By Bill Burt
---- — SALEM, N.H. — Justin Boraczek barely remembers Scott Coburn, who was two years his senior at Haverhill High.
The same with Coburn, now 25.
“Maybe I walked by him a few times,” said Coburn. “I have no idea.”
Well, there won’t be any questions about knowing each other after Friday night when the dueling 180-pound amateurs make their MMA debuts in Combat Zone at Rockingham Park.
“We were in high school at the same time, but didn’t know each other,” said the 6-foot Boraczek. “I’m excited to get in the cage with him, and really excited about my first fight.”
Boraczek dreamed of a career as a professional hockey player. As recently as two weeks ago, the former goalie at New England College turned down an opportunity to join a team in Europe.
“My passion now is MMA. I’m retired from hockey,” said Boraczek, 22, who in three starts as a senior at Haverhill recorded two shutouts. “I’ve been training for MMA for almost a year. It takes the same determination, drive, dedication and focus to succeed in MMA as it does in hockey.”
Boraczek trains with MMA fighter Dave Spero at Spero’s MMA in Atkinson, N.H. He and Dan Lynch, who will also compete in the cage for the first time in Combat Zone 45 against James Murrin (2-2), will represent Spero’s Team Pit Bull. At the studio, the young fighters also benefit from instruction by UFC veteran John “Doomsday” Howard, who just won a split decision at the major UFC event at the Boston Garden, and may be in their corner on fight night.
Coburn says he entered the MMA fray because he realized several months ago that was where his passion is.
“It’s not personal,” said Coburn, who works at Dunkin’ Donuts in Methuen. “This sport is a stress reliever for me. It’s not about a pay check or fame or beating the hell out of someone. It’s all about technique.”
Coburn said Boraczek would win the battle of name recognition.
“It seems like he was Mr. Popular in school, because a lot of people seem to know him,” said Coburn. “And a lot of people don’t know me. But that’s OK. That’s the way I like it.”
The main event will be Rodrigo “The Young Lion” Almeida (9-2), one of the most talented mixed martial artists in the region, going against Oklahoma’s Zac Kelley (6-7) at 150 pounds.
The co-main event also shapes up as a terrific fight at 155 pounds with Pedro Gonzalez, ranked No. 2 in his weight class by Northeast MMA, facing Chris Barnes (8-23), who is also jetting in from the Sooner State.
If you go ... What: Combat Zone 45 Where: Rockingham Park, Salem, N.H. Doors open: 6:30 p.m. First bout: 8 p.m. Tickets: $40, $50, $75, $90 and $120 (may be ordered on the Combat Zone website: www.czmma.com or by calling promoter Jamison Kattar at 978-361-6772) Combat Zone 45 fight card 180 pounds -- (A) Scott Coburn (0-0, SC MMA Haverhill, MA) vs. Justin Boraczek (0-0, Spero MMA, Haverhill) 150 -- (A) Jake Pilla (0-0, Wai Kru, Billerica) vs. Nick Torissi (0-0, Independent, Methuen) 140 -- (A) Ivan Sanchez (0-3, Intenze MMA, Lawrence vs. Danny Klemarczyk (0-0, Team Kaos, Nottingham, N.H.) 170 -- (A) Greg Pierce (0-0, CNBJJ, Beverly) vs. Andrew Cutter (0-0, Team Kaos, Farmington, N.H.) 150 -- (A) Dan Lynch (0-0, Spero MMA, Plaistow, N.H.) vs. James Murrin (2-2, Broadway BJJ, Taunton) 215 -- (A) Joe Lambert (0-0, Independent, Nashua, N.H.) vs. Doug Dainty (1-4 Allstar MMA, Miami, Okla.) 145 -- (P) Aaron Petruccelli (1-0, Mass BJJ, Methuen) vs. TBA 160 -- (P) Saul Almeida (12-4, CNBJJ, Framingham) vs. Wayne Harnois (3-11, Brute Force Gardner, Ma.) Co-main event: 155 -- (P) Pedro Gonzalez (8-5, Redline MMA, Gloucester) vs. Chris Barnes (8-23, Apollo Karate Tulsa, Okla.) Main event: 150 -- (P) Rodrigo Almeida (9-2, CNBJJ, Boston) vs. Zac Kelley (6-7, Seminole, Okla.)