Photo courtesy of Will Paul
FOUR-TIME CES MMA vet Matthew Bessette, right, of Stafford Springs, Conn., returns to the cage Friday, Aug. 12th, 2016 to face New Mexico native Stephen Cervantes for the vacant CES MMA Featherweight Title on the main card of “CES MMA 37” live on AXS TV from Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I. The Bessette-Cervantes fight is one of three title fights on the main card. Bessette has been forced to change his game plan with Cervantes replacing his original opponent, Pedro Gonzalez, who was forced to withdraw due to injury.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Aug. 3rd, 2016) — Matt Bessette has a unique, if not unconventional, approach to choosing his opponents. While some fighters want to know every last detail about the opponent they’re about to face – sometimes at an excruciatingly painstaking level – Bessette (19-7, 5 KOs) thrives off the element of the unknown, instead choosing to play it by ear and rely on his own ability, not hours upon hours of film study, to carry him through any given fight.

“I like the idea of not knowing much about the guy I’m fighting and I like the idea of him not knowing much about me,” said the Stafford Springs, Conn., vet, who faces a relative unknown in the northeast region, Stephen Cervantes, on Friday, Aug. 12th, 2016 for the vacant CES MMA Featherweight Title on the main card of “CES MMA 37” live on AXS TV from Twin River Casino, one of three championship bouts on the card.

Cervantes (6-1), an Albuquerque, N.M., native, replaces the original opponent, Pedro Gonzalez of Gloucester, Mass., whom Bessette knew a lot about, and vice-versa. Bessette dealt with a similar scenario in June when he faced Colorado vet Ran Weathers on 72 hours’ notice after his original opponent was forced to withdraw from the fight. The result was a surprisingly effortless win for Bessette via guillotine choke 4 minutes, 50 seconds into the opening round.

“I’ve done it so many times that it’s had very, very little affect on me,” Bessette said. “You just change your game plan a tiny bit and that’s it. It took me a collective 24 hours to get over the fact I wasn’t fighting Pedro and then I switched gears to Cervantes. Another day in the office.”

Bessette and Cervantes battle for the promotion’s featherweight title, vacated in 2014 when former champion Rob Font debuted with the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC). A former Jiu Jitsu world champion, Cervantes carries an impressive resume into Friday’s title bout, including a win over Bellator vet Shawn Bunch and a showdown less than three months ago against World Series of Fighting alum Kyle Reyes.

“People aren’t expecting me to go out there and get a win. I’m coming in as a big underdog and rightfully so, but I’m going to show everybody out there in Rhode Island what’s up,” Cervantes said.

“[Bessette’s] a complete fighter. There’s nothing that the dude really can’t do. He’s aggressive. He’s strong-minded. He’s going to be super legit. I’m most impressed with his Jiu Jitsu, but that’s where I’m strongest. I’m not going to take anything away from him, but I just want people out there in Rhode Island and around the country to know I’m coming.”

Cervantes admits he’s watched a lot of his opponent’s fights, which, given the number of times Bessette has fought on network television with both Bellator and CES MMA, pokes holes in the theory that a fighter 2,200 miles east of New Mexico can still be considered an unknown commodity, but Bessette doesn’t view his worldwide exposure as a drawback.

“They can look me up, but unless you’ve seen me firsthand and have really done your homework on me, then it’s going to be harder to figure me out once you get in there,” Bessette said, “and that’s what I like.

“I think I’m going to be a shitstorm coming at him from everywhere. I’m just looking at really, really pressuring him. It’s going to be a long night for him as soon as the first bell starts.”

The proof is undeniable; Bessette made quick work of out-of-town opponents Weathers, Kevin Roddy and Taurean Bogguess, but struggled against Fall River, Mass., vet Josh LaBerge in 2015 on the undercard of Bellator 134, a fight that lasted two full rounds until the doctors finally stopped it before the start of the third.

“I couldn’t put him away,” Bessette said of LaBerge. “The doctor had to stop it, but it took two rounds to do that.

“I have a very unique style and any time I fight a guy around here sometimes I feel like they know a lot about me, which takes away from my ability to get the job done. Maybe it takes me a little longer. I think Cervantes is in a shitstorm and he just doesn’t know it yet.”

While Bessette, currently riding a four-fight win streak, is the heavy favorite entering next Friday, Cervantes has accomplished enough in his brief pro career to earn his opponent’s respect. He’s yet to back down from a fight and he jumped at the opportunity to face Bessette for a title on network television after lobbying to fight for CES MMA in the past.

“It’s a big deal to travel all the way to the east coast to fight and it’s great to fight on TV. It’s a good promotion that will give me a stepping stone for my career,” Cervantes said.

“I don’t shy away from any fight. I’ve taken fights like this on short notice. I stay in shape. I stay ready. My mentality is if you want to fight, I’ll go out there and give everything I have. I won’t shy away from any opportunity.”

Bessette, who makes his fifth appearance with CES MMA next Friday, has handled all the adversity from last-minute changes in the past and will have to o so again on the 16th against a newcomer to the northeast circuit. Now it’s up to Cervantes to weather the “storm” Bessette promises to deliver with the CES MMA title up for grabs.

“To fight for a title for CES is a dream come true,” Bessette said. “This is my first world championship fight and if you were with me day in and day out you’d know there’s something different in my eyes. I can feel it. All it takes now is me going out there and getting the job done and I have no problem going out there and getting the job done.”

Tickets for “CES MMA 37” are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesmma.com, www.twinriver.com, 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.

Bessette-Cervantes is one of three, five-round title bouts on the main card. Woonsocket, R.I., native Andre Soukhamthath (10-3, 6 KOs), now fighting out of Boca Raton, Fla., defends his CES MMA Bantamweight Title for the first time against Cambridge, Mass., vet Kin Moy (8-2, 2 KOs) in the main event, a rematch of their back-and-forth war in January of 2014 in which Moy won by unanimous decision. Providence’s Greg Rebello (20-6, 12 KOs) faces Oklahoma’s Ashley Gooch (9-4, 6 KOs) for the vacant CES MMA Heavyweight Title.

Also on the AXS TV main card, middleweight Chuck O’Neil (16-8, 5 KOs) of Bourne, Mass., faces Roy Jones (7-4, 3 KOs) of Waterloo, Iowa, and featherweight Joe Pingitore (6-2-1, 2 KOs) of Johnston, R.I., returns to network television for the fourth time when he faces Bill Jones (12-10, 3 KOs) of Somersworth, N.H.

The preliminary card features four exciting bouts, highlighted by a middleweight showdown between Berkeley, Mass., vet Pat McCrohan (2-0, 1 KO) and Russian Ruslan Melikov (3-1), fighting out of Fairfield, N.J. Providence bantamweight Marquis Brewster (1-0) faces Turtle Creek, Pa., native Roosevelt Archie (0-1); Boston lightweight Devin Carrier (1-1, 1 KO) battles Holbrook, Mass., native Connor Barry (1-0); and Dylan Lockard of Derry, N.H., makes his professional debut against Seldon, N.Y., featherweight Mak Kelleher (1-2). Quincy, Mass., middleweight Mike Rodriguez (3-1, 1 KO) will be featured in a separate three-round bout against an opponent to be determined.



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