From left, Justin Bourgeois, Khalifa Hamilton, Garret Rafuse, and Scott MacLean. Hamilton and Rafuse will be making their amateur debuts at FLA 4. Photo courtesy of Justin Bourgeois
By Andy Cotterill
Justin Bourgeois is a carpenter by day, and a mixed martial artist by night, and on Saturday night the veteran fighter from Amherst, Nova Scotia plans to use the lessons learned on the jobsite inside of a cage when he faces Patrick Connors in the main event of Fight League Atlantic 4, in Sackville, New Brunswick.
Let me explain.
You see, in carpentry everything you build is connected. You’ve already heard the cliché about needing a strong foundation, but as important as that is it’s only the start. Above that foundation are the bottom plates, top plates, sill plates, king studs, headers, joists…and the list goes on.
If any one of those individual pieces is constructed with poor material or technique it will compromise the entire structure and the walls, as they say, will come crumbling down.
Bourgeois felt like that happened to him after his last fight in 2016, a loss against current UFC fighter Kyle Nelson.
“I knew after the Nelson fight, to hang with these guys I need to start working on some more things.” He told MM-eh on fight week.
So a plan was constructed with coach Scott MacLean from FitPlus in Dartmouth to work on some of his weak areas, like boxing.
He had a fight lined up in 2018 to test his new skillset, but that fight fell through.
Then he had another opportunity against up-and-comer Matar Lo in April 2020…but you all know why that was cancelled.
So now we’re here in 2022 with Bourgeois taking on Connors and he says that not surprisingly after a 6-year layoff and a pandemic he still feels the urge to compete.
“I still have this burning fire..a competitive nature of wanting to compete and challenge myself.”
He acknowledges that at 39-years old he’s much older than most other men in this game, but though these past 6 years and a pandemic he has never stopped training, ane feels like he’s still got what it takes to succeed.
“I feel like I can still compete ya know, stay step above these guys for a little bit longer.”
In Connors he’ll be facing someone over a decade his junior and someone who has been more active professionally, with 2 fights in 2021 and a recent win just last month.
“I’m sure his confidence is going to be high and his motivation is going to be high,” Bourgeois said, “it’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to testing my skills against his.”
After a 15-year MMA career this will be the first time that Bourgeois is headlining an event, and he admits that there’s a little bit extra pressure.
“Well, you definitely want to make it exciting.”
Although Bourgeois does periodically make the trip to Dartmouth/Halifax and Fit Plus to tighten things up with his coach Scott MacLean, the bulk of his training takes place at his own gym, Cumberland MMA in Amherst.
“We’ve got a gym full of young, hungry, up-and-comers…they keep me on my toes.
Bourgeois is clearly excited to be getting back to doing what he loves, but perhaps more importantly for him this will be the first time that two of his three boys will be attending one of his fights.
Mason, 18, and Myles, 13, will finally get to see their old man in action, while youngest Mannie, 5, will have to hear about it afterward.