Photo courtesy of Will Paul
BANTAMWEIGHT ANDRE SOUKHAMTHATH (above) of Woonsocket, R.I., faces hometown rival Kody Nordby in the five-round main event CES MMA Bantamweight Title Bout on AXS TV’s broadcast of “CES MMA XXXIII” at Twin River Casino on Friday, March 11th, 2016. Nordby enters Friday on a three-fight win streak and has guaranteed victory over his longtime rival Soukhamthath, who now lives and trains in Boca Raton, Fla. The main event title bout is one of seven bouts on the AXS TV main card, which begins at 9 p.m. ET.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 8th, 2016) — To fully understand the timeline of the Andre Soukhamthath-Kody Nordby rivalry, one must go back several years to when the fiery newcomer Nordby called out the well-known Soukhamthath to fight him in his professional debut.
“He got a little butt-hurt over that, I think,” Nordby said. “He was already established and he didn’t want to take a step back, but at the same time he was taking fights against guys with losing records, so that doesn’t really make any sense to me either.”
“It’s not that I didn’t want to fight him,” Soukhamthath countered, “but when he wanted to fight me he was just turning pro and I was already on my fifth or sixth fight, so it didn’t make sense for me to fight him.”
Four years later, after Nordby called out Soukhamthath a second time following his win over Derek Shorey at “CES MMA XXXII,” it makes all the sense in the world, especially with a title on the line and a national television audience ready to watch the hostility and hatred unfold.
The Woonsocket, R.I., natives, who attended the same high school five years apart, finally meet face-to-face Friday night on AXS TV in the main event of “CES MMA XXXIII” at Twin River Casino in a five-round bout for the vacant CES MMA Bantamweight Title.
Whoever brings home the belt will have the distinction of being crowned the 10th champion in the promotion’s history, adding extra incentive to a bout that needs no additional appeal.
The 23-year-old Nordby (6-3), in his own words, has waited four years for this fight and certainly hasn’t been shy about his feelings toward Soukhamthath (9-3, 5 KOs), unleashing his pent-up frustration through the press, turning what was already a Fight of the Year candidate on paper into a personal war between two longstanding rivals.
“Andre is a ticket seller. He’s a popular dude and he has a very good following. Do I think he’s got the skill level to even get a championship shot? Not at all,” Nordby said.
“He got this shot because of me, because I called him out. He said that this has been a long time coming for him and he deserves this title shot. Well, he doesn’t. He hasn’t beat anybody good.”
Soukhamthath, 28, who now lives and trains in Boca Raton, Fla., as a member of the Blackzilians, hasn’t taken the bait on Nordby’s trash talk and claims he doesn’t pay much attention to anything his opponent says.
“He’s taking it personal. I think it’s because he’s trying so much to prove to everyone that he’s the man in Woonsocket, he can beat me,” Soukhamthath said. “He wants to prove it to all of his friends, all of the high school teachers, that he can beat me. He’s got a little mind, and that just goes to show you how immature he is.
“Those days of me reading into what people say are over. Why? At the end of the day, I want to go farther than local MMA. It’s a great base and it was a great run, but I don’t want to be here forever, so why would I go back and even care about what people say? And that’s the thing, when you start caring about what people say, you try to prove people wrong. I don’t have anything to prove to anybody.”
During his run with CES MMA, which began in his second pro fight, Soukhamthath has developed into one of the region’s top bantamweights, winning seven consecutive bouts between 2012 and 2013 as one of the promotion’s most celebrated fighters.
Using the AXS TV platform, Nordby has burst onto the scene in recent months, starting with his breakthrough win over Dinis Paiva at “CES MMA XXXI” in October. He followed that with a 41-second submission win over Shorey in January, his third consecutive victory since losing three in a row between 2013 and 2014.
Nordby considers himself the odds-on favorite Friday because of the path he took to get here, criticizing Southkamthath for allegedly “cherry-picking” his opponents along the way to build his record.
“His last fight, that guy was garbage,” said Nordby, referring to Soukhamthath’s win over Carlos Galindo in October. “Yeah, he’s got a winning record, but let’s see who he’s fought. You can pad records all day long, but it doesn’t matter. He ended up stopping that fight with elbows. Those were the weakest elbows I’ve ever seen in my life. That fight was ridiculous. He even ended up taking Andre down once or twice. I was not impressed at all. I don’t see any aspect of Andre’s game where he can beat me.
“I like to take the hard road because, really, after that who’s left? Why dodge anybody? Look at who’s on top, take the hard road there and once you get to the top, who’s left?”
Right now, it’s Soukhamthath, who, in lieu of trading barbs with Nordby, has shifted his focus toward finally establishing a consistent routine during his fight camps now that he’s living in Florida and competing roughly 1,400 miles north in Rhode Island.
There’s been a lot of trial and error over the past two and a half years since he and his family originally made the move, but the key to finding stability for Soukhamthath was making a clean break from his past life in Rhode Island, leaving behind his former training partners at Tri-Force MMA and fully committing himself to the Blackzilians.
“I feel at peace that I don’t have to owe anybody anything or get anybody’s ‘OK’ up there. I do whatever the hell I want down here and if my coaches don’t like it, I follow their rules,” Soukhamthath said.
He used to fly up from Florida two weeks ahead of his fights in order to mix in a few days of work with the crew at Tri-Force and his father, Muay Lao coach William Soukhamthath. This time, he didn’t arrive until Tuesday of fight week.
“I used to try putting everything together. ‘What do you think? What do you think?’ No, I’m down here and I’m going to stay down here. I couldn’t let go up north. I couldn’t let go of my coaches. I couldn’t let go of my routine. What I did up north, I tried to bring down here and tried to put it together. That doesn’t work. I moved here for a reason and that’s to train with these guys, so I’m going to do their system.
“I left on good terms. I stopped telling my coaches up north, even my own dad, my own father, I stopped telling him what I was doing in training because he’s not really my coach anymore. My coaches are down here with the Blackzilians. I follow their system now.”
Will it help Friday night? Nordby doesn’t think so. In fact, Nordby has publically mocked Soukhamthath’s decision to relocate to Florida, pointing out that his opponent is only 2-2 since joining the Blackzilians, but Soukhamthath has seen improvements in more important areas, both personally and professionally, despite the recent losses.
“I think it was just the transition for me coming here. I had to get used to the things they did here and it kind of messed me up mentally when I felt like I was the greatest thing when I’d come here and I’d get shot down,” Soukhamthath said. “Going into the fights, mentally I wasn’t as organized as I was in Rhode Island. I won’t say I wasn’t as prepared, but I just wasn’t as mentally strong.
“Now that I’ve gotten over that hump, gotten over that hump of winning, losing, winning, losing, I feel like now that if I lose in that cage the other person has got to be better than me technically, be in better shape, he’s got to be better looking than me. I feel like he’s got to better at everything than me if l lose another fight.”
It’s no secret Nordby plans on using his wrestling experience, both in high school and college, to gain the upper hand. All six of his wins as a pro have come by submission, including rear-naked chokes against Paiva and Shorey in his most recent bouts.
Soukhamthath, a noted striker who has worked extensively on his wrestling since moving to Florida, remains unfazed by Nordby’s ground game despite the accolades.
“I don’t think he’s on my level,” he said. “He’s definitely earned this shot, he’s earned this title fight. He’s on a win streak, but I really think I have more skills than him and I’m more experienced and I’m smarter. I’m not saying that’s going to win the fight, but what’s he got on me?
“Obviously, we all know what he’s going to try to do. He’s going to try to wrestle. I’ve been in this sport for 10 years and I wrestle with the best guys every day, so I feel like I’m just as good a wrestler as any college wrestler. I’ll be prepared. I’ll be prepared for the one thing he has in store for me.”
Two fighters who’ve traveled different roads to get here finally cross paths Friday night at Twin River Casino, just a short distance from their hometown of Woonsocket. Within the next 72 hours, we find out whether or not Soukhamthath can reestablish himself as the region’s top bantamweight, or if Nordby can back up his tough talk with the most important victory of his budding career.
“Just like Dinis, I haven’t heard a peep since I beat him. I expect Andre to be the same,” Nordby said. “Andre says this fight is going to be his ticket to the UFC. No, after this fight you’re going to be lucky to be featured on the undercard with CES.
Tickets for “CES MMA XXXIII” are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and available for purchase online at www.cesmma.com, www.cagetix.com/ces, www.twinriver.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254, or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change. The undercard begins at 7 p.m. ET with the first televised bout scheduled for 9.
The co-feature is a potential redemption story for two well-established regional standouts, Chuck O’Neil and Dennis Olson, both of whom who’ve starred on the sport’s biggest stage.
Fighting for the second time since making the jump from welterweight to middleweight, O’Neil (15-8, 5 KOs), a former Ultimate Fighter alum from Bridgewater, Mass., hopes to avenge a loss to Daniel Vizcaya in his 185-pound debut at “CES MMA XXXI” while four-time Bellator vet Olson (14-10, 1 KO), an Amherst, N.H., native fights for the first time since suffering a knockout loss to Brennan Ward at Bellator 144.
The always-exciting Matt Bessette (16-7, 4 KOs) of Stafford, Conn., makes his third CES MMA appearance in a featherweight bout against Tito Jones (11-8, 4 KOs) of Panama City, Fla. Bessette is coming off a first-round submission win over Kevin Roddy at Bellator 144 in October after getting knocked out by Lenny Wheeler in his last CES MMA appearance in August.
The main card also features a heavyweight bout between Juliano Coutinho (6-2, 3 KOs) of Boston, by way Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and knockout artist Chaz Morgan (9-1, 7 KOs) of Hammond, La. Coutinho has not fought since April, when Steve Mocco snapped his six-fight win streak at World Series of Fighting 20 while Morgan is looking to avenge his first career loss at the hands of Alex Nicholson in August.
Also in the heavyweight division, Providence’s Greg Rebello (19-6, 11 KOs) puts his three-fight win streak on the line against Newport News, Va., vet Keith Bell (6-6, 4 KOs), who makes his second appearance with CES MMA and first since 2014. Rebello has become a primetime hit with the AXS TV audience, pummeling Tyler King in June and finishing Mike Mucitelli with a highlight-reel knockout in the first round of their scheduled three-round bout in October. The hard-hitting Bell is coming off a 26-second knockout win over Nathan Bryant in January.
Another familiar name with the AXS TV audience, former CES MMA titlist Julian Lane (9-5, 1 KO) of Mansfield, Ohio begins his comeback with a lightweight bout against the dangerous Nate Andrews (7-1, 4 KOs) of East Providence, R.I. Lane has lost back-to-back bouts since piecing together a three-fight win streak under the guidance of CES MMA, including a unanimous decision loss to current CES MMA Lightweight Champion Luis Felix in their rematch at “CES MMA XXX.” Andrews lost his national TV debut to Lane’s former stable mate, Gemiyale Adkins, in August of 2014, but bounced back at “CES MMA XXIX” with a first-round knockout win over Jay Bakanowski.
Rounding out the main card, Providence featherweight Joe Pingitore (5-2-1, 1 KO) makes his second AXS TV appearance in a rematch against Littleton, N.H., native Taylor Trahan (5-5). Pingitore defeated James Grant Murrin at “CES MMA XXIX,” but lost to Trahan via third-round submission in February of 2014. Trahan seeks his first win in his third try with CES MMA and his first overall since September of 2014.
The undercard of “CES MMA XXXIII” features three regional bouts, starring the return of Cranston, R.I., welterweight Gary Balletto Jr. (0-1), the son of former Rhode Island boxer Gary Balletto. Balletto Jr. lost his pro debut to Anthony Giacchina in August and will face New York’s Cruz Johnson, who makes his own debut following a brief, four-fight amateur career in which he finished 2-2.
Featherweight Matt Tullos of Norwood, Mass., makes his debut against Russian Alvi Mochigov (2-0), now fighting out of Fairfield, N.J., while flyweight Shane DeCristoforo (1-1, 1 KO) of Cranston faces Dover, N.J., native Noel Arcibal (1-1, 1 KO).
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