Cool, confident Campbell remains focused despite change in opponent for Friday’s “CES MMA 34” card

Photo courtesy of Kelly MacDonald
BOSTON FLYWEIGHT JOHNNY Campbell (left), seen here in a 2013 bout against Matt Doherty, returns to CES MMA on Friday, April 1st, 2016 at The Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino when he faces Pennsylvania native Matt Lozano on the main card of “CES MMA 34,” airing live on AXS TV. Lozano, an 8-fight vet, is a late replacement for Rodrigo Almeida, who withdrew after suffering an injury in training camp.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 29th, 2016) — You’d think a last-minute change of opponent would unnerve a fighter, or, at the very least, provide a minor annoyance when it occurs so close to showtime.

Johnny Campbell doesn’t seem to mind. Rodrigo Almeida, Matt Lozano — they’re just roadblocks on his path to stardom.

“Opponents are only a minor detail,” said the Boston-based flyweight, who stars on the AXS TV main card of “CES MMA 34” Friday night at Foxwoods Resort Casino’s Fox Theater.

“The man looking in the mirror is my only real opponent. I’m ready for war of all kinds.”

Campbell (11-7, 5 KOs) was originally supposed to face fellow Massachusetts native Almeida, but was forced to switch gears two weeks out when Almeida suffered an ankle injury. Some minor chest-bumping ensued between the two via social media, but Campbell quickly put it behind him and instead began focusing on his new opponent, Lozano (5-3, 1 KO), a 27-year-old Reading, Pa., native with amazing big-fight experience.

Five of Lozano’s eight pro fights have occurred with either Bellator, Legacy or the World Series of Fighting, three of the most recognized promotions in mixed martial arts.

Campbell insists there aren’t many differences between Rodrigo and his new opponent, therefore consolidating his training leading up to the fight, but that might not even be the biggest hurdle he needs to overcome by Friday. This will be Campbell’s first fight on national television. He appeared at WSOF 20, but starred on the prelims, not the main card.

Cambell acknowledges his opponent is “hungry” — “hungry enough to jump on a tough fight on short notice,” he said — but doesn’t expect any of that to be a factor once the bell rings.

“Hunger isn’t the key here, necessarily,” Campbell said. “I’m going to be cool, calm and calculated. This is my time. I was born for these moments. He will crumble.”

The tough-talking Campbell has never been one to back away from a tough fight. After losing to Matt Doherty in his first appearance with CES MMA back in 2013, he won his next six fights, including victories over regional standouts Kody Nordby, who recently challenged for the CES MMA Bantamweight Title, and Billy Giovanella.

Up next was his WSOF debut in April of 2015, which ended in a unanimous decision loss to New Yorker Darren Mima, who recently appeared at “CES MMA XXXI.” Campbell jumped right back in later that year against two-time Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) vet Tateki Matsuda. Friday’s fight against Lozano is not only a chance to end a minor two-fight skid, but a major opportunity to showcase his ability on a network synonymous with helping fighters get the exposure they need.

“The mindset for this one is 100 percent I’m blessed to be doing what I love in front of a huge audience on the biggest stage of my career,” he said. “I’m going in with the focused intention of winning, not because I have to, but because I deserve this.

“I’ve sacrificed and given back and now I’m taking what’s mine. My notoriety. My money. My fame.”

Getting to the next level is sometimes all about being in the right place at the right time. Campbell, if need be, could look directly at his most recent opponent, Matsuda, who made the jump to the UFC at a modest 10-5 when Dustin Kimura suffered an injury in advance of UFC Fight Night 50.

Anyone on Friday’s card could be next, including Campbell or Lozano, making this a big, but perhaps short, night, especially with Campbell predicting major fireworks.

“Knockout finish, second round,” Campbell said matter-of-factly. “I will land big shots and he will wilt.”

Tickets for “CES MMA 34” are priced at $40.00, $60.00 and $100.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesmma.com, www.ticketmaster.com or www.foxwoods.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or 800-200-2882, or at the Fox Theater Box Office. All bouts are subject to change. Showtime is 7 p.m. ET.

The five-round main event of “CES MMA 34” features the return of reigning CES MMA Welterweight Champion Chris Curtis (13-4, 5 KOs) of Cincinnati, who defends his title for the first time in a rematch against Philadelphia’s Nah-Shon Burrell (12-6, 8 KOs), one of five televised bouts on the AXS TV Fights main card.

Curtis and Burrell fought one another in October of 2010 with Curtis winning by unanimous decision, Burrell’s first loss in three pro fights. Burrell won his next six, including three in a row with Strikeforce before the promotion was bought out by the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).

The main card of “CES MMA 34” also features a middleweight bout between Calvin Kattar (14-2, 6 KOs) of Methuen, Mass., and Cortland, N.Y., vet Kenny Foster (11-10, 1 KO), a seven-time Bellator vet. Kattar last fought in 2013, beating Gabriel Baino for his sixth consecutive win, and is also remembered for defeating Saul Almeida at CES MMA’s “Real Pain” pay per view event in Providence in 2012. The 5-foot-8 Foster boasts win over Lester Caslow and Eric Larkin and also went the distance against 30-fight vet Anthony Morrison at Bellator 108.

Heavyweight Steve Skrzat (8-7, 7 KOs) of Burrillville, R.I., faces Rollinsford, N.H., vet Kevin Haley (4-3, 1 KO). Also on the main card, Ludlow, Mass., lightweight Leon Davis (7-3, 1 KO) faces Lorawnt-T Nelson (7-4, 5 KOs) of Arvada, Colo.

Skrzat returns to CES MMA for the first time since 2011 having resurrected his career with wins in three of his last four bouts while Davis aims for his fifth win with CES MMA following recent victories over Jimmy Davidson and Andres Jeudi.

The “CES MMA 34” preliminaries feature four exciting bouts, including a middleweight showdown between unbeatens Carlos Candelario (2-0) of New Britain, Conn., and Syracuse’s Luay Ashkar (2-0), plus the professional debuts of bantamweight Geoffrey Then and Michael Maldonado, both fighting out of Danbury, Conn. Then battles Merab Dvalishvili (1-2, 1 KO) of Long Island, N.Y., and Maldonado faces Stoughton, Mass., native George Nassar (1-0). The prelims also feature a light heavyweight bout between Cape Cod’s Matt Thompson (19-10, 7 KOs) and Anton Berzin (3-1) of Philadelphia. The 29-fight veteran Thompson appeared for CES MMA in 2014 and defeated Eric Bedard via submission.


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