When asked to step up on just two week’s notice and face reigning CES MMA Lightweight Champion Luis Felix on the nationally televised main card of “CES MMA XXXII,” Ryan Sanders didn’t even have to think twice.
“There was no second guess, no second thought,” said Sanders, a native of Bangor, Maine. “In this sport, you have an opportunity like this only once in a career and you have to jump at it.”
Sanders (9-7, 1 KO) will face Felix in a three-round non-title fight at a catch weight of 160 pounds on Friday night’s main card, which airs live on AXS TV beginning at 10 p.m. ET. The Sanders-Felix is one six televised bouts on the main card and a major step up for Sanders, who’s won two consecutive fights and three of his last four.
“I just think this fight just fell into my lap for a reason and I’m going to make the most of it. I have no pressure on me. All the pressure’s on Luis,” Sanders said. “He has to show up. It’s his hometown. It’s his backyard. All I have to do is just go in there and fight, so all the pressure’s on him. I’m just looking for a good fight, hoping to entertain the fans and put on a show and let CES know I’m here to fight, too.”
Asked if the pressure of performing in front of his loyal fan base against an opponent with nothing to lose would unnerve him, Felix (14-8, 5 KOs) just shook his head and smiled.
“There’s no pressure, man. This is just another fight for me,” said the Providence, R.I., native, who captured the CES MMA title in August with a win over champion Julian Lane. “It’s like the last 22. I’ve been the main event before. I feel great.”
Friday will be Felix’s fifth consecutive appearance on AXS TV. The first ended in a stunning loss to Lane in one of the most highly publicized bouts in CES MMA history. Felix then narrowed his inner circle and began simplifying his training. Heeding the advice of his longtime coach, Vic Fagnant, Felix traveled less during camps, working with only a handful of coaches and peers instead of spreading himself thin.
“We’ve had the same camp for the last three so we stayed pretty consistent with that. I’ve seen a lot improvement in the last three fights. They’re all wins, so why change anything?” Felix said.
“What I have here with coach Vic and [Greg] Rebello and then going up to Boston and training with [Mark] Dellagrotte and the guys at Sityodtong, that, in itself, is enough variety for what I need to see. It’s consistent and over at Sityodtong we get all different guys from different places coming to get work up there.
“I’ve been blessed to have these two spots and to be able to get enough work just from there instead of having to go all over the place like we did before.”
Their backgrounds might be different, but Felix and Sanders are competing for exposure and the opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of a worldwide audience.
“I’m just looking at it as another fight. It’s a different fight, a different opponent, a different name on the cage, but it’s just another fight at the end of the day,” Sanders said. “If it opens up doors, great. If it doesn’t, so be it. The chance to fight for CES is an awesome opportunity and I’m just going to go out there and bang and put on a show and see what happens.
“I’m not in the greatest shape of all the time, but I definitely was getting ready for a fight so I was definitely in shape, which is why it was an easy decision to make. Like I said, Luis is a stud and I want to fight the studs, so this is a huge opportunity for me.”
Tickets for “CES MMA XXXII” are still available at $40.00, $55.00 and $100.00 and can be purchased 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.
Also featured on the main card of “CES MMA XXXII,” reigning CES MMA Welterweight Champion Gil Freitas (18-5, 6 KOs) makes his first title defense in a five-round bout against Cincinnati’s Chris Curtis (12-4, 4 KOs), who aims to become the third Ohio-born fighter to capture one of the promotion’s titles, joining a list that includes UFC vets Lane and Dominique Steele.
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.; and 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.
Rounding out the main card is 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.
The preliminary card features five additional bouts. 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.
For more information on “CES MMA XXXII” visit www.cesmma.com, follow @CESMMA on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the official CES MMA Facebook fan page.