Balletto Jr. faces toughest test to date Friday against
battle-tested Philadelphia vet Jones on AXS TV
Photo courtesy of Will Paul
WELTERWEIGHT GARY BALLETTO Jr., above, returns to the cage Friday, Oct. 27th, 2017 at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., on the main card of “CES MMA 46” in a showdown against Philadelphia’s Sharif Jones, part of the televised AXS TV broadcast that begins at 9 p.m. ET. Balletto has won his last four fights and now faces the 3-2 Jones, who boasts an impressive resume against some of the region’s top lightweights as he moves up to 170 pounds for the opportunity to fight Balletto Jr. on network television.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Oct. 25th, 2017) — When studying up on his latest opponent, Cranston, R.I., welterweight Gary Balletto Jr., most internet searches redirected Sharif Jones to video and highlights of Balletto Jr.’s father, former professional boxer Gary “Tiger” Balletto.
“At first I was like, ‘Wait, I can’t be fighting this guy! Shit, I bit off more than I can chew!'” Jones said with a laugh.
The innocuous mix-up is just part of being the son of a famous fighter while looking to carve your own legacy in the sport, even if it’s a different genre, as is the case with Balletto Jr., who’s now 4-1 in mixed martial arts as he prepares for fight No. 6 on Friday, Oct. 27th, 2017 at Twin River Casino on the main card of “CES MMA 46.”
The other twist to carrying the Balletto name is the perception that the younger Balletto is one-dimensional, the byproduct of growing up with a father who boxed 36 times as a professional without having to worry about armbars, leg kicks or takedowns.
The reality is the 22-year-old Balletto Jr. (4-1, 2 KOs) is as well-rounded as they come, a student of the game who has improved his ground game mightily under the guidance of former pro Pete Jeffrey, though he doesn’t mind being pigeonholed if it gives him an advantage on fight night.
“I can only hope!” Balletto Jr. said. “It would definitely give me an element of surprise. I think my grappling has gotten much stronger and maybe underrated for my name. That’s definitely an advantage for me, I think. If they want to press it that hard to the ground, I’m no stranger to grappling.”
Tickets for “CES MMA 46” are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com, www.ticketmaster.com or www.cagetix.com/ces by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
The first preliminary fight begins at 7 p.m. ET and the televised main card begins at 9 on AXS TV Fights.
Friday’s fight against Jones (3-2, 1 KO), a gritty Philadelphia native who’s fought the best of the best in the lightweight division, will be Balletto Jr.’s toughest to date, plus there’s the added bonus of again appearing on AXS TV, which broadcasts the top fights live to a worldwide audience.
Following in the footsteps of his father, who starred on ESPN’s short-lived The Contender reality series, Balletto Jr. made his network debut at “CES MMA 45” against Nick Alley and looked every bit like a seasoned pro, stopping his opponent at the 58-second mark of the second round for his fourth consecutive win.
The 22-year-old looked cool, calm and collected in front of the camera, even with the butterflies eating away at him on the inside.
“There’s no way to block that out,” he said. “It’s definitely going through your mind like, ‘Wow, here we are, it’s happening again, we’re back in and there’s only one way out,’ so it’s a cool feeling.”
For Jones, Friday is uncharted territory, not only because of the TV aspect, but because it’s his first fight at 170 pounds. A natural lightweight, Jones has never fought heavier than 160, which he did once as an amateur, but he’s never been one to turn down a challenge, as evident by his resume. The combined record of his five opponents is an impressive 15-6-1, which includes a recent bout against 6-time Bellator vet Will Martinez Jr. in June.
Once he figured out which Balletto he was fighting, Jones concluded whatever Balletto Jr. brings to the table Friday is nothing he hasn’t seen already.
“When he tries to hit me or take me down, I’ve been there before. I can weather the storm,” Jones said. “I know he’s never fought anyone like me with the aggression I come with, the head movement, the gas tank.
“I’ve won by two leglocks, but I’ve never been submitted. I’ve finished people. I can fight on the ground with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts, or choke him out, like I did to two other opponents. Stuff like that, you can’t teach. That’s straight heart. When Martinez had me in a triangle, people thought I was out, but I got out of it. Can [Balletto Jr.] do that if he’s in the same position? When he’s on the opposite side or being on the scorecard, can he fight back?”
Balletto Jr. hasn’t done as much homework on Jones – “I know what I need to know,” he said – but is confident in his improved grappling under Jeffrey’s guidance, which paid off in submission wins over Cruz Johnson and Chris Torres. Balletto Jr.’s growth from a loss in his pro debut to four consecutive wins, all in dominant fashion, is impressive to watch, and the best may still be on the horizon.
“I’ve wrestled and grappled before, growing up and stuff, but I owe my whole style to Pete. We work very closely together on developing our philosophy as a fighter and a grappler,” Balletto Jr. said. “Just being comfortable and knowing what to do from each position, just the mindset and strategy is the biggest part of grappling in MMA. It’s different than grappling in jiu-jitsu. It’s a different kind of grappling.
“We’ve put together a great philosophy and strategy for grappling and it’s only getting better. We’re constantly learning and evolving, which is a rare thing with most fighters and coaches. It’s a wonderful thing.”
For once, Jones doesn’t have to focus on cutting weight the week of the fight and can instead concentrate more on strategy. What he lacks in size, he said, he’ll make up for with speed and aggressiveness, plus he won’t experience the energy drain common with fighters who have to cut weight the night before, but don’t rehydrate properly on fight day.
“I’ve got respect for him because of the legacy his dad left behind and I respect his game,” Jones said, “but this isn’t something I’ve never seen before.”
The main event of “CES MMA 46” features the return of former CES MMA Middleweight World Champion “Doomsday” John Howard (24-13, 9 KOs) of Boston, who faces submission specialist Roger Carroll (16-14) of Claremont, N.C.
“CES MMA 46” also features the return of East Providence, R.I., bantamweight Dinis Paiva (9-6, 5 KOs), who faces Pennsylvania vet Brandon Seyler (7-5, 1 KO), both of whom will be fighting on the televised main card, plus the professional debut of Oyster Bay, N.Y., welterweight John Gotti III in a three-round bout against Johnny Adams (0-1) of Rutland, Vt.
Also on the main card, lightweight Josh LaBerge (11-6, 5 KOs) of Fall River, Mass., returns to face Jonathan Lemke (6-8, 5 KOs) of Auburn, Maine, and bantamweight Rico DiSciullo (7-1, 3 KOs) of Peabody, Mass., faces Justin King (6-5) of Lawrence, Ind. Justin Sumter (3-1, 2 KOs) of New Haven, Conn., returns in a lightweight bout against Rahway, N.J., vet Shedrick Goodridge (6-9, 2 KOs).
Also returning Oct. 27th, Providence featherweight Marquis Brewster (3-0) battles Raymond Yanez (4-11, 1 KO) of Marion, Ohio, on the preliminary, where joining featherweight Pat McCrohan (2-1, 1 KO) of Berkley, Mass., who faces Buck Pineau (1-3) of Ashland, Maine. New Bedford bantamweight Jessie Pires makes his professional debut in the prelims against Syracuse, N.Y., newcomer Michael Taylor.
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