Rob Font had about as good a year in 2013 as any fighter could hope for.
Imagine him being even better this year. It’s almost improbable, but not at all impossible for a fighter who defied the odds in a breakthrough 2013.
“I’m coming into this year taking names and collecting bodies,” said Font (8-1, 2 KOs), who’ll make his season debut Friday night at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.
“I’m here to win and fight, and I want to fight even bigger and better names this year.”
The reigning CES MMA featherweight champion will put his seven-fight win streak on the line against Bombsquad veteran Ahsan Abdullah (5-4, 2 KOs) at “CES MMA XXI.”
A Tampa, Fla., native, Font moved to Boston four years and didn’t even begin his amateur career until 2011. Less than three years later, he’s the premiere featherweight in the northeast, still the underdog in many ways despite his impressive resume as a pro.
Fighting with a chip on his shoulder is perhaps what makes Font such a dangerous adversary in the cage, not to mention the realization that this ride could end at any minute courtesy of a swift right hand or a tricky armbar.
“MMA, in general, is a humbling sport,” Font said. “You’re constantly getting beat up every day. You realize real fast you’re not the man. I have a black eye right now, and that actually came from an amateur coming up. We’re always, always in there sparring with tough guys.
“With those 4-ounce gloves, anything can happen at anytime, so I never take anything for granted. I always try to be as prepared as possible, but anything can happen. I’ve seen guys win fights when they’re losing all three rounds and at the last minute and a half they come up with the big knockout off baby clips and punches. It just happens. It’s definitely something to keep in the back of your mind when you’re out there.
“Knowing anything can happen is what keeps you alive. Your senses are up. I call it my spider senses. That tingling. I’m always aware. I know at any point a jab can put you on the ground.”
Font’s breakthrough performance in 2013 began in February when he dominated Saul Almeida, at the time considered one of the top featherweights in the northeast. It was Font’s coming-out party, so to speak, and he continued his rise to the top with wins over Lucas Cruz and Chris Foster, the latter for the then-vacant CES MMA featherweight title, a lopsided fight that ended by technical knockout four minutes into the opening round.
Font closed the year with another impressive win, beating Matt DiMarcantonio by unanimous decision in December, and is now focused on somehow topping his 2013 output with the ultimate encore performance in 2014.
As always, the first step won’t be easy, not against the veteran Abdullah, who’s fought in Rhode Island before, beating Shaun Marmas in June.
“The guy’s driving from New York, and you know he’s not trying to take that long ride home with an ‘L’ so he’s going to bring the fight,” Font said. “I think he has a perfect style for me. He’s going to be a perfect style, actually, for the fans. He’s coming forward, and I’m a better counter-puncher than coming forward, so, pretty much, I’m going to catch him coming in.”
“CES MMA XXI,” scheduled for Friday, Jan. 24, 2014, also features the return of fan-favorites Andre Soukhamthath (7-1, 4 KOs) of Woonsocket, R.I., and Pawtucket, R.I., middleweight Todd Chattelle (12-9, 9 KOs).
Chattelle is hoping for a fresh start in 2014 against the always dangerous Shedrick Goodridge (4-6, 2 KOs) of Rahway, N.J. Soukhamthath will face his toughest test to date in a possible early candidate for Fight of the Year against undefeated Cambridge, Mass., bantamweight Kin Moy (4-0, 1 KO). Soukhamthath is making his first trip back to the Ocean State since relocating to Boca Raton, Fla., where he now trains with the famed Blackzilians. Since making his CES MMA debut in 2012, Soukhamthath has won seven consecutive fights, including a knockout win over Corey Simmons in CES’ 2013 season finale in December in which he broke a tie with Chattelle to become the promotion’s winningest fighter.
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.
Dinis Paiva Jr. (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 Marmas (5-5, 1 KO) will face Matt 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 before losing to Abdullah in June.
Featherweight Kyle Bochniak of Winthrop, Mass., will make his professional debut in a separate three-round bout. 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.