SALEM, NH- Professional MMA fighter Ricky Sylvester trains and has a construction business in Florida, but he’s coming back to the Merrimack Valley to build another type of foundation.


“I was bounced around a lot as a kid. When I was little, I was taken away from my biological mother and went into the system. I was in different foster homes all over until I finally got adopted when I was eight,” said Sylvester, 27, who is jetting in from his current base in Orlando, FL to take on Pete San Antonio at 155 lbs. in one of the Combat Zone 51 pro cage fights on Friday night at Rockingham Park. “I’m two-and-oh as a pro and I want to continue my streak so I can establish a dynasty for my family and myself. I never had a family foundation and now I’m trying to build one for me and my seven-year-old son.”


Sylvester, whose fight moniker is “Savage” has a devastating right hand that earned him a KO in one of his two professional bouts. He made a name for himself fighting all over the Northeast as an amateur, but moved to back and forth from Lowell, MA to Orlando over the last several years to be closer to his biological relatives and to train with the highly regarded America Top Team franchise in that market.


“I was a boxer in Lowell and sparred with (well-known light heavyweight) Joe McReedy. “I played Pop Warner football and lots of other sports,” said Sylvester, who went to Lowell High School. “When I got into MMA, I trained at many different gyms and in the different arts, so I’ve combined a mixture of styles to make my own style.”


San Antonio, a North Andover, MA native and a former Cape Ann League wrestling champion, will also have a homecoming. He moved to Utica, NY to pursue his MMA career while putting dreams of becoming a professional firefighter on ice for now and is making his pro debut.


“I sacrificed everything to come here and train and I really miss everyone back home. I cannot wait to come back and start my pro career at home,” said San Antonio, 27, who racked up a 10-7 amateur record fighting in the region and saw his first action in the cage at Rockingham Park in Combat Zone 29 in 2009. "You don't realize how much you love home until you leave it."

San Antonio now works with Duff Holmes at Mohawk Valley MMA and said that his coach has him well prepared for battle 

“Ricky is a really strong guy and a very powerful guy," he said. I’m a wrestler so I keep good pressure on. I’m not the most athletic person, but I am one who keeps pushing the pace and moving forward in the fight. That’s always been my plan. I’m persistent. God gave me a good chin, too. I have evolved as a fighter and that’s why I came to New York to train. I’m in really good condition and have trained my butt off for this one. I am coming home to make a statement.”

Sylvester, 27, plans to silence his opponent despite the fact that some local fight scene observers have under appreciated him in his absence.

“They won’t under rate me when they see more of me. Pete has heavy hands but I’m going to get in there and bang with him. Explosiveness is my style and that’s how I got my fight name ‘Savage’. I like an up-tempo fight. It would be a mistake for Pete to look past me. I’m very confident about remaining undefeated,” he said.

The bout will also present an opportunity for Sylvester to reconnect with the people who mean the most to him in New England.

“I have plenty of family up there,” he said by phone while taking a quick break from training. “My biological family can’t come up from Florida, but my adoptive family will be there to support me. I want to make them proud.”

The main event will be a featherweight battle between Taylor Trahan (5-1) of Bethlehem, NH and Chris Foster (7-3) from Middletown, CT and Rockingham Park is also a comfort zone for Trahan. Not only did he make his amateur debut as an 18-year-old there and rise through the ranks while competing in Combat Zone events at the racetrack over the years, he won his last fight by unanimous decision there in Combat Zone 51 in September.

Trahan, 23, was coming off knee surgery then and has promised that the fans at his homecoming will see a much improved performance this time around.

There are 11 pro and amateur matches on the “Thanksgiving Throwdown” card and the night’s best amateur fighter will be awarded the trophy from Chang’s Tae Kwan do America in Methuen.

Combat Zone is the longest running MMA promotion in New England and co-owners Calvin and Jamison Kattar have partnered with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the Vets Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix). They have donated tickets so that military personnel can enjoy this and future events free of charge.

Tickets are $40, $50, $75, $90 and $120 and may be purchased by calling Jamison Kattar at 978-361-6772. Doors open at 6:30 PM and the first fight is at 8:00 PM. The weigh-in is Thursday night in Rockingham Park’s Sports Club at 6:00 PM and is open to the public free of charge.

The full 11-fight card, subject to change, is:


125 lbs.- Jesse Gutierrez (3-2) Norwood, MA vs. Ryan Kane (2-1) Wareham, MA

190 lbs.- Kristian Lombari (0-4) Methuen, MA vs. Logan Price (0-0) Wareham, MA

150 lbs.- David Brown (0-2) Gilford, NH vs. Jeff Beal (0-0) Townsend, MA

135 lbs.- Carl Langston (2-2) Balanced Ground vs. Tim Lightfoot (2-0) Hooksett, NH

145 lbs.- Dylan Lockard (1-0) Derry, NH vs. David Sousa (1-3) No. Andover, MA

150 lbs.- Danny Abad (2-2) Watertown, NY vs. Lloyd Fernandes (2-2) Boston, MA


185 lbs.- Ibrahim Eid (0-1) vs. Tim Caron (0-0) Manchester, NH

155 lbs.- Pete San-Antonio (0-0) Utica, NY vs. Rickey Sylvester (2-0) Orlando, FL

155 lbs.- Wayne Alquist (1-0) Gilford, NH vs. Sergio Moran (3-0-1) Boston, MA

145 lbs.- Vovka Clay (1-0) Amherst, NH vs. John Santos (2-1) Derry, NH

145 lbs.- Taylor Trahan (5-1) Bethlehem, NH vs. Chris Foster (7-3) Middletown, CT


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