After 4 1/2 weeks of intense training with the Blackzilians combat team in Boca Raton, Fla., Andre Soukhamthath is returning to Rhode Island.
No, the talented featherweight isnâ€™t moving back to Woonsocket, which he left a month ago for warmer weather in the Sunshine State and a chance to train full-time with some of the best MMA fighters in the world.
Instead, heâ€™s coming back to R.I. for two weeks to work out with his old Tri-Force teammates and coaches and fight on Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc.â€™s â€śCES MMA XXIâ€ť card on Jan. 24 at the Twin River Event Center.
Soukhamthath, who went 4-0 last year to improve his young record to 7-1 (4 KOs), will take on a tough customer in Kin Moy (3-0) of Cambridge, Mass., who is moving up from the bantamweight ranks to fight what is expected to be the special attraction bout on an action-packed card.
â€śI've known him for a while,â€ť Soukhamthath said on Friday afternoon after one of his workouts. â€śWe're actually friends; we always run into each other and we talk all the time. Kinâ€™s a fast little guy, a little firecracker. Heâ€™s got good standup, heâ€™s fast, and heâ€™s definitely going to be a challenge.â€ť
Soukhamthathâ€™s been no stranger to challenges during his seven-fight win streak, but he prepared very well for this battle during his training with the Blackzilians, an all-star stable of fighters, mostly from the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) and WSOF (World Series of Fighting).
â€śEverythingâ€™s going great at the gym,â€ť said Soukhamthath. â€śI feel like Iâ€™m at home. They treat me well here, the fighters and the coaches. Iâ€™m working hard, and I feel like Iâ€™m improving a lot each day Iâ€™m here.â€ť
Soukhamthathâ€™s day features double sessions, the first from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and the latter from 7 p.m. until sometime past 9, and the workouts have been all serious business and kept Soukhamthath on his toes.
â€śSparring here is like a real fight,â€ť admitted Soukhamthath. â€śYour training partner is trying to knock you out, and youâ€™re trying to knock him out as well. Thereâ€™s no going soft here. Even the wrestling and the jiu-jitsu, their levels are so high.â€ť
Soukhamthath has worked out a lot with a familiar name in Sean Soriano, who also made the move from Providence to Florida a few years ago and made his UFC debut last weekend, as well as a promising amateur in Irwin Rivera.
â€śIâ€™ve been training with Abel Trujillo, Eddie Alvarez â€“ different guys,â€ť said Soukhamthath. â€śAnd just training alongside other guys like Rashard Evans, Vitor Belfort, Anthony Johnson â€“ thereâ€™s a whole bunch of world champions here and I feel like Iâ€™ve learned so much from them.
â€śEverybodyâ€™s training hard. They have fights coming up. The intensity level just rises up here, but at the same time, itâ€™s like a brotherhood. Thatâ€™s why certain people are only allowed to train here. I certainly feel like Iâ€™m a part of that brotherhood. Theyâ€™ve made me feel really welcome here.â€ť
Soukhamthath doesnâ€™t plan to roll out any welcome mats for Moy when he takes the hour-long drive to Lincoln in a couple of weeks. Moy has captured all three of his fights with quick submissions, and Soukhamthath knows his old friend would love nothing more than to repeat his success in front of his Soukhamthathâ€™s fans.
â€śHeâ€™s going to come in here and try to beat me,â€ť remarked Soukhamthath. â€śWeâ€™re friends, but weâ€™re going to have to put that friendship aside because this is personal. When Iâ€™m fighting anyone, I take it really personal because you're messing with my money when you fight me!â€ť
Not only will Soukhamthath have his loyal legion of fans in every nook and cranny of the arena pulling for him to beat Moy, but he will be reunited with his Tri-Force MMA allies, who will work his corner for the fight.
â€śThatâ€™s big,â€ť added Soukhamthath. â€śI know my fans always have my back. Theyâ€™re always going to go (to my fights) and I really appreciate that. And Iâ€™ll be back with my old coaches, which I feel great about because I miss them. They know me and theyâ€™re going to be a big help.â€ť
Soukhamthath will be part of a marquee card â€“ CESâ€™s 21st MMA show in three years â€“ that also features defending CES MMA featherweight champ Rob Font and former CES MMA middleweight champion and Pawtucket native Todd Chattelle.
Font, a native of Tampa, Fla. who resides in Boston and fights for Team Sityodtong, will take an 8-1 (2 KOs) record into his main-event showdown with Ahsan Abdullah (5-4, 2 KOs) of Binghamton, N.Y.
Font, like Soukhamthath, is coming off an impressive 4-0 year and will be seeking his eighth straight victory and fifth in a row under the CES colors.
Chattelle (12-9, 9 KOs), who fights out of Tri-Force, will appear in the co-feature and take on Shedrick Goodridge (4-6, 2 KOs) of Rahway, N.J.
Fans wonâ€™t soon forget Chattelleâ€™s last victory, an opening-round TKO of John Troyer last October that also saw him propose to his girlfriend â€“ who accepted â€“ inside the cage after the win.
Tickets for the show are priced at $40, $55, $100 and $125 and available by contacting CES at 724-2253/2254, going online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.cesmma.com, or visiting the Twin River Players Club.
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