PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 14th, 2018) — Andre Ewell is fully aware the entire crowd at Twin River Casino will be rooting for hometown favorite Dinis Paiva when the two face one another Friday for the vacant CES MMA Bantamweight World Title.
“Sweetbread” Paiva (11-6, 6 KOs) practically owns the arena, having fought there 17 times, more than any fighter in CES MMA history.
The cage? Ewell (12-4) says that still belongs to him.
“When I’m on that stage, I don’t get nervous,” Ewell said. “I’m at home.”
“Even though I’m coming out to his hometown, it’s more like, hey, you’re actually visiting my house.”
The Riverside, Calif., native is beaming with confidence as he prepares for the fight of his life against the red-hot Paiva, the East Providence, R.I., bantamweight who has won four in a row and eight of his last nine entering Friday.
Their five-round title bout headlines “CES MMA 50” on AXS TV, the promotion’s 50thshow since its inception in 2010. Paiva earning top billing is fitting considering he debuted at “CES MMA 6” in 2011 and has remained with the promotion ever since, regardless of losing streaks, coaching changes or the typical ebbs and flows that come with being a professional fighter.
Paiva considered walking away after losing five of his first eight fights, but reworked his inner circle and is now on the precipice of winning a world title, an unlikely storybook ending for a fighter who has sacrificed in and out of the gym to get to where he is today.
While Ewell is impressed with Paiva’s rise to stardom — “He definitely has heart and determination,” he said — the 30-year-old former professional boxer is intent on writing his own fairytale finish on the sport’s biggest stage. Winning a world title on AXS TV against the fan-favorite could provide the boost he needs to get to the next level.
“I already know he’s the superhero of Rhode Island,” Ewell said. “I’ve got to come into his territory and do what I do best. Coming into someone else’s backyard and proving you are the top dog is the best feeling in the world.
“I know I’m the best fighter out there. This is going to be my doorway to the UFC. The next fight is definitely the most important fight. All I’ve got to do is do my job and perform.”
Tickets for “CES MMA 50” start at $40 and are available to purchase online at www.cesmma.com, www.twinriver.com, www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253 or at the Twin River Box Office. The preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the televised main card at 9.
Ewell is used to being out of his comfort zone, whether it’s in life or mixed martial arts. Growing up as the oldest in a family of nine, he and his siblings moved frequently from California to Texas and back again — four times, to be exact. Being the new kid at every school also forced him to keep his guard up.
“I was always fighting,” he said.
“Me being the oldest, I had to take on a bigger role in the family. I had to grow up a lot faster than most kids. Everything ended up molding me into an adult.”
Ewell wrestled as a youth, then transitioned to taekwondo and boxing. He eventually began his professional fighting career in the boxing ring at the age of 23 in 2011, but the “politics” of the sport drove him away. He was merely fodder for up-and-coming prospects supported financially by well-established promotors. He felt used and walked away from the sport in 2013.
Two years later, following the birth of his son, Eli, he switched to MMA and immediately felt at home.
“I pick things up fast, especially when I have people preaching to me,” Ewell said. “I ended up grasping it quickly.”
With no amateur bouts under his belt, Ewell won his first three fights as a pro before losing three of his next five. Since a split-decision loss to Ryan Lilley in February of 2017, he’s gone on a Paiva-like stretch with wins in seven of his last eight, including three in a row entering Friday.
The bright lights of AXS TV won’t be a factor; he recently fought on the network at Legacy Fighting Alliance 36, defeating Trent Meaux by first-round knockout.
Aside from being the visitor in Paiva’s hometown Friday, Ewell draws motivation from his upbringing, reminiscing about watching his parents put in long hours to provide for his family. He has also had custody issues with his son, now five years old, which motivates him even more to be the best he can be Friday night in what will be the biggest fight of his life.
“Growing up, watching my mom work, my pops always pushing me, I automatically see that grind,” he said. “We didn’t have everything, so that automatically makes you want to push and have something. When it comes to my son, everything, all the emotion, comes out in that moment.
“I know my whole background, how I was raised, where I come from. This is me. I want to be something better than I was yesterday.”
Having been through so much himself, Ewell respects Paiva for battling back despite his early struggles, but the camaraderie goes out the window once the bell rings Friday. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for both fighters and the winner moves one step closer toward achieving his goals.
“To take his record from being not so good and pushing it in the right direction, that’s a product of hard work and positivity, but now he’s meeting someone who works harder and is more dedicated,” Ewell said. “Everything will show inside that cage. He’s a cool cat. I especially like his nickname, but now it’s my lunchtime, because I’m hungry.”
Also highlighting “CES MMA 50,” Ludlow, Mass., welterweight Jon Manley (11-4, 2 KOs) battles Philadelphia’s Jeremiah Wells (4-1, 2 KOs) and Woonsocket, R.I., flyweight Jose Lugo (2-0, 1 KO) makes his network television debut in a rematch against Cortland, N.Y., native Michael Taylor (1-1, 1 KO).
Middleweight Pat McCrohan (3-1, 2 KOs) of Berkley, Mass., returns to face red-hot Worcester, Mass., prospect Reginaldo Felix (5-3, 2 KOs). Bantamweight John Douma (3-0, 2 KOs) of Providence also debuts on the AXS TV platform in a highly-anticipated showdown against Nevada’s Adam Acquaviva (5-3, 1 KO). Also on the main card, female flyweight sensation Maria Rivera (2-0, 1 KO) of Framingham, Mass., puts her unbeaten record on the line against Mallory Martin (3-2, 1 KO) of Denver.
The preliminary card features a welterweight scrap between veteran Toby Oden (2-2, 1 KO) of Milford, Mass., and newcomer Jeremy Puglia of Long Island, who makes his professional debut. Decorated light heavyweight Fabio Cherant (1-0) returns to face Mansfield, Ohio, native Marquis Allen (1-0, 1 KO) and featherweight Brandon Marotte (1-0, 1 KO) of Hempstead, N.H., battles debut Arslan Otchiyev of West Haven, Conn.
Also on the preliminary card, Milford, Mass., bantamweight Kris Moutinho (4-1, 2 KOs) makes his long-awaited return against New York’s Alfred Jones (3-3, 1 KO) and light heavyweight Yorgan De Castro (1-0) of Fall River, Mass., faces David White (0-2) of Cumberland, Md. Flyweights Hilarie Rose (0-1) of Norfolk, Mass., and Thais Sousa (0-2) of Miami search for their first career victories against one another in a special female attraction.