Curtis issues warning to Santiago in advance of Friday’s CES MMA title bout on AXS TV

Photo courtesy of Will Paul
REIGNING CES MMA World Welterweight Champion Chris Curtis, left, returns to Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., on Friday, March 31st, 2017 to defend his title for the first time against Lawrence, Mass., vet Wilfredo Santiago in the five-round main event of “CES MMA 42.” Friday’s show is CES MMA’s 15th to be aired live on AXS TV. Curtis has not fought at Twin River since defeating Gil de Freitas for the then-vacant title in 2016.

Photo courtesy of Will Paul
FRAMINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS LIGHTWEIGHT Saul Almeida, who considers himself the “bad guy,” appears on a CES MMA card for the 11th time Friday night when he faces Josh LaBerge on the main card of “CES MMA 42.”

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 29th, 2017) Wilfredo Santiago is brimming with confidence less than 72 hours before challenging Chris Curtis for the CES MMA World Welterweight Title Friday night on AXS TV.

That’s fine, says Curtis, before warning his opponent he should perhaps err on the side of caution.

“I’m glad he’s motivated for this, but, remember, every corpse on Mount Everest was once an extremely motivated person, too,” Curtis said.

“I will never look past anyone. I’ve been in this sport for more than 10 years and have long since learned that lesson, but I’m 100 percent confident in myself and have every intention of stopping him.”

Friday’s five-round championship main event, the headliner of “CES MMA 42” at Twin River Casino, has garnered considerable media attention thanks in large part to Curtis (14-5, 5 KOs) dominating Gil de Freitas for the title in January of 2016, while the Lawrence, Mass., vet Santiago (7-3, 6 KOs) established himself a worthy challenger following his 41-second knockout win over Chuck O’Neil in November.

“He’s a champion for a reason,” Santiago said. “I don’t underestimate anyone, even though I think he’s the one underestimating me. He’s been saying he’s going to knock me out, he’s going to break me down, I have no footwork, stuff like that. It’s a good thing, because all he’s doing is motivating me to go out there and put in that work.

“I’ve been putting in that work day and night. He says his boxing is better than mine. He doesn’t know my IQ for fighting is very high. We’ve got some pretty good surprises for him. He says he’s a better boxer than me? We’ll see.”

Friday’s main event is one of seven fights airing live on AXS TV, CES MMA’s 15th event on the network. The AXS TV Fights main card begins at 9 p.m. ET. The first preliminary bout begins at 7.

Tickets are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at,, or by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.

Curtis, an Ohio native, enters Friday’s title defense following a win over Leo Bercier at Daytona Beach in June. Six months later, he traded in his 4-ounce MMA gloves for a 10-ounce pair and stepped inside the boxing ring, earning a knockout win in his second professional bout on a fight card in Cincinnati.

No wonder the reigning CES MMA World Welterweight Championship mirrors his opponent’s confidence; he’s destroyed everyone in his path of late as he aims for his fifth win in his last six fights, the only blemish coming in April in a disputed loss to Nah-Shon Burrell.

“I’m fighting live on AXS TV at the top of a completely stacked card. This is the platform we work our asses off to get to and CES has given us that opening,” Curtis said. “I’m psyched. This definitely has Fight of the Night written all over it. Two guys who love to throw hands with boxing backgrounds. Both of us come from tough camps, and I can’t imagine anyone being as prepared as I am. I’ve been waiting to get back in that CES cage.”

Fists will also fly in the featherweight division when Johnston, R.I., native Joe Pingitore (7-3, 2 KOs) faces Cortland, N.Y., vet Kenny Foster (11-11, 1 KO). A former CES MMA world-title challenger, Pingitore made quick work of Spencer Higa at “CES MMA 40,” submitting his opponent at 4:54 of the opening round via guillotine, rebounding from his loss to Matt Bessette for the CES MMA World Featherweight Title at “CES MMA 37.”

“Always excited to be back in the CES cage,” Pingitore said. “I know Foster brings it and that’s the only type of fight I want. Friday night, I’m ready to punch that time card and go to work.”

Foster last fought at “CES MMA 34” in a narrow, split-decision loss to Calvin Kattar, but is confident he can expose what he considers a weakness in Pingitore’s approach.

“This guy likes to bring it, but he gets sloppy,” Foster said. “This fight won’t go three rounds. Get your popcorn ready.”

Also starring on the televised main card, Fall River, Mass., lightweight Josh LaBerge (11-5, 5 KOs) steps up to face longtime CES MMA vet Saul Almeida (18-8, 1 KO) of Framingham, Mass.

LaBerge has fought twice since April following a 14-month layoff, winning both bouts in the CES MMA cage, including a dominant performance over Jon Lemke at “CES MMA 36” in which he stopped his opponent via technical knockout at 1:11 of the second round.

The red-hot LaBerge now must deal with the 10-time CES MMA vet Almeida, who looks to rebound from a controversial loss to Manny Bermudez at “CES MMA 39.” A fight nearly a decade in the making finally becomes a reality in front of a nationwide television audience.

“This is the fight everyone wants to see and I’m coming in firing at every moment,” Almeida said. “When it’s all over, it’ll be one more in the win column and one more for the ‘bad guy.'”

Woonsocket, R.I., flyweight Kody Nordby (8-4) aims for his third consecutive win in his ninth appearance with CES MMA when he faces Bellingham, Mass., native David Baxter (4-1, 1 KO), who recently earned his second win in a row by submitting Dan Cormier at “CES MMA 41” in January.

Nordby has rebounded nicely from his loss to Andre Soukhamthath at “CES MMA 33” for the CES MMA World Bantamweight Title, defeating Branden Sayler at “CES MMA 38” and recently stopping David Garcia via submission on AXS TV at “CES MMA 41” in Janaury.

“I respect David as a person,” Nordby said, “but this is business. I’m going to knock him out Friday night.”

“I’m pumped for Friday night and can’t wait to get in and showcase my level of skills,” Baxter countered. “Friday night will be my night!”

Stoughton, Mass., cruiserweight and former Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) vet Pat Walsh (10-2, 4 KOs) makes his sixth appearance with CES MMA in a showdown against Brazilian Dirlei Broenstrup (14-4, 5 KOs), a winner in eight of his last nine bouts. Walsh has won his last five, including back-to-back victories with CES MMA, most recently in January via submission against Kevin Haley.

Walsh actually unknowingly Broenstrup four years ago when he watched him fight Cody Lightfoot, thinking a potential bout with Lightfoot, not Broenstrup, was on the horizon.

“I was impressed with his power and ability to finish,” Walsh said. “I think he will stand and brawl with me. I’ll be excited if he wants to clinch like a lot of his prior fights because that’s where I’ll have the biggest advantage. I hope to have an exciting fight with a little blood.”

Rounding out the main card, Milford, Mass., bantamweight Kris Moutinho (3-0, 1 KO) makes his network television debut in just his fourth fight with CES MMA when he battles Ontario’s Lloyd Reyes (4-3, 2 KOs). Moutinho fights for the fourth time since September, a run that includes his first knockout win at “CES MMA 41” via head kick against Jason Rine. The red-hot Reyes has won four of his last five – three by stoppage – after suffering losses in his first two professional bouts.

The return of Cranston, R.I., welterweight prospect Gary Balletto Jr. (2-1, 1 KO) and unbeaten Providence bantamweight Marquis Brewster (2-0) highlights the preliminary card. Balletto Jr. aims for his third consecutive win against Syracuse native Chris Torres (0-0) while Brewster battles newcomer Cody Hier of Philadelphia.

Fresh off her debut win at “CES MMA 41” female flyweight Maria Rivera (1-0) of Framingham, Mass., battles Hot Springs newcomer Jessica Sotack and unbeaten bantamweight Richie Santiago (3-0) battles Winchendon, Mass., native Chad Kelly (3-3, 1 KO). Santiago is undefeated under the guidance of CES MMA with all three wins by submission.

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