Pain-free and confident as ever, O’Neil hopes to snap losing skid Friday against battle-tested Olson

MIDDLEWEIGHT CHUCK O’NEIL (right) of Bridgewater, Mass., returns to the cage on the AXS TV main card of “CES MMA XXXIII” at Twin River Casino on Friday, March 11th, 2016 when he faces New Hampshire vet Dennis Olson. Both O’Neil and Olson enter having lost each of their last two fights, but O’Neil is confident he’ll be 100 percent Friday after training smarter and more efficiently in his second bout in the middleweight division. The former welterweight made the leap from 170 pounds to 185 in October. The O’Neil-Olson fight is one of seven televised bouts on Friday’s main card, which begins at 9 p.m. ET.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 7th, 2016) — The self-proclaimed “most stubborn person in the world,” Chuck O’Neil admits he probably should’ve put brains over bravado and postponed his middleweight debut in October.

“There were just small regrets I made training-wise,” said O’Neil, who lost that night to Daniel Vizcaya on the main card of “CES MMA XXXI. “Made a couple of stupid decisions and probably should’ve pulled out of the fight, but, you know, you can’t control that now.

“You’ve got to kind of look forward and keep pushing forward.”

With the past behind him, O’Neil (15-8, 5 KOs) returns to the cage Friday night, again fighting on the main card of an AXS TV broadcast at Twin River Casino, when he faces the battle-tested Dennis Olson (14-10, 1 KO) at “CES MMA XXXIII.”

The fight against Vizcaya in October was O’Neil’s first since moving up from the 170-pound welterweight division to 185 pounds, allowing him to focus more on training and less on cutting weight. The downside was the ultra-competitive O’Neil overdid it and, what’s worse, failed to listen to his body when it began to break down.

Not one to make excuses, the Bridgewater, Mass., native brushed off the loss – his second in a row since a signature, 11-second knockout win over Emmanuel Walo in January – and entered his most recent training camp with a more mature outlook.

“Just training smarter,” he said. “Coach Diamond Dave [Keefe] is really smart on not overdoing it. I’m probably my own worst critic and I never think I’m working hard enough or pushing myself hard enough, so I’m staying in constant contact with him as far as what my training schedule is and what I’m doing and making sure I’m taking the ample recovery time to let my body heal and recover so I can put in my best effort.

“Come fight night, I’ll be 100 percent. I feel great. This is probably one of the best fight camps I’ve ever had in my whole career. I feel on point. I feel stronger than ever, my weight’s great, so this is going to be great.”

In Olson, O’Neil is facing a fighter on a similar downward spiral, a rugged, Amerst, N.H., vet who’s also lost his last two bouts. Like O’Neil, Olson is no stranger to big fights; his last bout was a highly publicized regional showdown against Brennan Ward at Bellator 144, which started with a heated stare down at the pre-fight weigh-in and ended with Ward knocking out Olson in the closing seconds of the opening round.

Instead of lamenting the missed opportunity, Ward analyzed both his loss to Ward and his previous loss to Paul Daley at Bellator 140 and hopes to implement a more effective strategy Friday against O’Neil.

“I learned I belong competing at the highest level,” Olson said, “but I still have room for improvement.

“I feel both off those fights could’ve gone either way, but if I can pick out any glaring needs for improvement it would be to take my time and maybe not rush the engagement so much, pick my shots and capitalize. Even though I lost, I still feel like the level of competition boosted my confidence big time.”

The other interesting angle in this fight, aside from the tremendous matchup on paper, is O’Neil and Olson are friends and former trainer partners – workout buddies, according to O’Neil.

“We’d go to the gym and lift together a lot,” he said.

Pleasantries aside, Olson acknowledged, “time goes on and relationships change,” and he hasn’t been shy about his desire to finish the fight fast, regardless of his respect for O’Neil.

“I know he’s been posting saying, ‘This is do or die,’ ‘This is life or death,’ and all this shit, but that’s not what this is, man,” O’Neil said. “You’re not going to kill me. Whatever. I sent him a message when this all came to fruition and just said, ‘Look, man, there’s no need for any disrespect. I don’t not like you.’ He expressed the same thing and I said let’s try to keep this as respectful as possible. No need for any of this bullshit.”

Though he’s been as diplomatic as possible, admitting O’Neil’s strength and conditioning will be a factor, Olson still took a jab at O’Neil’s passion for professional wrestling, suggesting via social media his opponent should “stick to glitter and elbow drops.”

“People like to criticize things they don’t understand,” said O’Neil, who moonlights as a wrestler on the regional circuit in between MMA fights. “They’re looking at it like, ‘Oh, you’re a professional MMA fighter. Why the hell are you doing pro wrestling?’ It’s something I’ve loved since I was a little kid. It’s something that’s fun. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t party. It’s something I do for fun and I have a lot of fun doing it and make a couple of bucks here and there, too, so I can’t really complain.

“If you think all I have is elbow drops and back body drops you’re going to have something else coming for you next Friday.”

O’Neil’s confident his streamlined approach to training camp will leave him feeling as close to 100 percent as possible come Friday thanks to the help of Keefe and his training partners at Tri-Force MMA and Tim Burrill’s Jiu-Jitsu. He’s the same fun-loving fighter with the unmistakable swagger, but perhaps a little smarter now that he’s in his 30s.

“I take really good care of my body,” he said. “I’m really big on strength and conditioning, making sure I’m always foam-rolling and making sure I’ve got the proper blood flow going through my muscular system, so, honestly, I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life as far as carrying lean muscle mass, as far as feeling strong, durable, coupled with being smarter in training, I feel absolutely amazing.

“I’m healthy, there’s no injuries. Every day my dad texts me asking, ‘No injuries?’ He knows I’m stupid and I get hurt a lot of times. Sometimes it works out better than others. I feel great going into this fight.”

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.

Another champion, the 10th in the promotion’s history, will be crowned in the main event when Woonsocket, R.I., natives Andre Soukhamthath (9-3, 5 KOs) and Kody Norby (6-3) battle for the vacant CES MMA Bantamweight Title in a five-round bout, one of seven on the AXS TV main card.

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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