Matulis finds her outlet with Dexter fight team

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Eighteen months ago, Dover-Foxcroft resident Sarah Matulis walked into The Outlet, a mixed martial arts training center in Dexter, looking for … well, an outlet.

A busy nurse practitioner in her mid-30s, Matulis, like many of us in the workaday world, struggled to keep her own health and fitness in order.

“I signed up for a cardio program, wanting to lose weight,” Matulis said. “I was up around 230 pounds. That led to kickboxing, which turned into jiu-jitsu.”

Before she knew it, Matulis was signing on the dotted line to join New England Fights’ small but growing and dedicated crop of female MMA combatants.

Matulis made a successful debut last November with a first-round technical knockout of Chelsea Tucker. She will return to the same setting – Aura, in Portland – for a bantamweight bout with Carol Linn Powell at “NEF 34: Home of the Brave” on Saturday, June 16. The opening bell is set for 7 p.m.

“I wound up in MMA really by accident,” Matulis said. “I found out that I liked kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, and kind of naturally you look for the next thing to kind of put it all together. That led to my first fight. That went great, and so here we are.”

There is seemingly a juxtaposition, if not a huge clash of interests, between the primary goals of Matulis’ career and her hard-hitting hobby. The medical profession’s credo is to do no harm, and ultimately to heal the sick and injured. In the hexagon, the objective is to punch, kick or choke your opponent out of commission as quickly as possible.

She is not the first person with such lofty credentials to enter the NEF fray. Dr. Steve Bang of Auburn, a bariatric surgeon, fought three times in his 40s, including a bout with Matulis’ kickboxing trainer Stacy Lupo.

Like any athletic endeavor, amateur MMA requires equipment and stringent rules that keep the fighters safe as possible. Yes, there are inherent dangers, just as there are while driving to work or descending a flight of stairs in a medical office.

“You see it all in nursing. Kids with concussions, for example,” Matulis said. “I’m really aware of that. I try to be careful myself. I absolutely know that it’s part of the sport, and that the risk is there, but the risk is there with a lot of sports.”

Matulis’ participation in MMA has introduced her to friends who have become like family.

In addition to Lupo, she takes Brazilian jiu-jitsu instruction from Zackary Adams, who has fought with NEF out of Young’s MMA in Bangor.

“They spend so much time with everyone at the gym, no matter what level they’re at, recreational or otherwise,” Matulis said. “I’m grateful for all their support.”

The cooperation between supposed rival gyms is something Matulis said she has never seen in other athletic endeavors.

“One thing that really impresses me around here is the camaraderie as far as cross-training goes,” she said. “We cross-train with First Class MMA a lot. Yes, it’s competition, but everybody when they’re not in the cage is kind of rooting for the other person.”

While NEF is well into its seventh year as the region’s leading MMA promotion, many of the top-of-the-card attractions have been male pro and amateur fighters.

That is changing. The popularity of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes, Holly Holm and other international stars has brought women’s MMA to the forefront. It is now common to see multiple women’s fights on any NEF docket, and June’s card is no exception.

“We are incredibly lucky to have an organization like NEF in this area. I’ve had a great experience with them,” Matulis said. “The past six to nine months we’ve seen a big increase in the number of women’s fights. There’s going to be more competition, and that’s incredibly exciting to me. I really enjoy just watching women’s MMA, and I feel like it’s only going to get more popular.”

Powell (0-1), the wife of NEF mainstay and UFC competitor Devin Powell, based out of Somersworth, N.H., appears to be a good match for Matulis.

True to her appreciation of the sport, Matulis has only good things to say about her opponent.

“I’m extremely excited to be fighting in June. I think we’re fairly similar in terms of skill and experience. It’s going to be an exciting fight,” Matulis said. “I’m incredibly grateful to Carol Linn for accepting the fight. Knowing the dedication it takes to participate in MMA, I have the utmost respect for all fighters, especially amateurs who are doing it for the love of the sport.”

Matulis puts herself in that category. She is content to celebrate her journey without getting caught up in future aspirations.

While many local fighters profess an interest in following the sport as far as it will take them, she hasn’t looked beyond the thrill of hearing the cheers of her family and friends close to home.

“I’m not the youngest of creatures. I’m going to be 37,” Matulis said. “Clearly the goal for me at this point is not to get to UFC. I’m just enjoying the moment and loving it. It’s just been kind of a nice capstone to my journey of losing 100 pounds and getting definitely the fittest that I’ve been in my life.”

NEF’s next mixed-martial-arts event, “NEF 34: Home of the Brave,” will take place at Aura in Portland on June 16. Tickets are on-sale now online at New England Fights is a fight events promotions company. NEF’s mission is to create the highest quality events for fighters and fans alike. NEF’s executive team has extensive experience in combat sports management, events production, media relations, marketing, legal and advertising.

Photo courtesy of James Walker
HEADING BACK INTO THE CAGE — Sarah Matulis, a resident of Dover-Foxcroft who trains out of The Outlet in Dexter, is 1-0 in her mixed martial arts career and will be attempting to notch her second win on Saturday, June 16 in Portland at “NEF 34: Home of the Brave.” Matulis made a successful debut last November with a first-round technical knockout of Chelsea Tucker.

Photo courtesy of James Walker
NURSE PRACTITIONER AND MMA FIGHTER — A busy nurse practitioner in her mid-30s, Sarah Matulis of Dover-Foxcroft began going to The Outlet in Dexter to lose weight. This evolved as Matulis will now be competing in her second career mixed martial arts match.

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