PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Jan. 13th, 2014) -- Andre Soukhamthath might be the first out-of-towner in CES history with a bigger cheering section than everyone else on the show.
Then again, Soukhamthath (7-1, 4 KOs), "The Asian Sensation" originally born in raised in Woonsocket, R.I., isn't your average out-of-towner. The 5-foot-9 bantamweight will return home Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 for the first time since he and his family relocated to Boca Raton, Fla., in December to train exclusively with the famed Blackzilians. This "homecoming" of sorts might be Soukhamthath's toughest fight to date as he faces undefeated Cambridge, Mass., prospect Kin "Kong" Moy (5-0, 1 KO) on the undercard of "CES MMA XXI" at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.
"I've seen him through the years," Soukhamthath said. "I don't think he's a better athlete than me, and that is where my advantage will be."
The showdown against Moy will test Soukhamthath's mettle both in and outside the cage; not only is he preparing for the fight itself, he's also trying to balance his preparation with family life as he returns to Rhode Island today to finish training camp, no doubt having to fulfill obligations from friends and family who will want to spend time with him before he returns to Florida in two weeks.
"I'm here to fight, though," Soukhamthath said, "and I think my fans will understand that.
"They know I can't go out and party and mess around. They're just waiting to see my fight. Then we'll party afterward."
It's a lot to juggle for a 25-year-old fighter with both a family and career to consider, but it's a risk worth taking given the level of training at the Blackzilians' facility in Boca Raton. The Florida-based team is known for working with former Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) world champions Vitor Belfort and Rashad Evans, along with pro boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux.
"Just by working with guys who are on another level, I feel like I'm improving everyday," Soukhamthath said. "It took a couple of weeks to get settled, but now everyone's real comfortable. Seeing that sunlight every morning is real motivating.
"The mindset is different down here," he continued. "That's mainly I made the move. Here, their job is to fight. They're in the gym seven days a week. If I have a fight coming up, I know I will have training partners to work with rather than having to look for work. When it's a wrestling day, everyone is there for wrestling. When it's a sparring day, everyone's there for sparring. And there are no egos. Everyone is there to work."
Will the new regimen be enough to stop Moy? Within the past year, Moy has won three pro bouts, including a big win over fan-favorite Dinis Paiva at CES MMA's "Path Of Destruction" show in April. He also submitted Kurt Chase-Patrick in just under a minute in September and closed out 2013 with a bare-knuckle boxing win over Texas pro boxer Marc Antonio Torres in New Hampshire, winning the five-round fight by unanimous decision. Torres had only three pro bouts under his belt, but more than 100 amateur fights.
"That fight gave me a lot of confidence," Moy said. "Fighting a guy who was a real dangerous striker who had so much amateur experience and being able to stand in front of him gives me a boost knowing what Andre will bring to the table.
"He has great standup," Moy said of Soukhamthath, "but his wrestling is really underrated."
To prepare for what will also be his toughest test, Moy is working with several different training partners at Redline MMA, anyone who can duplicate Souhamthath's skill set, style and cadence.
"I have a really good camp behind me," Moy said. "Pedro Gonzalez, Soap Am, Matt Doherty, they've all helped me push myself to the next level, Pedro especially, with him being taller and having a similar body type to Andre. I've been trying my best to replicate that, so I have to take pieces from different training partners."
At first, Moy was hesitant to take the fight given his respect for Soukhamthath and the fact both are Asian-American fighters working together to establish more diversity within the MMA community, both locally and worldwide.
"Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of Asian-American representatives," Moy said, "and I admire how well Andre fights and how he carries that with pride, but, at the end of the day, I think he's the best 135-pounder around, and I want to fight the best."
"Anytime you win, you're taking another step forward," Soukhamthath added. "This is another big fight. I've know [Moy] for a while and I consider him a friend, but now we're fighting, and I take that personal, so we're not friends. When you fight me, you're messing with my money. I'm going to bring it, and I hope he brings it, too."
"CES MMA XXI" also features the return of fan-favorites Todd "The Hulk" Chattelle (12-9, 9 KOs) of Pawtucket, R.I., and CES MMA featherweight champion Rob Font (8-1, 2 KOs) of Boston. Font will face Ahsan Abdullah (5-4, 2 KOs) of Binghamton, N.Y., in a three-round bout as he aims for his eight consecutive win and fifth overall under the promotional guidance of CES. Chattelle is hoping for a fresh start in 2014 against the always dangerous Shedrick Goodridge (4-6, 2 KOs) of Rahway, N.J.
Also returning to Twin River is Melrose, Mass., heavyweight John Johnston (4-0, 4 KOs), who will attempt to keep his impressive streak of consecutive knockout wins (4) alive when he faces unbeaten William Baptiste (2-0, 1 KO) of Goldsboro, N.C.
Paiva (3-5), an East Providence, R.I., native, will look to snap his two-fight losing streak in a bantamweight bout against Franklin Isabel (4-6) of Chelsea, Mass.; while fellow bantamweight Shaun Marmas (5-5, 1 KO) Doherty (2-0, 2 KOs), a Salem, Mass., native, in a potential Fight of the Night candidate. Marmas split two bouts in 2013, beating Tom Evans in April and losing to Abdullah in June.
Exciting prospect Willie Brown Jr. (2-0) of Meriden, Conn., will look to keep his perfect record intact in his first bout of the year against lightweight Kevin Haley (2-0, 1 KO) of Dover, N.H., and featherweight Kyle Bochniak of Winthrop, Mass., will make his professional debut in a separate three-round bout against Anthony Loycano (1-3) of North Andover, Mass. Middleweight Adam Quitt (1-3) of Framingham, Mass., will return for his first fight since February when he battles Rocky Hill, Conn., veteran Sylvester Murataj (0-2). All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Tickets for "CES MMA XXI" are priced at $40, $55, $100 and $125 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling 401-724-2253/2254, online at www.cesmma.com or www.ticketmaster.com or at the Twin River Players Club.