2020 saw the continued rise of one of MMA’s hottest teams in the New England Cartel. Spear-headed by the Granite State’s Tyson Chartier—the Cartel’s head coach and manager—fighters Calvin Kattar and Rob Font have solidified New England as an MMA force in what has been one of the strangest years in the sport’s history. Here’s a quick zeitgeist of New England Cartel’s dominant 2020:
UFC 248: Adieu to the Fans
Israel Adesanya’s headlining bout opposite Yoel Romero marked the final UFC event of 2020 with a live audience. And while the main event ended with the oft-maligned boo-birds singing their song, nobody could have anticipated how much their absence would be felt in the subsequent months. Although the initial imbroglio seemed exclusively grim, what was to come for New England Cartel bore nothing but success...
UFC 249: Calvin Kattar Vs. Jeremy Stephens
May 9 marked the return of live UFC events as well as New England Cartel’s 2020 debut. Boston’s 5th team tabbed Calvin Kattar to take on UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens, he of—at the time—45 professional MMA bouts and 19 knockouts. His resumé not withstanding, Stephens failed to leave the Octagon with his faculties in check, as Kattar connected with a booming step-in elbow, sending Stephens to the canvas to be met by a barrage of strikes from above. The man dubbed by Mickey Ward as “The Mingya Valley Kid,” became the catalyst for what would be a huge year for the New England Cartel. 1-0.
Opportunity Beckons, UFC Fight Night: Kattar Vs. Ige
Following his statement victory at UFC 249, Calvin Kattar was selected by the UFC to take on 10th ranked Dan Ige on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. Kattar would be putting his superior number six ranking on the line, and in exchange: headline the card in a five-round bout. The risky decision would pay off as Kattar put forward a gutsy performance, battling through a broken nose in the second round to earn an unanimous decision victory. The win would cement his place atop the 145-pound division, as he firmly staked his claim for title contention. 2-0.
In the midst of recovering from knee surgery, Woburn’s Rob Font remained a dark horse in the UFC’s stacked bantamweight division. And after a quiet first-half of 2020 news broke that Font would be returning to the Octagon to take on a top three contender in “Magic” Marlon Moraes. With questions about Font’s inactivity and recent injury/recovery swirling, the New England Cartel would enter the bout as underdogs, a familiar scenario for the motley crew. Similarly, it would then be announced that Calvin Kattar would also be entering the biggest fight of his career, opposite the former champion and current number one contender: Max Holloway. The Cartel’s head coach and manager, Tyson Chartier, had done his job.
Rob Font KO’s “Magic” Marlon
Known for his hellacious pace in the genesis of his fights, the buzz around Moraes’ encounter with Font circled around the latter’s ability to survive the Brazilian’s initial onslaught before working his way to a decision. Which begs the question: does anyone really know how to predict fights? Font would go on to starch Moraes, jarring him with stiff jabs and sitting him down with an uppercut before reeling off a 30 consecutive strike beatdown to earn the finish.
“Tonight is surreal,” said Chartier, “but not surprising.” The New England Cartel had capped off an undefeated pandemic-ridden year, which saw both Font and Kattar earn the biggest wins of their career with both firmly cemented in title contention as 2020 comes to a close. 3-0.
New England Cartel’s Calvin Kattar will headline the UFC’s first card of 2021, on January 16 in Abu Dhabi. The Main card will kick off at 5:00 PM EST on ESPN and ABC.