WOONSOCKET â This week has been a very hectic and emotional one for Andre Soukhamthath.
Not only is the talented Woonsocket featherweight getting ready for a tough fight that he accepted on less than three weeksâ notice, but heâs also been very busy tying up some loose ends and packing his and his familyâs belongings before they move to Boca Raton, Fla. on Sunday.
Yes, thatâs right, the popular fighter known throughout the area as âThe Asian Sensationâ is leaving New England for sunny Florida. Monday was his last day working on the pre-teen program staff at the Boysâ & Girlsâ Club of Woonsocket, and Fridayâs fight will be his fourth and final of the year on Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.âs âCES MMA XXâ card.
Soukhamthath (6-1, 3 KOs) will pursue his seventh straight triumph and look to become the first seven-fight winner in CESâs brief, but action-packed MMA history when he tangles with Corey Simmons (5-5, 1 KO) of Defiance, Ohio in a three-round clash at the Twin River Event Center.
A resounding victory over Simmons would be the perfect ending to a remarkable year for the 25-year-old prospect, who had won his other three fights of 2013 via (in order) TKO, unanimous decision, and submission.
But Soukhamthath doesnât plan to rest on his laurels. Instead, he has his sights firmly set on changing his address to become a full-time professional and work on sharpening his skills and finding ways to improve.
And heâll be doing so 15 minutes up the east coast of Florida in Delray Beach with the nationally-known Blackzilians, who boast an all-star lineup that includes UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) veterans Rashad Evans, Alistair Overeem, Thiago Silva, and Vitor Belfort.
Soukhamthath was introduced to the team this past summer by one of its members, Sean Soraino, a Providence native and a good friend of Soukhamthathâs who had trained with him before he also found it necessary to move to Florida four years ago.
Soukhamthath had trained with the Blackzilians for two weeks before his Oct. 4 fight against Billy Vaughan at Twin River, and when he came home to R.I., he felt like a different fighter.
âThe coaches really liked me down there,â said Soukhamthath. âThey were impressed with me, and they said that if I wanted to come back, I can go back anytime I wanted to.â
In order to make the move to Boca Raton and take advantage of what he feels is a âonce-in-a-lifetimeâ opportunity, Soukhamthath and his girlfriend, Jaime, has had to make their share of sacrifices.
Soukhamthath moved in with some family members for a couple of momths to save up some money, and not only has he had to part with a job at the Boysâ & Girlsâ Club that he enjoys, but also his coaches and teammates from the Tri-Force MMA compound in Pawtucket.
âMy coaches up here are so good, and theyâre the reason why I am where Iâm at right now,â said Soukhamthath. âBut itâs different down there, and itâs going to be a different look. I just want to keep evolving around other great fighters that have made it in this sport and are making a good living. Hopefully, Iâll be where theyâre at one day.
âBut thereâs nothing holding me back. My family supports me, my coaches support me, and my teammates support me. Itâs the best thing I can do for myself and my career.â
But before driving off to Florida, Soukhamthath has one final order of business to tend to -- Friday nightâs last-minute showdown with Simmons.
âMy conditioning coach at Tri-Force, Keith (Jeffrey), is always trying to get me to stay in shape in the offseason instead of just doing it when I have a fight coming up,â said Soukhamthath. âI got a call asking if I wanted to fill in for the fight and I figured, âWhy not? Iâm in shape and Iâve been killing it in the gym lately,â so I took the fight. I felt good about it.â â
A victory would break the tie he held with Tri-Force middleweight and Pawtucket native Todd Chattelle for the most wins by a CES fighter. And speaking of CES, will Soukhamthath remain with the promotional company while heâs in Florida?
âDefinitely,â he was quick to answer. âCES has been very good to me. They take care of me and I like fighting for them. Plus my fans still want to see me fight, so Iâm still going to be coming back up here to fight and work with my [Tri-Force] coaches two or three weeks ahead of my fights.â
Friday nightâs show, which will be the 20th MMA show at Twin River Casino and the finale to a successful year for CES, will be headlined by the CES MMA featherweight championship fight between the defending champion, Bostonâs Rob Font (7-1, 2 KOs), and Matt DiMarcantonio (4-2) of Welland, Ontario.
Font, like Soukhamthath, will seek his seventh straight triumph and his fourth in a row under the CES banner.
The co-feature will pit two of New Englandâs top lightweights, Providenceâs Luis Felix (9-7, 3 KOs) and Boston's Lucas Cruz (6-1, 2 KOs), in a CES title eliminator, and also appearing in separate bouts are two of R.I.âs premier fighters, Providence light heavyweight Greg Rebello (15-5, 8 KOs), East Providence lightweight Nate Andrews (5-0, 2 KOs).
Tickets for the show are priced at $40, $55, $100 and $125 and available by calling CES at 401-724-2253/2254, going online at www.cesmma.com or www.twinriver.com, or visiting the Players Club booth at Twin River or any TicketMaster location.
The doors open at 6 p.m., and the first bout gets under way at 7. The casino has also waived its 18+ rule, and anyone who is under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and enter through the West entrance.
Follow Eric Benevides on Twitter @EricBen24
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