Bantamweight title eliminators highlight CES MMA’s Florida debut April 30

CES photo by Will Paul

Orlando, FL – CES MMA is back and ready to break new ground in the Sunshine State.

The northeast’s undisputed leader in mixed martial arts makes its 2021 debut Friday, April 30 with CES MMA 62, live on UFC FIGHT PASS® from the Caribe Royal Orlando.

The event marks CES MMA’s first live show since October and its first in Florida, one of several states to allow limited-capacity crowds amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several CES MMA fan favorites will make the trip south of New England, including veteran bantamweight “Sweetbread” Dinis Paiva, welterweight Gary Balletto III, bantamweight Ashiek Ajim, and welterweight John Gotti III.

Headlining CES 62 is a pair of bantamweight world title eliminator bouts as four of the division’s top stars compete for the opportunity to hoist the CES MMA World Bantamweight Championship in 2021. The title has been vacant since the summer of 2019 when previously champion Tony Gravely was called up to the UFC. Gravely is one of three bantamweight champions in the promotion’s history, joining Andre Soukhamthath and Andre Ewell, each of whom competed for the UFC shortly after winning the title.

One title eliminator is an intrastate showdown between Orlando bantamweight Diego Silva (12-5, 2 KOs) and Coconut Creek veteran Andrew Whitney (18-6, 7 KOs), both making their CES MMA debut. In the other title eliminator, Paiva (13-8, 7 KOs), a 20-time CES MMA veteran and former bantamweight title contender, faces off against Pensacola native Josh Smith (9-6, 5 KOs). The bantamweight winners will face off in a five-round world title bout at a later date.

Limited tickets for CES 62 are available online. Doors open at 6 pm ET. Showtime is 6:30 with the live FIGHT PASS stream beginning at 8. To sign up for UFC FIGHT PASS, visit www.ufcfightpass.com, or download the UFC app.

CES MMA launches its 2021 season with a springtime spectacular fresh off signing a multi-year extension with UFC FIGHT PASS in January to continue its partnership with combat sports’ premier streaming service and its tradition of bringing competitive, evenly-matched bouts to a worldwide audience.

Other bouts include heavyweight Rashaun Jackson (5-3, 3 KOs) of Orlando battling four-time UFC vet Marcelo Golm (8-3, 6 KOs) of Miami (by way of Sao Paulo, Brazil), plus the long-awaited return of Gotti (5-1, 4 KOs), who faces Michigan native Jared Chauvin (3-2, 1 KO).

The elder statesman of CES MMA, Paiva is back for his record-setting 21st bout with the promotion, a well-documented run that began with his pro debut in 2011 at CES 6 in Rhode Island. Nearly 10 years to the date, Paiva steps outside of the Ocean State for just the second time in his career in hopes of earning a second shot at the bantamweight title, which he fought for in 2018 against Ewell at CES 50.

In recent months, Paiva has enjoyed a career renaissance, rebounding from the Ewell fight with back-to-back wins over Antonio Castillo Jr. and Tim Dooling to earn his first appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series. Since 2016, Paiva has won six of his last eight bouts and eight of 11 – including a win over UFC veteran Jordan Espinosa – since switching fight camps and linking with renowned trainer Mike Gresh.

CES 62 also features the long-awaited return of the 26-year-old Balletto (5-2, 2 KOs), ending a three-year layoff following his loss to Jeremiah Wells in 2018. The son of iconic pro boxer and former The Contenderreality television star Gary “Tiger” Balletto, the younger Balletto took time off from MMA to make his own boxing debut in 2019 – also on UFC FIGHT PASS – with a fourth-round knockout win. Now he returns to the cage in April to face Pensacola’s Dahlen Watson (4-3, 2 KOs) in a three-round welterweight bout.

Making his fifth appearance with the promotion, the New York City native Ajim (3-1, 2 KOs) returns to face Tampa’s Carlos Espinosa (5-4, 3 KOs). Long Island middleweight Hugh McKenna (3-4), a three-time CES MMA veteran, puts his two-fight win streak on the line in a preliminary bout while New Haven, CT, light heavyweight Yuri Panferov – an undefeated amateur, Moscow native, and former Golden Gloves and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation champion – makes the trip south for his professional debut in a three-round bout against North Carolina’s Gregory Smith (0-1).

CES 62 is also stacked with several interstate bouts featuring Florida’s top talent. Lightweights Blake Smith(4-2, 2 KOs) of Tampa and Charlie Radtke (3-2, 1 KO) of Naples battle on the preliminary card alongside Orlando’s Guilherme Neves (2-1) and James Hay (3-1) of Port Saint Lucie facing one another in a special lightweight showcase.

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