PROVIDENCE, RI: There’s loyalty, and then there’s Dinis Paiva loyalty, the kind of unbreakable bond between fighter and promoter almost unheard of in today’s combat sports environment.
The 31-year-old East Providence, RI, native and fan-favorite at Twin River Casino Hotel returns to CES MMA for the record 20th time – more than any fighter in the promotion’s history – Friday night when he faces New Jersey’s Timothy Dooling (8-5, 3 KOs) in a three-round bantamweight bout on the main card of CES MMA 59 live on UFC FIGHT PASS®.
Since he made his professional debut eight years ago at CES 6 with a knockout win over Jon Marcheterre, Paiva (12-7, 7 KOs) has yet to leave CES MMA or Twin River Casino. All 19 of his professional fights have been at the same venue, which is just a stone’s throw from his hometown and has since become the hub for mixed martial arts in New England.
To some degree, Paiva’s career is the MMA version of The Truman Show; fans have watched him mature through the years from a young, up-and-comer who entered the sport with no goals or expectations to a legitimate world-title contender on the brink of stardom. They experienced his growth through CES MMA’s network television and live streaming platforms. They cheered the highs and mourned the lows, developing the same sense of devotion to Paiva and his journey as the fighter bred with his promoter.
That kind of bond these days is rare. Fighters come and go and some promoters part ways with a once-prized prospect in the aftermath of what may seem like a temporary bump in the round. For Paiva, it was simple: He had no reason to go anywhere else.
“How could Tom Brady not retire with the New England Patriots? That’s his legacy. That’s how people know him,” Paiva said. “That’s how I feel about CES MMA.
“[President] Jimmy Burchfield has been good to me. They’ve always treated me fair. Leaving never crossed my mind or made any sense to me. I’ve been spoiled in a sense because I’ve always had that comfort level of fighting in my backyard. Not a lot of fighters get to experience that the way I have. I’m thankful.”
Tickets for CES 59 start at $47 and are available online at www.cesmma.com or www.showclix.com or by phone at 401-724-2253. Doors open at 6 p.m. ET with the first preliminary bout beginning at 7. The UFC FIGHT PASS® live stream kicks off at 8 with the broadcast team of Michael Parente and 11-time UFC vet Tom Lawlor. Start your free trail or purchase a UFC FIGHT PASS® subscription at www.ufcfightpass.com.
Paiva’s road to becoming the most prolific fighter in CES MMA history has had its share of bumps along the way. After winning his pro debut, he lost his next three before rebounding with back-to-back wins to close out 2012. The up-and-down journey continued with two more losses, leaving Paiva at 4-5 facing a career crossroads in what was considered at the time a major step-up bout against 11-5 Joe Cushman at CES 24. Paiva won by knockout 49 seconds into the opening round, a moment he looks back on as the turning point of his career.
“I’ve been more focused on my goals since then,” Paiva said, “and it shows.”
Paiva is 9-2 in his last 11 fights dating back to 2014. He nearly quit following a loss to Rob Sullivan in 2013, but instead began working with trainer Mike Gresh, whom he credits for talking him off the ledge and turning him into a world-title contender. Paiva eventually got his shot at championship glory at CES 50, the promotion’s golden anniversary, but came up short against Andre Ewell. Twenty fights in, the goal remains the same – win a world title and further cement his status as a future CES MMA Hall of Famer.
“Fighting for CES MMA, the people I’ve met along the way, it’s one of the things I’ll always be able to look back on,” Paiva said. “I remember making my pro debut as the first fight of the night in front of a half-empty arena. I worked my way up the ranks, learning things as I went along, and, most importantly, learned the right way to do things.
“Winning a world title is still what it’s all about. I wouldn’t be doing this if there wasn’t a bigger prize at the end. I don’t know how I could ever walk away from the sport without being a CES MMA champion.”
Friday’s stacked lineup also features the return of fan-favorites Kody Nordby (9-5) of Cumberland, RI; Jose Lugo (4-1, 1 KO) of Woonsocket, RI; and a special appearance by unbeaten light heavyweight William Knight (5-0, 5 KOs) of Connecticut, who recently signed a development deal with the UFC following his win over Herdem Alacabek in Week 8 of the Dana White’s Contender Series. Knight faces Marvin Skipper (4-2) of Myrtle Beach, SC, in a three-round bout. Lugo faces CES MMA veteran and Whitesville, NY, native Josh Ricci (4-2) while Nordby – also a former world-title challenger – returns to face Da’mon Blackshear(4-3, 1 KO) of Fayetteville, NC. Reigning CES MMA World Heavyweight champion Greg Rebello (25-9, 16 KOs) headlines against an opponent to be determined.
Also on the main card, lightweight Moses Monteiro (2-1, 1 KO) of Everett, MA, battles Darius Estelle (5-2, 2 KOs) of Michigan. Boston lightweight Andres Jeudi (7-6, 3 KOs) fights for the first time since 2016 in a showdown against upstate New York veteran Jacob Bohn (7-6, 1 KO), and Sanad Armouti (1-0, 1 KO), also of Boston, faces Miami’s Marcos Lloreda (6-5, 2 KOs) in welterweight action. Preliminary bouts include bantamweight Askik Ajim (1-0) of Long Island battling Arslan Otchiyev (1-1) of Stratford, CT; welterweight Hugh McKenna (2-4) of Syosset, NY, against fellow New Yorker and undefeated amateur Jarell Davis; and featherweight Nate Ghareeb (1-0, 1 KO) of Southampton, MA, facing East Rochester, NY, native Zachary Johnson (0-2).
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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