By Matt Williams
---- — Climbing the ladder in any sport leads to bigger venues and performing in front of more fans. This is especially true in combat sports — and it’s something Salem native Matt Doherty is hoping to experience firsthand tomorrow night.
The 25-year-old Doherty is scheduled to battle in CES MMA’s card at the Twin River Casino in Rhode Island. He’ll be fighting Shaun Marmas at 135 pounds in what will be his third professional mixed martial arts bout.
Anyone that wants to make a living competing in combat sports fights wherever they can. Doherty’s been at it for years and has been a pro for a little more than 15 months. Getting with a promotion like CES (one of the top promoters in New England) and climbing in the ring at Twin River is certainly a sign that he’s on his way.
“I love it,” Doherty said last week. “Being such a popular casino, it draws more fans and makes it that much more intense. Everything is so professionally run and well put together.”
Doherty is 2-0 as a pro, having last fought in August in a match he won when his opponent dislocated a shoulder and couldn’t continue. He’s ranked No. 10 in New England and is matched up against an experienced opponent in Marmas (5-5 in his pro career).
“He’s swift and dangerous,” Doherty said of his upcoming opponent. “I need to be careful and utilize smarts and aggressiveness for sure. He’s a Rhode Island home crowd favorite, so I’m definitely hoping to have some local support down there, too.”
Known as an exciting fighter with plenty of heart, Doherty has been working on his stand-up skills. In MMA, fights can take place both on the ground, where aspects of wrestling and submission fighting dominate, and with both competitors standing, where the bout resembles a kickboxing match.
As a result, Doherty continues to get better as a boxer. In fact, he’s been taking part in matches for BKB (Bare Knuckle Boxing), which has aired events on DirecTV and has had shows at both the Hampton Casino and the Verizon Wireless Arena in New Hampshire.
“It translates and the biggest changes are the footwork,” Doherty explained. “Angling, foot placement and a lot of head movement and balance have to be different when you’re striking using just hands (as opposed to kicks as well).”
Doherty’s last boxing match was in early December, which might seem like a quick turnaround to switch gears to mixed martial arts.
“As a professional, I find that you just have to have the right mindset given whichever fight you’re preparing for,” he said. “The mental game is just as important as physical, and I think the switching has been great for my MMA game. Seeing that I love to use my hands the most, focusing on those in boxing camp make me that much more effective when I get in the cage.”
Doherty trains in Cambridge with Redline Fight Sports. No fighter can do it alone, and he’s had plenty of support from teammates and sponsors like the Ward 2 Social Club in Salem, Hype Xtreme and Global Warrior Management. He helps make ends meet by working construction at Mark’s Disposal, Demo and Cleanouts in Beverly and relishes the support of his girlfriend, with whom he’s expecting his first child in a few months.
“All that support means so much. It’s a lot of time in the gym, and her patience and understanding means everything,” said Doherty.