either, wherever it goes… I imagine he might try to get it to the ground at some point but who knows maybe we’ll have a stand up war because he’s good on the feet too”.
He also respected the opportunity Cage Titans 38 presented to him. In regards to the main event booking and shot at a regional title, he said, “Its huge. I mean I just, it’s nice to get the recognition as being in this position where I can fight for a title. Its an honor to fight him, he’s 5-0, 5 finishes. He hasn’t really fought the level of competition that I have but, he’s gone out there and done what he’s needed to do, he’s gotten the finish in the first round, second round and I don’t see any weaknesses in his game”.
He continued, “I love this sport, I don’t look for a quick (knockout), it would be nice to have a quick knockout but I want it over a good opponent. I like going three rounds and having a chess match with a good opponent and testing our wills and all that stuff”.
Challenges is what he seeks at this point in his career. Dubuque, to his own admission, has flown a bit under the radar in New Englands regional MMA scene, despite his impressive victory over the highly touted prospect, Max Barrett. He feels the lack of coverage but in a way, appreciates it. “Yeah I mean, I don’t get a lot of exposure, and I kind of like that. I just like to work hard, show up and fight because I love it. I don’t do it for the attention I would say but it is nice to get the recognition that I might be ready for the next step, for the next level”.
April 14th represents a unique day in the career of the young Connecticut resident. It represents an opportunity, for Dubuque to establish himself among the growing number of talented New England prospects on the verge of next level.
If successful, in earning the Cage Titans Lightweight championship, many opportunities will likely present themselves. The most intriguing of which would be challenging for the promotions Featherweight title. The task of capturing a title in two weight classes while active at both weights is extraordinarily challenging, at any level of MMA competition. Yet, one aspect to consider, Dubuque has the potential luxury of moving down back to his natural weight class. This action, dispels size disparity and weight cut disadvantages, at the minimum but those factors are circumstantial.
Not much time sits between the current hour and that moment of subdued excitement, just before the cage door closes. Dubuque must only survive that, and arrive at Plymouth Memorial Hall. From there comes his final ritual preparations and finally, the walk. That final walk from the stage to cage door, is the last breathe of air before the result of a pivotal moment in the young part of his career is decided.
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