If Woonsocketâs Andre Soukhamthath was looking to make his first full year as a professional mixed martial arts fighter a truly exceptional one, then heâs off to a brilliant start.
The electrifying bantamweight prospect kicked off the year by picking up his first pro victory on Feb. 3 with a second-round submission of Gilvan Santos before a large gathering of local fight fans at Twin River.
And last weekend, Soukhamthath became only the sixth MMA fighter to sign a promotional contract with Jimmy Burchfieldâs Classic Entertainment & Sports, which calls for him to fight four times over the next 18 months.
âIâm really happy to be with CES,â admitted Soukhamthath, who expects to debut with the CES colors in a June fight at Twin River. âAfter my first fight, (CES president Jimmy Burchfield) thought I would become a good addition to the team, and now Iâm happy to be a part of it. Everythingâs very good.â
Soukhamthath took some time on Friday morning to talk about a range of topics -- from his job working with local youngsters at the Woonsocket Boysâ & Girlsâ Club to his last four fights, his training, and the support heâs received in his move to the professional ranks from his family, coaches, and friends.
The 2007 graduate of Woonsocket High also talked about his victory over Santos that turned out to be one of the highlights of CESâs âExtreme Measuresâ show at the Twin River Event Center.
Soukhamthath overcame a tough body shot from one of Santosâs kicks and a knee ton the face in the opening round. But after Santos threw another kick to open the second round, Soukhamthath quickly took Santos to the ground, and just 44 seconds into the round, he put him away by slapping a guillotine choke on him.
âIt was really fast-paced,â added Soukhamthath. âThe guy I fought threw a lot of kicks, he had pretty good hands, and he caught me offguard because he was faster than I expected.
âBut I give all the credit to my coaches, Keith and Pete Jeffrey from Tri-Force MMA. They did a great job telling me what to do, and I was glad I got to show some of my wrestling that Iâve been working a lot on at Tri-Force. You donât usually see me take people down like that.â
Soukhamthath was hungry for a win, especially after losing his pro debut last Sept. 10 at the âCage Titans VI -- Unitedâ show at the Plymouth Memorial Hall in Plymouth, Mass. to Robbie Slade.
In that loss, a three-round majority decision in favor of Slade, most fans felt that Slade, a native of Plymouth, received a âhometown callâ, especially since Soukhamthath dominated most of the fight.
âThereâs no way he won that fight,â said Soukhamthath. âIf anything, it was a draw. In the first round, I knocked him down with a jab and I made his eyes roll back, and in the second and third [rounds], I took him down both times, and the only thing he did was reverse me toward the end. There was no point in the fight he took me down. I defended his submissions. I donât know what the judges saw.â
The loss made the hour-long drive home a long one for Soukhamthath, but he did come away with a couple of positives that he brought with him to the gym the following week.
âThat fight taught me a lot,â said Soukhamthath. âThat fight made me realize that I had to work more on my cardio and my strength and conditioning. And I needed patience. I went in for the kill right away because I saw blood and I probably shouldnât have done that.â
Surprisingly, that defeat was the third in a row for Soukhamthath, who began last year by dropping a five-round unanimous decision to Frank Sforza for the Cage Titans Fighting Championshipâs New England title belt on its âMayhemâ show on Jan. 28 at Lombardoâs in Randolph, Mass.
On April 22, Soukhamthath lost another amateur title fight when he suffered a three-round unanimous-decision defeat to Rob Font at the American Fighting Organizationâs âNight of Champions IIIâ card in Mansfield, Mass.
âThose fights were against two top-notch fighters,â remarked Soukhamthath. â[Sforzaâs] doing really well as a pro, and I think Rob Fontâs 2-0 right now. I think part of the reason I lost was because my wrestling wasnât that good. It wasnât like they really beat me up, but they were better wrestlers.â
After the loss to Font, Soukhamthath not only decided to devote more time to his wrestling, but he also opted to drop down a weight class, exiting the 145-pound featherweight division for the 135-point bantamweight ranks.
âWhen I was at 145, I kind of felt like some of the guys I fought were a lot bigger than me and felt stronger,â explained Soukhamthath. âBut at 135, I feel like Iâm the strong one. I can toss people around and be a bully.â
Unfortunately for Soukhamthath, the move to 135 managed to scare away a lot of amateur fighters in that weight class, and he ended up going almost the entire summer without a fight.
âI couldnât get any fights in the amateurs,â admitted Soukhamthath. âWhen I made the drop to 135, I couldnât find any fights at that weight. I hadnât fought in almost five months and I wanted to fight badly, so thatâs when I decided it was time to turn pro.â
Soukhamthathâs camp is quite a big one that extends to several coaches and MMA compounds throughout the Blackstone Valley. In addition to the Jeffrey brothers at Pawtucketâs Tri-Force MMA, he trains at Tim Burrill Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in North Providence, Tom Hafersâs U.S. MMA in Bellingham, Mass., and the Woonsocket Boxing Club, and on occasion, with his father, William Soukhamthath, a Muay Lao instructor.
While Soukhamthath is very grateful to his coaches, as well as his fiancee and manager, Jamie Thompson, for what they have done, he also wanted to make sure that he gave credit to where it was due, so he took the time to show his appreciation to all the people who have supported him throughout his career.
âI really appreciate my mom and dad, my family, and my friends for coming out and supporting me all the time,â added Soukhamthath. âI donât see them much because Iâm busy doing my thing, but I really appreciate it. It means a lot to me. It definitely helps me train and keeps me motivated.
âAnd I want to say hello to all the kids at the Boysâ & Girlsâ Club and thank CES and all the people who have sponsored me. I wouldnât be where I am today without all these people in my life.â