Every so often, Chuck O’Neil wishes he could go back in time and teach his former self a thing or two.
“When I look at some of the old videos, I looked like a friggin’ bum,” said O’Neil, who returns to the cage Friday, June 12th, 2015 in the five-round main event of “CES MMA XXIX” at Twin River Casino.
“I would go back and kill the old me.”
Since his well-publicized stint on The Ultimate Fighter series four years ago, O’Neil has done what most TUF alumni have failed to do — carve a niche beyond reality TV.
“I think they get caught up in the hype train,” he said. “They’re just happy with the fact they got there.
“You can’t be satisfied or you’ll be stagnant. The celebrity status, the glitz and glamour, that’s not why I do this. I do it because it’s fun and I’m truly passionate about it. I work hard every day to be the best, not just be a part of it.”
Under the promotional guidance of CES MMA, O’Neil has taken full advantage of the opportunity to showcase his abilities — along with his affable, off-camera personality — in front of a new audience, the AXS TV fan base.
The Bridgewater, Mass., native has won six of seven fights in the CES cage, including his AXS TV debut in January when he knocked out Emmanuel Walo in just 11 seconds to defend the promotion’s welterweight title.
With a relentless, fan-friendly fight style and his deep-rooted passion for childhood wrestling nostalgia, O’Neil is loving life in the spotlight, hamming it up for the cameras outside of the cage while making sure to flip the switch to business mode once the bell rings.
On Friday, he faces another tough test against Cincinnati’s Dominique Steele (12-5, 3 KOs), a former Strikeforce and Bellator vet who promises to “whoop ass” and leave Rhode Island’s with O’Neil’s title.
“I’m going to put him on his back and punish the hell out of him,” Steele said.
“He’s a tough, gritty guy,” O’Neil countered, “but I know exactly what’s going to happen. He will try to grind me against the cage and get me to the ground. We’ll see what happens. Best wishes. Love, Chuck.”
Tickets for “CES MMA XXIX” are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 and available for purchase online at www.cesmma.com or www.twinriver.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
The trash talk from the other side of the cage might’ve unnerved the old O’Neil, a self-proclaimed “former punk” who admits his logic entering fights never really extended beyond trying to punch the other guy in the face. While the 2015 O’Neil couldn’t care less about engaging in a war of words, the defending champ promises “hard times” for Steele, an ode to pro wrestling legend “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.
“I don’t need someone talking shit to get me hyped up,” O’Neil said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to go out there and finish the fight.”
Though the dream of getting another crack at competing for the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) is still on O’Neil’s “to-do” list, he admits his experience on Season 13 of the popular reality series is part of his past. The current task at hand is defending the CES MMA crown while continuing to improve with each fight.
“It’ll always be a part of me,” he said, “but I want to grow past it. It’s very rare to see guys from that show get their shit together and get better.
“I just went right to the drawing board, surrounded myself with good teammates and recreated myself. Between my jiu-jitsu work and the addition of [boxing coach] Dave [Keefe] and getting in there with college wrestlers, everything’s coming together.
“I’m a lot more mature as a fighter and a person. I’m working to get better every day.”
Also on the main card of “CES MMA XXIX,” East Providence, R.I., middleweight Nate Andrews (6-1, 3 KOs) returns to face Jay Bakanowski (3-1, 2 KOs) of Northborough, Mass.; Hartford, Conn., featherweight Matt Bessette (14-6, 3 KOs) battles Pittsburgh’s Khama Worthy (7-3, 5 KOs); bantamweight Dinis Paiva Jr. (6-5, 4 KOs) of East Providence battles Brazilian Bruno Marques (7-5-1, 5KOs); Providence heavyweight Greg Rebello (17-6, 9 KOs) battles Tyler King (9-2, 3 KOs) of Norwood, Mass.; and unbeaten Providence welterweight Eric Spicely (6-0, 2 KOs) faces New York’s Harley Beekman (7-2, 4 KOs).
The preliminary card includes a three-round welterweight bout Abe Pitrowski (6-2, 1 KO) of Pawtucket, R.I., and Mike Rodriguez (2-0) of Boston and a hard-hitting featherweight battle between Joe Pingitore (4-2, 1 KO) of Johnston, R.I., and James Murrin (3-2, 2 KOs) of Dorchester, Mass. Featherweight Evan Parker (4-3, 1 KO) of Worcester, Mass., faces Pete Rogers Jr. (2-1, 2 KOs) of Norwich, Conn.; welterweight Toby Oden (1-1) of Milford, Mass.; battles Wayne Alhquist (1-1, 1 KO) of Meredith, N.H.; Woonsocket, R.I., bantamweight Kody Nordby (3-3) faces Jesse Gutierrez (1-0) of Norwood; and Ludlow, Mass., featherweight Ricardo Scalissi (0-1)battles Devin Pilkington (0-2) of Smithfield, R.I.
For more information on “CES MMA XXIX” visit www.cesmma.com, follow @CESMMA on Twitter and Instagram and “like” the official CES MMA Facebook fan page.