The world’s fastest-growing mixed martial arts promotion is six days away from debuting in a new state, opening new doors for a new crop of fighters hoping their careers travel the same path as some of their more well-known predecessors.
CES MMA makes its Massachusetts debut Saturday, April 16th, 2016 at the historic North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Mass., with “CES MMA 35,” sponsored by Foxwoods Resort Casino, an exciting pro-am event featuring 12 total bouts, seven on the pro side and an additional five amateur bouts with each fighter competing for a promotional contract.
Debuting in September of 2010, the Rhode-Island based promotion hosted 31 of its first 34 events at the Twin River Event Center, which has since become its home base. During that span, the company has expanded into Connecticut, hosting three events at Foxwoods, gained worldwide exposure through its broadcast partnership with AXS TV, and played a key role in helping several fighters pave their road to the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC).
Expansion beyond Rhode Island and Connecticut was only a matter of time, and with the promotion’s momentum continuing to build following nine nationally televised events over the past year and a half, the timing for a Massachusetts debut couldn’t be better.
With a capacity of 1,800, the North Shore Music Theatre provides the perfect backdrop; the historic venue is well for hosting many award-winning musicals and celebrity concerts over the past six decades since it first opened its doors in 1955 and remains the largest operating regional theater in New England under the new ownership of Bill Hanney.
“For a number of years we have discussed bringing the show to Massachusetts,” CES vice president Jimmy Burchfield Jr. said. “With all the incredible talent in this region, the most difficult challenge was finding the right venue partner. The North Shore Music Theatre is it. This special Saturday night event will showcase some of the most exciting fighters in the region.
“Come witness what everyone is talking about. CES MMA: The gateway to the UFC!”
“Our team is the best in combat sports,” added CES president and longtime boxing promoter Jimmy Burchfield Sr. “We were the first promoters to bring mixed martial arts to Rhode Island and now we’re proud to bring our brand to Massachusetts. It’s been a long time coming.
“Massachusetts fighters are among the best in the sport, a rich tradition that includes local legends such as Jorge Rivera, Kenny Florian and John “Doomsday” Howard, and the fans are incredibly loyal. This is just the beginning for CES MMA. Our company has grown exponentially over the past two years and I guarantee we’ll continue to expand both in New England and beyond.”
“CES MMA 35” is headlined by the return of Gloucester, Mass., Pedro Gonzalez (10-5, 9 KOs), who ends a two-year layoff against Boston’s Andres Jeudi (7-5, 3 KOs) in the main event, in addition to the third and final installment of the regional trilogy between North Attleboro, Mass., heavyweight Tyler King (9-4, 3 KOs) and Providence’s Eric Bedard (6-6, 4 KOs).
The event will also feature a special ceremony honoring Massachusetts pros Charles Rosa and Rob Font, both of whom starred with CES MMA before getting the call from the UFC.
Rosa, a Peabody, Mass., native, debuted with the UFC in October of 2014 and has since won twice, beating fellow CES MMA alumni Sean Soriano and Kyle Bochniak. A Tampa, Fla., native who eventually relocated to Boston, Font is 2-0 under the UFC banner, including a win over another CES alum, Joey Gomez, and returns to the cage in May on the undercard of UFC 198.
Thanks in large part to their success on the regional circuit, Rosa and Font are among CES MMA’s notable alumni to advance to the UFC, a list that also includes Soriano, Bockniak, Gomez, Tateki Matsuda and Dominique Steele.
“I fought and had to do all the training and that stuff on my own and travel all around the world to get the best training, from [Floyd] Mayweather’s boxing gym in Vegas all the way to Holland to work on my kickboxing, but [CES MMA] helped me get to the UFC,” Rosa said.
“They helped build me and gave me that feeling of being comfortable knowing my opponent wasn’t going to change or they’re going to pull some crazy thing last minute. They always got me the right opponent at the right time and the fact their fights are on TV, sometimes you can fight and nobody sees you, but being put on AXS TV and being on the highlights, they have all the right people around you that can get you to where you want to get to.”
In addition to creating ample opportunities with its annual Twin River Casino Fight Series, which includes five to six events per year, CES MMA also fosters a comfortable, family-like work environment for its fighters, spearheaded by the grassroots promotion of the Burchfields and matchmaker / director Pat Sullivan.
“They’re standup, good businessmen and they’re good people, too,” Rosa said. “A lot of promoters can be scumbags. They lie and they do things, but the thing about Pat Sullivan and the Burchfields, they’re always honest, good people and they always look out for the fighters’ best interest, which is very rare in this sport. They’re not always trying to make a buck.
“Yeah, it’s a business and that’s what they have to do, but you don’t have to lie along the way. They do things the right way. The have good business ethics and they’re good people. They’re a family and they treat like you part of their family. When you have a business that’s grounded in such good values, you’ll have success.”
While CES MMA is taking time to honor its past on Saturday, all eyes are on the potential future stars fighting on this weekend’s card, including Boston’s Lewis Corapi (6-2, 3 KOs), a two-time CES MMA vet who returns to face Providence’s Keenan Raymond (3-2, 1 KO) in a lightweight bout.
“CES making the expansion to Massachusetts, and hopefully other states in the future, is a huge positive for the local MMA landscape,” Corapi said. “As a local fighter we all know that CES is the promotion to fight for because of the quality of their shows, how they treat us as entertainers and their record of having guys move from CES to the UFC.
“With CES moving to Massachusetts, us Massachusetts fighters get a chance to showcase our skills closer to home and get a bigger group of fans out to the events. Having more fans at the events and introducing CES to new people that otherwise would not have seen it is extremely beneficial. It also shows that CES is really solidifying their hold on being the northeastern powerhouse promotion for MMA events.”
As one of eight Massachusetts natives fighting on the professional side of Saturday’s event, not including five additional amateurs from the Bay State, Corapi is hoping to carve a path similar to his predecessors — and, in some cases, training partners — who’ve gained widespread notoriety with the UFC.
“CES’s track record of advancing fighters to the UFC is something that is extremely attractive to me,” Corapi said. “I don’t want to say that it provides extra motivation for me, because I’m training for every single fight with everything I have, however, it does provide me with extra motivation to get onto a CES show.
“I know several fighters personally that have made that trip from CES to the UFC — Charles Rosa, Rob Font, Kyle Bochniak, John Howard — and seeing them get to the UFC helps reinforce the crazy notion that I will in fact make it there as well. If I’m given the choice between fighting for another promotion, even for more money, and fighting for CES, I’ll always go with CES because it helps me more in my long-term goals.”
With what Corapi hopes is a raucous cheering section behind him on Saturday at the North Shore, CES MMA’s Massachusetts debut figures to be a tremendous success. The sky’s the limit for both the promotion and the fighters.
“As much as I have enjoyed fighting for CES at Twin River Casino, it ends up being a bit of a hassle to get down there with all of the traffic and the nightmare that is Friday afternoon,” Corapi said. “I have many fans that won’t make the trek down to Rhode Island because of the distance, so with this card being in my ‘backyard’ there are a ton of people that are finally willing and able to come see me fight in person.”
Added Rosa: “I think it’s going to be a great show and I think it’s going to be a really good night.”
Tickets for “CES MMA 35” are priced at $35.00, $50.00 and $100.00 (VIP) and can also be purchased online at www.nsmt.org, by phone at 978-232-7200 or at the North Shore Music Theatre Box Office. Doors open at 6 p.m. ET and the first bout begins at 7. All bouts are subject to change.
Also on the pro portion of the card, Quincy, Mass., middleweight Mike Rodriguez (2-0, 2 KOs) puts his perfect record on the line against Buck Pineau (1-2) of Ashland, Maine in a rematch of their amateur bout in which Pineau won by third-round submission.
Boston’s Devin Carrier (0-1) searches for his first win as a pro in a lightweight bout against Meriden, N.H., native Wayne Ahlquist (1-2, 1 KO); Fall River, Mass., lightweight Josh LaBerge (9-5, 4 KOs) faces 37-fight vet Ran Weathers (18-21, 6 KOs) of Albuquerque, N.M.; and Rico DiSciullo (5-0, 2 KOs), an undefeated Peabody native with three appearances each for Bellator and CES MMA, will face Ohio’s Jake Constant (6-9, 2 KOs) in a rematch. The two went toe-to-toe at “CES MMA XXX” with Constant forced to tap out in the opening round due to a shoulder injury.
On the amateur side, Mark Bordieri of Foxborough, Mass., faces Nick O’Connell of Cranston, R.I., in a bantamweight bout; welterweight Jamie Collins of Woonsocket, R.I., battles Boston’s Jon Ciampa; and Aaron Reverdes of Pawtucket, R.I., faces Joao Ramos of Framingham, Mass., in a featherweight bout.
Also on the amateur portion of the card, Providence’s Marquis Brewster faces Billy Keenan of Salem, Mass., and Boston’s Sean Murrin (1-0, 1 KO) battles featherweight John Douma (2-1) of Providence. All amateurs are competing for a promotional contract with CES MMA.