PORTLAND — Inside a cage of chain-link fence, fighters will try to knock each other out with kicks, punches, wrestling moves and jujitsu.

Mixed martial arts fighting is coming to Maine, nearly two years after the Legislature legalized it.

The Maine Mixed Martial Arts Authority, which spent the past year developing rules to govern the sport, announced Wednesday that it has sanctioned two events, both in Portland.

The first will be held April 30 at the Stevens Avenue Armory. The second is scheduled for May 6 at the Portland Expo, said Bill Bouffard, chairman of the state authority.

“It took us a while to get rolling,” Bouffard said, “but our number one priority was the safety of the fighters. As brutal as the sport may seem, it’s safer than boxing.”

Mixed martial arts fighters try to knock their opponents out or disable them. They can be penalized by the referee for head butting, eye gouging, biting, hair pulling, groin attacks, putting fingers into orifices, or kicking the head of an opponent who is on the floor.

Timidity, including avoiding contact, is also grounds for a penalty.

Professional fights last three rounds; title fights can go five rounds. If both fighters are able to finish, a three-judge panel determines the winner.

In spring 2009, the Legislature legalized mixed martial arts fighting in Maine and created the authority, a five-member volunteer board, to regulate the fights.

Matthew Peterson, a Democratic state representative from Rumford, sponsored the bill, viewing it as a way to spur economic development and boost tourism.

“I’ve been a lifelong fan of mixed martial arts fighting,” Peterson said. “It’s the fastest-growing sport in the world and represents a real economic development opportunity for the state.”

If the sport catches on in Maine, Bouffard said he would expect to see about two mixed martial arts events a month.

He said the event at the Expo will include a title match between two professionals — Portland’s Paul Gorman and Pedro Gonzalez of Rockport, Mass. Both men fight in the 135-pound division.

Jason Leeman, director of operations for the Brunswick-based Bellum Combat Association, said he hopes to fill the Expo. The building can hold 3,000 people.

“Our goal is to have a sellout crowd,” said Leeman, whose firm will market the event and hold a “ring girl” tryout. Ticket prices will range from $40 to $75.

The Massachusetts-based Global Fight League will produce the event, providing video coverage, lighting, staffing, big-screen televisions and, of course, the cage for the fights.

Bouffard said the state authority determined during the rulemaking process that cage fighting, as opposed to fighting in a boxing ring with ropes, would be safer for the fighters and the audience.

Leeman noted that several Maine athletes have fought outside Maine. Two fighters, Mike Morin of South Portland and Ryan Cowette of Brunswick, will make their Maine debuts on May 6.

Other well-known mixed martial artists from Maine are Marcus Davis of Bangor, who helped get the sport legalized, and Mike Brown, a former champion from Portland.

Bouffard said mixed martial arts can be violent.

“It’s not for everybody. But the people who do it are doing it because they have a great passion for the sport,” he said.

Bouffard said the April 30 event will be promoted by Cage FX of Massachusetts. The authority, which has not received that fight card, approved the event Wednesday during a meeting in Cape Elizabeth.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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