Chip Moraza-Pollard firmly believes he’s the best striker in the northeast. Harley Beekman is offering him the opportunity to prove it.
Pollard and Beekman, the No. 1 and 2 ranked fighters in the region, respectively, among 185-pounders will face one another in a battle for the undisputed top slot Friday, Aug. 8, 2014 at Twin River Casino on the main card of “CES MMA XXV” live on AXS TV.
“Whether it’s middleweight, welterweight, whatever, I feel I’m a better striker than everyone around here,” Pollard said. “If I’m on my game, I don’t feel like anyone can strike with me.”
“His striking is okay,” countered Beekman. “As a fighter, you’re always going to try to amp yourself up. I could say that about myself, too, but I won’t. He’s certainly an upper-echelon striker, but I feel like I do okay against strikers, and I’m not too shabby myself.”
Both fighters have a reason to be confident. They’re both coming off wins, coincidentally against the same opponent, former Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) vet Tom Egan, and are both at, or near, the top of the leaderboard among middleweights in the northeast.
Beekman (4-2, 2 KOs), an Amsterdam, N.Y., native and Bombsquad vet, has long been considered one of the region’s top 185-pounders, a savvy road warrior who’s fought for CES MMA three times since 2012 and has tangled with northeast standouts Brennan Ward, Todd Chattelle and Keith Jeffrey. Seeing Pollard (8-6, 4 KOs) No. 1 among middleweights might be somewhat surprising since his win over Egan in March was his first fight at 185 pounds, but even at welterweight (170) the Plymouth, Mass., native was considered one of the top strikers in the northeast, a reputation he earned early in his career by winning three of his first five fights by knockout.
Beekman is a well-rounded fighter, not a specialist in any particular area, so it remains to be seen whether he’ll want to stand and trade with Pollard or try to take the fight to the canvas, which would neutralize Pollard’s striking.
“Against me, I always assume people will try to take me down,” Pollard said. “Obviously, I plan on staying on my feet, but I’m ready to take it anywhere it needs to be.”
Interestingly enough, Pollard didn’t hone his skills in the boxing ring, but rather by watching and emulating boxing greats such as Pernell Whitaker and Roy Jones Jr.
“Their styles were similar to mine. I picked up a lot from them,” he said. “Karate was always my base, but I never had a boxing fight. I competed in karate from the time I was 6 up until my teens and just fell in love with it.”
Regardless of strategy, fans can expect a strong, back-and-forth battle between two seemingly relaxed fighters who don’t appear to be burdened by the pressure that normally comes with being ranked among the elite in their weight class.
As Pollard said, “everyone wants to be in the UFC,” but being ranked No. 1 in the northeast after beating Egan hasn’t changed his outlook on the immediate future, nor has it added any unwanted stress heading into a high-profile nationally televised bout.
“I’ve been a Top 10 fighter my whole career, or an honorable mention, whatever,” he said. “I’m always the same fighter, whether I’m No. 1 or I’m last on the list. It’s cool to have people notice you, but at the same time you have to try to not let it be too much of a big deal.
“MMA is always about, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ I’ve had big wins before, but they don’t really matter because it’s all about what you did in your last fight.”
Beekman knows the feeling. He, too, was coming off back-to-back losses facing a crossroads in his career before his fight against Egan in November, his first in more than a year after losing to Ward and Jeffrey in a three-month span in 2012.
“It was a big win for me,” Beekman said of beating Egan by unanimous decision. “Now I’m really, really excited to get back in there and get my feet wet again.
“For any fighter, being on TV is always going to be big exposure. To me, it’s whatever, but I’m going to enjoy it. I can say I was on TV at least once in my career. There’s nothing bad about that. As for pressure, you always have pressure. What can you really do? You either win or lose. It’s all up to you.”
The possibility of losing doesn’t scare either fighter. Harley dropped back-to-back fights in 2012 and Pollard lost two in a row last year before bouncing back with a win over Egan. They’re cool, calm and ready to battle in what could be the biggest fight of their careers, even if neither side is looking at it that way.
“Obviously, I want to win, but I’m just trying to have fun out there,” Pollard said. “I really don’t stress it too much. This sport is like a rollercoaster. Up and down. You’re bound to come back up. Even when I lost, I knew I was too good to keep losing.
“Some guys might be deterred by losing a few, but I love fighting. I’m not going to stop, so if I keep fighting, of course I’m going to win. I’m too good to lose these fights. I always felt like I was beating myself. My record doesn’t show what kind of fighter I am. At this point, it isn’t even about the wins and losses. It’s about being able to enjoy competing and getting paid to do what I love.”
The live network broadcast also features the return of Providence’s Luis Felix (11-7, 4 KOs) who will face former Ultimate Fighter contestant Julian Lane (7-2-1, 1 KO) for the vacant CES MMA lightweight title in a five-round bout.
Tickets for “CES MMA XXV” are on sale now at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesmma.com or www.twinriver.com or by phone at 401-724-2253/2254. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
In addition to Felix-Lane, the main card features the return of Brazilian lightweight Gil de Freitas (16-5, 5 KOs) of Ludlow, Mass., in a three-round bout against Newport News, Va., vet George Sheppard (15-7, 9 KOs); along with unbeaten featherweight Charles Rosa (8-0, 3 KOs) of Peabody, Mass., who now lives and trains in Delray Beach, Fla., battling Springfield, Ill., vet Jake Constant (5-4, 2 KOs).
On the preliminary card, Providence welterweight Eric Spicely (4-0, 1 KO) puts his undefeated record on the line against 37-fight veteran Nuri Shakir of Nashua, N.H.; Providence lightweight Keenan Raymond (2-0) battles Jay Bakanowski (1-1) of Northboro, Mass.; welterweight Tommy Venticinque (1-1) of Warwick, R.I., faces newcomer Wayne Alhquist of Nashua; and flyweight Billy Giovanella (5-1, 2 KOs) faces Andy Aiello (3-1, 2 KOs) of Bridgewater, Mass.
Middleweights Raphael Correia (2-1) of Danbury, Conn., and Terrell Clark (1-1, 1 KO) of Framingham, Mass., battle in a three-round bout; fan-favorite Tateki Matsuda (8-4, 3 KOs) of Boston faces Robbie Leroux (5-2, 4 KOs) of Fall River, Mass., in a bantamweight bout; and East Providence, R.I., welterweight Nate Andrews (6-0, 3 KOs) faces his toughest test to date in a three-round bout against Philadelphia’s Gemiyale Adkins (8-8, 3 KOs).