Two new champions will be crowned Friday at Ballys as CES MMA makes its 2022 debut

PROVIDENCE, RI – The CES MMA World Bantamweight Championship is once again vacant, and a familiar face is bidding to bring it back to his hometown for the second time Friday night at Ballys Twin River Lincoln Casino Resort.

Longtime fan-favorite and Woonsocket, RI, native Andre Soukhamthath (14-9, 8 KOs) makes his long-awaited return to CES MMA this Friday to face Diego Silva (13-5, 2 KOs) of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in one of two world-title bouts at CES MMA 66 live on UFC FIGHT PASS®.

“The Asian Sensation,” one of CES MMA’s longest-tenured fighters and the promotion’s inaugural bantamweight champion from 2016–2017, fights in his home state for the first time in six years following a two-year run with the Ultimate Fighting Championships. The bantamweight belt was not up for grabs when this bout was first signed, but champion Jay Perrin, who was scheduled to face Ashiek Akim in his first title defense Friday, vacated the title to sign with the UFC.

That left the title once again vacant – and left CES MMA with the logical choice of giving Soukhamthath and Silva the opportunity to leave Ballys this weekend as a world champion.

In the second world-title bout, Cranston, RI native Gary Balletto III (7-2, 2 KOs) faces Billy Goff(5-2, 3 KOs) of Groton, CT, for the promotion’s vacant welterweight crown. Balletto, the son of iconic Rhode Island boxer Gary “Tiger” Balletto, fights for his first world title nearly 19 years to the date of his father accomplishing the same feat when he knocked out Johnny Walker to capture the IBU World Lightweight Championship on March 21, 2003.


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The two five-round world-title bouts headline a stacked card as CES MMA makes it 2022 season debut and returns to Ballys for the first time since January of 2020. The action begins 8 pm ET on FIGHT PASS with play-by-play announcer Michael Parente (@MichaelParente); color commentator Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon), a 27-time UFC vet; and FUN 107 on-air personality and cageside correspondent Madelyn Levine (@maddieonair). Limited tickets are available at CESFights.com.

The main card of CES 66 also features an exciting bantamweight battle between Joey Gomez (6-2, 6 KOs) of Hollis, NH, and Ontario, Canada’s Vlad Kazbekov (6-4, 1 KO). Gomez steps back inside the cage for the first time since 2016 following a brief run with the UFC and makes his first CES MMA appearance since 2015 when he defeated former world-title challenger Kin Moy.

Freetown, MA, featherweight Connor Matthews (4-0, 1 KO) looks to keep his perfect record intact against Keith Speed (5-5, 2 KOs)of Oakland Park, FL, and fellow featherweight Tyrime Da Silva (1-0) of Providence, fresh off his debut win at CES 65 in November, battles Eduardo Rodriguez (1-1) of Lee, MA.

Also in the featherweight division, Allston, MA, veteran Travis Demko (1-0) makes his long-awaited return to the cage following a four-year boxing career when he takes on Detroit’s Dajuan Robinson (0-4). Demko debuted in boxing in 2014 and won eight of nine bouts before making his MMA debut in 2019. In between that, he endured a 14-month layoff from 2016–2017 due to a serious automobile accident.

In the lightweight division, Dion Rubio (1-0) of Providence battles Bobby Casale of Queens and Robert Varriccho of Staten Island (1-0, 1 KO) faces Ohio’s Turner Williams (0-3).

Soukhamthath’s return Friday is a long-awaited homecoming for “The Asian Sensation,” who thrilled crowds at Ballys for nearly five years – 13 fights total for CES MMA, where he finished a remarkable 11-2 before making his UFC debut in 2017 at UFC 209. Soukhamthath’s run with the UFC featured its ups and downs, but he earned his spot with an impressive showing on short notice in his debut against Albert Morales and went on to earn big wins over prospects Luke Sanders and Jonathan Martinez.

Regardless of the platform, Soukhamthath has always been willing to face the best in his weight class; in 2016, he captured the inaugural CES MMA bantamweight title with a knockout win over hometown rival Kody Nordby, finishing the fight with a flying knee in the fifth round, a wild ending to an emotionally- and physically-draining fight preceded by a lengthy war of words between the two Woonsocket natives.

Soukhamthath also earned accolades later that year for a knockout win over Moy in his first title defense, avenging a 2014 loss that at the time snapped his career-best seven-Balletto hopes to walk in Soukhamthath’s shoes Friday in his first shot at a world title. Like many, his career has featured its own ebbs and flows.

As the son of a Rhode Island legend, Balletto has carried a tremendous amount of weight on his shoulders, but has managed to carve his own niche and build his own legacy inside the cage. A broken jaw sustained in his first career loss set him back nearly two years, but he’s won his last two bouts since his return to the cage in 2021 – and that doesn’t include his foray into pro boxing, where he debuted with a knockout win at Ballys 19 months after suffering the jaw injury.

The quest for greatness continues Friday against the dangerous Goff, who has won his last three bouts against opponents with a combined record of 16-5, including undefeated prospects Robson Gracie Jr. and Marty Navis. Goff also boasts two victories with Bellator and fought for a title in his last bout against Navis in November.

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