The last time Tim Boetsch competed in Maine, his hand was raised in victory.

He was 18, a senior at Camden-Rockport High from Lincolnville, and he had just won his fourth straight state wrestling championship.

It was 1999.

“It was a pretty big deal,” Boetsch says.

On Aug. 16, Boetsch will go one-on-one with an opponent in his home state for the first time since he was a high school wrestler. This time he’ll be inside an eight-sided cage in a mixed martial arts bout when the Ultimate Fighting Champion, known to most as simply the UFC, makes its northern New England debut at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

This fight is also a pretty big deal.

Boetsch still harbors championship aspirations but knows his 17-7 record has been diminished by losses in three of his last four matches. When he climbs in against Brad Tavares in a 185-pound middleweight bout, Boetsch, now 33, will be fighting for pride, prize money and, in all likelihood, his career.

“The biggest challenge at this point is I’m not new to the game and I’ve certainly gained the understanding of the life expectancy in this sport, so I know my window of opportunity is closing,” Boetsch said in a telephone interview from his home in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. “I know that I have to take advantage of every single window that does open for me, starting with this fight in Bangor.

“I know I have to go in and win big. I need to go in there and make sure everyone watching leaves and says, ‘Holy crap, did you see what Tim Boetsch did to that guy?’ ”

Boetsch is getting a chance in his home state because Dana White, the UFC president and CEO, also has strong ties to Maine.

White graduated from Hermon High in 1987 and owns a home on 100 acres in Levant. Even before the Cross Center was finished, White said he would do everything in his power to bring a UFC event to Bangor.

White’s promotional triumph has opened another window of opportunity for Boetsch, one he intends to use to further his long-range goal.

“I do have that drive to be champ and I do believe I will be some day,” Boetsch said. “Now I just have to think it will take a little more work than it would have if I’d won that last fight.”

EARLY INDICATIONS

Patrick Kelly won’t try to tell you he’s an expert when it comes to MMA fighting, though he is an avid fan.

But the Camden Hills High wrestling coach is something of an expert when it comes to Tim Boetsch.

“I’ve known Tim since he was a skinny third-grader with a squeaky voice,” Kelly said.

Kelly was an assistant coach for his brother, John, at Camden-Rockport High when Boetsch was tearing through the 145-pound weight class as a freshman, then the 152-pound division as a sophomore and the 189-pound division as a junior and senior. Boetsch lost to a Maine wrestler only once in four years.

Kelly already has his tickets for UFC Fight Night 47, which is expected to pack the 5,800-seat Cross Center and will also be televised live on FOX Sports 1.

He expects to see another Boetsch win. Never mind that 14th-ranked Tavares has a 12-3 record and is seven years younger than Boetsch, now ranked 13th in the UFC middleweight division.

“It is a big fight for Tim,” Kelly said. “Yeah, there’s pressure. But he’s going to do whatever he needs to get the win. That’s how I see Tim Boetsch. That’s how I’ve always seen Tim Boetsch.”

Matt Peterson of Rumford also knew Boetsch back in the day. “I watched him wrestle all through high school,” Peterson said. “It was a real joy. You knew you were watching somebody take their sport to the next level.”

As the matchmaker for the Lewiston-based mixed martial arts promotion New England Fights, Peterson is intimately involved in MMA. It was legislation he initiated as a state representative from Rumford that paved the way for MMA fighting in Maine.

He said he’s kept close tabs on Boetsch’s career in the UFC. He points to Boetsch’s February 2012 win in Tokyo against Yushin Okami as the definition of what makes Boetsch successful. In that fight, Okami, fighting in his home country, liberally peppered Boetsch’s face for two rounds, ending the second round astride Boetsch’s chest, raining lefts and rights.

“When you pick a fight that represents a person at their core, it would be that Okami fight when it comes to Tim Boetsch,” Peterson said. “He was getting beat pretty badly and, man, you saw that Maine toughness and Maine resiliency, and he came out and knocked out Okami, and that was the only way he could win.”

Peterson’s younger brother, Jesse, learned about Boetsch’s competitiveness first hand. Jesse Peterson, then a junior at Mountain Valley High in Rumford, was Boetsch’s final high school wrestling victim in that 1999 championship match.

“He’s always been a tough, tough dude,” said Peterson, who has a 7-5-1 MMA record, competing mostly in Maine. “It doesn’t surprise me that he’s had success in the UFC. I know from everything I’ve heard he’s a really nice guy, a good family guy, but from a competitor’s point of view, you knew you were in there with a mean guy.”

UFC NOT IN THE PLANS … TO START

Bangor is 46 miles from Lincolnville, where Boetsch grew up, the younger of Janice and Greg Boetsch’s two sons.

Boetsch’s path to get to this fight has been considerably longer.

Boetsch said he watched a little MMA on television as a high schooler, never thinking he’d end up trading fists and kicks inside a cage.

It wasn’t until he went to the University of Lock Haven in Pennsylvania to wrestle for the Division I program that he got a real introduction to the sport. A college roommate was a die-hard UFC fan and the pair went to a couple shows in Atlantic City.

“I remember being at a show and thinking this would be really awesome if I could do this, not knowing (a few) years later I would get the opportunity,” Boetsch said.

Not long after, the same roommate gave Boetsch a call: Hustle to Iowa and try an MMA fight.

It turned out to be two amateur fights in one weekend. Boetsch won them both.

“The (venues) were very small and very seedy,” Boetsch says with a laugh. “Looking back on it, it was, well, put it this way, I don’t think I’d recommend anybody to do it again.”

Stepping in where others wouldn’t proved to be a theme throughout the early stages of Boetsch’s career, including his first fight in the UFC ranks.

With a 6-1 record and virtually no known credentials, he had 10 days notice to get ready to fight David Heath in 2008. Heath was seen as an up-and-comer, but it took all of about 30 seconds for Boetsch – now going by the nickname “The Barbarian” – to impose his will.

As the first five-minute round wound to its conclusion, Boetsch hit Heath with a barrage of knees to the chest and chin and ended up hooking his right arm under Heath’s left and throwing Heath onto his head. The YouTube video is worth a watch. The UFC announcers quickly catch on that Boetsch is the man in this match.

“He just threw Heath like he was a rag doll. Like he was a child,” the announcer says. “Tim Boetsch is a beast.”

Boetsch’s initial stay in the UFC lasted four fights, as he went 2-2. Then came three dominant wins in the sport’s minor leagues.

“I knew I wanted to be in the UFC,” Boetsch said. “If I was fighting, I was going to be at the highest level I could.”

Boetsch won eight of his next nine fights, a run culminated by a split-decision win against then sixth-ranked Hector Lombard in July 2012.

Since then Boetsch is 1-3, his lone victory a split decision. His most recent fight resulted in his first first-round loss, when Luke Rockhold, the fifth-ranked middleweight, caught Boetsch in a submission hold on April 26.

“I spent two months training and it was a huge opportunity,” Boetsch said. “I would have been very close to getting back into title contention.”

MAKING HIS FUTURE

Boetsch admits he was concerned whether that loss could spell the end of his UFC run.

In the weeks leading up to the August bout, Boetsch will change his normal pre-fight routine of working with long-time trainer Matt Hume in Washington. Instead, he’ll train with former UFC fighter Marcus Davis at Davis’ Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy in Brewer.

“We’ve worked together in the past and when I found out I was fighting in Maine, the first guy I thought of was Marcus,” Boetsch said. “It just makes sense to train with him.”

Describing Boetsch as a versatile “powerhouse,” Davis said he expects Boetsch to thrive in his home state.

“Tim usually has to fight in unknown or hostile territory. Fighting in Maine will be a vacation,” Davis said.

For now, Boetsch has plenty of things to keep him busy. He and his wife, Jade, a Pennsylvania native, are approaching their 10th anniversary and have three young children. Boetsch has his own gym in Sunbury, called Barbarian Combat Sport. He owns a landscaping company.

On the day he spoke with the Maine Sunday Telegram, he was switching from lawn care to day-care mode.

“I was happy just to get another chance the way the last fight went,” Boetsch said. “I was definitely nervous after the loss and not sure how it would go. It was definitely exciting to get another fight, and I was even more excited when I found out it would be in Maine.”