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 isn‚Äôt 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, he‚Äôs 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.‚Äôs ‚ÄúCES MMA XXI‚ÄĚ 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.
‚ÄúI've known him for a while,‚ÄĚ Soukhamthath said on Friday afternoon after one of his workouts. ‚ÄúWe're actually friends; we always run into each other and we talk all the time. Kin‚Äôs a fast little guy, a little firecracker. He‚Äôs got good standup, he‚Äôs fast, and he‚Äôs definitely going to be a challenge.‚ÄĚ
Soukhamthath‚Äôs 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).
‚ÄúEverything‚Äôs going great at the gym,‚ÄĚ said Soukhamthath. ‚ÄúI feel like I‚Äôm at home. They treat me well here, the fighters and the coaches. I‚Äôm working hard, and I feel like I‚Äôm improving a lot each day I‚Äôm here.‚ÄĚ
Soukhamthath‚Äôs 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.
‚ÄúSparring here is like a real fight,‚ÄĚ admitted Soukhamthath. ‚ÄúYour training partner is trying to knock you out, and you‚Äôre trying to knock him out as well. There‚Äôs no going soft here. Even the wrestling and the jiu-jitsu, their levels are so high.‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve been training with Abel Trujillo, Eddie Alvarez ‚Äď different guys,‚ÄĚ said Soukhamthath. ‚ÄúAnd just training alongside other guys like Rashard Evans, Vitor Belfort, Anthony Johnson ‚Äď there‚Äôs a whole bunch of world champions here and I feel like I‚Äôve learned so much from them.
‚ÄúEverybody‚Äôs training hard. They have fights coming up. The intensity level just rises up here, but at the same time, it‚Äôs like a brotherhood. That‚Äôs why certain people are only allowed to train here. I certainly feel like I‚Äôm a part of that brotherhood. They‚Äôve made me feel really welcome here.‚ÄĚ
Soukhamthath doesn‚Äôt 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 Soukhamthath‚Äôs fans.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs going to come in here and try to beat me,‚ÄĚ remarked Soukhamthath. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre friends, but we‚Äôre going to have to put that friendship aside because this is personal. When I‚Äôm fighting anyone, I take it really personal because you're messing with my money when you fight me!‚ÄĚ
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.
‚ÄúThat‚Äôs big,‚ÄĚ added Soukhamthath. ‚ÄúI know my fans always have my back. They‚Äôre always going to go (to my fights) and I really appreciate that. And I‚Äôll be back with my old coaches, which I feel great about because I miss them. They know me and they‚Äôre going to be a big help.‚ÄĚ
Soukhamthath will be part of a marquee card ‚Äď CES‚Äôs 21st MMA show in three years ‚Äď 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 won‚Äôt soon forget Chattelle‚Äôs last victory, an opening-round TKO of John Troyer last October that also saw him propose to his girlfriend ‚Äď who accepted ‚Äď 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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