Photo courtesy of Spike TV/Bellator
OHIO NATIVE CHRIS Curtis, who competed on the short-lived Bellator reality television series Fight Master, returns to the big stage on the main card of “CES MMA XXXII” at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., on Friday, Jan. 8th when he faces reigning CES MMA Welterweight Champion Gil Freitas in a five-round title bout on AXS TV. Curtis has won five of his last six fights while Freitas has won his last and six of seven overall, including a big win on AXS TV in October when he submitted Chip Pollard to capture CES MMA’s vacant title.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Jan. 7th, 2016) — Chris Curtis has had several chances at his “big break” in mixed martial arts, but something always got in the way, whether it was an untimely injury or his own stubborn insistence on upholding the tough-guy bravado often associated with combat sports.
As he approaches his 29th birthday later this year, Curtis (12-4, 4 KOs) is ready for another shot at the breakthrough victory every fighter dreams of when he faces hard-hitting CES MMA Welterweight Champion Gil Freitas (18-5, 6 KOs) live Friday night on AXS TV on the main card of “CES MMA XXXII” at Twin River Casino.
“I firmly believe this is going to be my big opportunity, if not with this fight, then shortly thereafter” said Curtis, a Cincinnati, Ohio native with 16 pro fights and nearly a decade’s worth of experience under his belt.
“This is huge. Fighting on AXS TV? This is what you want as a fighter. CES MMA is known nationwide. They’re now everywhere as a feeder to the UFC now. This is going to be my big step.”
Having been down this road before, Curtis is better equipped to handle the pressure of fighting on the sport’s biggest stage. He describes himself a reformed “headcase” who used to train nonstop, ignoring his body whenever it told him to take him a break.
“It was always, ‘Go, go, go!'” he said. “Then I’d end up with injuries. I always felt I had to outwork the other guy. Now I realize I’m a human being, not a cartoon character. Your body has limits.
“I’m older and wiser now. I understand there are times you need to take a day off. The holidays this year, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, were light for me. I should be 100 percent healthy for this fight for the first time in a long time.”
Two years ago, Curtis got the call to participate in Bellator’s short-lived reality television series, Fight Master, with the winner advancing to the promotion’s welterweight tournament. As always, Curtis trained hard, probably to the point of exhaustion, then tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee just three days before his first fight while stuffing a takedown in practice.
“Story of my life,” he said.
With limited mobility, Curtis lost his first and only fight to Eric Scallan and never advanced past the entry round, but his reunion with former foe Tom Gallicchio, who happened to be one of the 32 fighters competing to make it on Fight Master, led to a career-changing move.
Gallicchio, a member of Team Quest MMA who fought and defeated Curtis in 2011, constantly pressed Curtis to train with him in California. When he got the call from CES MMA to fight for a title on national TV, Curtis took him up on his offer and actually moved in with Gallicchio this recent during training camp to prepare for Friday’s showdown with Freitas.
It was a real-life Rocky Balboa-Apollo Creed storyline, two fighters who once stood toe-to-toe against one another now working with each other thousands of miles away from their comfort zone to take down a seemingly invincible opponent, a description that suits Freitas to a T these days. It was also a chance for Curtis to broaden his horizons beyond the city limits of Cincinnati.
“This was important career-wise for me,” Curtis said. “I need to be around guys as hungry as I am. When you train together with the same people every day it becomes routine. It becomes a habit. It’s just too familiar. It’s like being a big fish in a small pond.
“Going out there to California in a room of high-caliber guys you don’t know, that’s what sharpens you as a fighter. It’s like taking the ax to that iron and sharpening it. It was a painful, but awesome, experience.”
As for Freitas, the Brazilian welterweight now training with Team Link out of Ludlow, Mass., he’s become a household name in recent months with two overpowering wins on AXS TV, knocking out George Sheppard in August and submitting Chip Pollard in October.
Once the best-kept secret in regional MMA, Freitas is no longer an unknown commodity. His raw power – two knockout wins in his last three fights with CES MMA – is a frightening proposition for anyone who stands on the other side of that cage, but Curtis doesn’t’ seem too concerned about winding up on the receiving end of a hard right hand.
“He’s a dangerous guy, but it’s not 1996 anymore. Everyone has power. Everyone is technical,” he said. “I’m not afraid of anyone’s power. I’ve always fought guys who hit hard, but I know my own ability. I can stand toe-to-toe with anybody.”
Stopping short of making any predictions, Curtis added, “Watch me fight and watch Gil fight. We’re not going 25 minutes. He doesn’t want to hang around for 25 minutes and neither do I.”
In addition to dethroning Freitas on live television, Curtis also has the opportunity to add another chapter to a strange statistical anomaly by becoming the third Ohio-born fighter to win a CES MMA title, joining a list that includes UFC vets Julian Lane and Dominique Steele. Perhaps one day he can add that elusive prefix to his name, too. He’s as ready as he’ll ever be.
Tickets for “CES MMA XXXII” 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 main event features a lightweight showdown between reigning CES MMA Lightweight Champion Luis Felix (14-8, 5 KOs) of Providence, R.I., and Bellator vet Ryan Sanders (9-7, 1 KO) of Bangor, Maine, in a three-round non-title bout.
Also featured on the main card of “CES MMA XXXII,” Groton, Conn., heavyweight and four-time Bellator vet Josh Diekmann (15-6, 11 KOs), now in his 11th year as a pro, battles fellow knockout artist Ashley Gooch (8-4, 6 KOs) of Nashville, Tenn.
Rising featherweight Kyle Bochniak (5-0, 2 KOs) makes his second appearance on the televised main card as he puts his undefeated record on the line against Taylor Trahan (5-4) of St. Johnsbury, Vt., and undefeated bantamweight Rico DiSciullo (5-0, 2 KOs) of Peabody, Mass., faces 21-fight vet Lionel Young (6-15) of Boston.
The preliminary card features six additional bouts, starting with a featherweight showdown between unbeaten Manny Bermudez (3-0, 1 KO) of Abington, Mass., and Evan Parker (5-3, 1 KO) of nearby Worcester. None of Bermudez’s previous three opponents made it out of the first round and the 5-foot-6 submission specialist is looking to make it 4-for-4 against the game Parker, who choked out Pete Rogers Jr. in his CES MMA debut in June. South Boston featherweight James Murrin (3-3, 2 KOs) faces Mak Kelleher (0-2) of upstate New York and Providence’s Keenan Raymond (2-2) battles newcomer Ryan Todd of Cortland, N.Y.
Also on the preliminary card, middleweights Pat McCrohan (1-0, 1 KO) of Beverly, Mass., and Boston’s Mike Rodriguez (2-0, 2 KOs) put their unbeaten records and knockout streaks on the line against one another and flyweight David Baxter (1-0) of Bellingham, Mass., makes his CES MMA debut against newcomer Joshua Ricci of Whitesville, N.Y. Providence’s Nick Iaciofano (2-0, 1 KO) battles Luay Ashkar of Syracuse in a three-round flyweight bout.
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