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DAVE GEORGE

A long time coming: “Passion is rekindled” for Hampstead resident.

David George is coming full circle in the octagon.

George (2-1) will take on David Espino (2-2) at catchweight of 160 pounds in a professional MMA bout as the co-main event of Combat Zone 68 “The Return” Saturday night at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Manchester. The stacked card was named for him by co-promoter and co-owner Calvin Kattar, a world-ranked UFC fighter, for good reason.

This bout marks the return to action, and to Combat Zone, for George and it’s been a long time coming. He saw his first live MMA live event at this same hotel, caught the fight fever and competed three times for the then-owner of the company in 2007, bought the company outright later that year, and then sold it to the Kattar brothers in 2014.

Now he’s climbing back into the cage and competing on a card for Calvin Kattar, his childhood best friend and once and current sparring partner, who skyrocketed to prominence fighting for George while he owned Combat Zone.

“It’s surreal,” said the 35-year-old Hampstead resident. “I’m connecting all the dots. The passion is rekindled in me and I’m tying up all the loose ends.”

There have been an awful lot of them to knit together over the past 11 years.

George, who is also a lumberjack and tree climber, has started and run several successful businesses, married and had two daughters, authored and published two books, and been recruited by CBS-TV for a role in the cast of “Survivor”. If that weren’t enough, he learned the true meaning of survival when he had to turn down CBS in 2011 at age 28 because he was diagnosed with testicular cancer that despite surgery and chemotherapy later metastasized into his spine and then came back again before he defeated the disease the third time around.

“Through this whole journey I’ve had a vision and the process of it all is so important to me. I am embracing the process,” said the owner of Free Bird Tree Service. “I’m in the best shape of my life and I am my best image of a fighter ever. I’m having a blast. There is this fire in me.”

That fire simmered for years as George would attend Combat Zone events as a patron. It had to eventually burst into full flame.

“When I was the promoter and owner I never envisioned myself back in the cage, and certainly not at 35. But I was going to the weigh-ins and the fights and asking myself what was I doing on the outside looking in? I wanted to be the one on the scale, the one getting my hands wrapped, the one on the inside. Now I’m finally doing it instead of being just a spectator,” he said.

To prepare for his first fight in 11 years George has devoted the past five months to intensive training with Kattar and fellow UFC combatant Rob Font plus a handful of top regional MMA coaches. He is so serious about this comeback that he is doing tree work only two days per week.

“I’m very hungry. After winning my first two fights I’m coming off a loss, and it’s a loss that’s been eating at me for 11 years,” he said. “With everything I went through I had to throw it all into a ditch and get in touch with my deepest self. Now I’m back and I’m very excited. I can’t sit still. I have this incredible drive again and it’s all so cool.”

Although emerging with the win is the goal, George hasn’t thought about the next fight. His wife, Danielle, is an RN in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and she and Ava, 9, and Kiana, who turns 7 the day after the fight, always come first.

“I’m not looking past this fight. I have my family and my businesses,” he said. “But you have to be unstoppable. Sometimes you have to sacrifice everything to follow your dreams. Anything is possible if you don’t give up. Don’t ever give up and never lose hope.”

Tickets for Combat Zone 68 range in price from $40 for general admission to $120 for ringside seating and may be purchased by calling co-promoter Jamison Kattar at 978-361-6772. Doors to the hotel’s Armory Room open at 5:30 p.m. and the first fight begins at 7 p.m.

Combat Zone 68 ‘The Return’

(Subject to change)

Amateur kickboxing

150 pounds — Jordan Roy (1-1), Stratham vs. John Costa (1-0), Somerville, Mass.

Amateur MMA

145 pounds — Nate Ghareeb (5-3), Springfield, Mass., vs. Matt Brady (2-0), Stratham

185 pounds — Isaiah Able (0-1), Hooksett vs. Spencer Payne (1-0), Boston

135 pounds — Alyssa Marini (1-0), Kingston vs. Chrystal Gadd, Haverhill, Mass.

Professional MMA Bout

170 pounds — Gerald Meuse (0-0), Boston vs. Jesus Cintron (0-3), Springfield, Mass.

145 pounds — Brendan Marotte (3-0), Hampstead vs. Joey Sanchez (0-1). Pawtucket, R.I.

205 pounds — Terrance Jean Jacques (1-1), Manchester vs. Jhanell Parkinson (3-3), New York City

135 pounds — Jake Pilla (0-0), Billerica, Mass., vs. Kenny Lewis (0-1), Vermont

185 pounds — Ray Shawdee (5-3), Lowell, Mass., vs. Jesse McElligott (5-3), Norwood, Mass.

160 pounds — Dave George (2-1), Hampstead vs. David Espino (2-2), Quincy, Mass.

CZ Main Event Pro MMA

170 pounds — Vovka Clay (8-2). Amherst vs. JR Coughran (6-1), Edmund, Okla.