Forlenza plans to hold on to that title belt

Ed Forlenza has a special piece of hardware hanging in Ramzi's Barber Shop in Orleans where he has cut hair for the past 10 years.

He said it's not coming down anytime soon.

Forlenza, 32, a Wellfleet resident and 2004 Nauset Regional High School graduate, won the amateur lightweight title belt at New England Fights (NEF) 35: Wicked Season, a mixed martial arts event held in September in Bangor, Maine.

"It's not leaving my barbershop," Forlenza said of the title belt.

Forlenza, who previously hadn't fought since January 2017, said he got a title shot after an opponent backed out of the title match.

He jumped on the opportunity and defeated Bangor's Patrick Kelly, 54, in Kelly's final fight. Forlenza threw him down with an underhook early, and after the two hit the mat again, Forlenza used a ground-and-pound attack, striking Kelly with several right hooks to win by technical knockout in 2:42 of the first round of their five-round match.

"It feels pretty good," Forlenza said. "Lots of hard work and lots of stuff went in between.

"I knew I was stronger," he continued. "Initial plan was to stand up and fight because he has a good wrestling background."

Forlenza coached wrestling at Nauset when Brendan Battles went undefeated as a senior in 2011-12, claiming state, all-state and New England championships.

After training with Battles, Forlenza said he wanted to begin competing himself.

"I was his partner, and I was doing more than well with a New England champ at that point," Forlenza said.

Forlenza (3-2) began working out at Juniko in Hyannis, and eventually received coaching from Mike Gresh, a.k.a. Loco Lobo.

He then made his MMA debut two years ago, defeating Frank Johanson at NEF 23 Cages The Cape at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center. Battles also fought at the event.

He then went 1-2 in his next three fights at Cage Titans in Plymouth — the last being January 2017 — before he was sidelined by knee injuries.

"I had a couple losses, and I feel like the losses were mental mistakes," he said. "I've barely been touched in a fight. It's more of getting my mind in the right place at the right time."

Despite undergoing three knee surgeries before winning the belt, Forlenza isn't calling it quits after winning his title win.

He'll have one more amateur fight this January at Cage Titans, as he'll compete for the 145 pound title.

Forlenza's plan, though, is to go professional. He'd have to vacate all amateur titles, but he said he wants the opportunity to fight professionally while he still can.

"I'll be done when I'm done," he said. "I feel like I have a good background. I'm in the best shape, the smartest and strongest I've ever been."