PROVIDENCE, R.I. (March 5th, 2014) — Tom Egan was just a wide-eyed, 20-year-old novice with an ear-to-ear grin when he fought for the Ultimate Fighting Championships in his native Ireland four years ago, unaware of the pressure he was about to face.
“I had literally just put on a pair of gloves for the first time less than two years before that fight,” Egan said.
The bright lights of mixed martial arts’ biggest stage and the pressure of fighting in front of more than 15,000 native fans in Dublin overwhelmed the young, inexperienced Egan (7-4, 6 KOs). He lost that night by first-round knockout, and yet despite relocating to the United States a year later to further his professional career, he’d love nothing more than an opportunity to return home and do it all again.
“To go back to Dublin and win, and do it with the UFC, would mean a lot to me,” said Egan, who will fight on the undercard of “CES MMA XII” against Chip Moraza-Pollard (7-6, 4 KOs) in a three-round middleweight bout at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I., on Friday, March 14th, 2014.
“I recently watched that fight again, and I was looking at myself thinking, ‘Wow, what a big smile I had on my face!’ Being able to fight on that stage was like growing up wanting to be in an action movie and then within two years you’re starring in the biggest action film in the world.
“It was definitely a lot of pressure, but it was meant to happen, because now I’m in the United States and I have a great life here. It’s been a great run.”
Tickets for “CES MMA XXII” 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.
Egan, who grew up in Kildare, a small town with a population under 9,000 in County Kildare, and speaks fluent Gaelic, relocated in 2010 to the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester, an area heavily-populated by Irish-Americans rich in Irish history and culture. He immediately felt right at home.
“I’m big into Irish history. I grew up speaking Gaelic and continue to study and speak it. I’m very passionate about it, and there’s a huge amount of Irish culture here,” Egan said.
“There’s no shortage of people who speak Gaelic, too, or who are familiar with fighting.”
Shortly after settling in, Egan met former Dorchester boxer and Ireland native Sean Mannion, who fought for the World Boxing Association (WBA) middleweight world title at Madison Square Garden in 1983. Egan soon became a part of Mannion’s circle, which includes many former fighters, some of Irish descent.
“Believe it or not, there are a lot of guys in there 50s who have some sort fighting background, whether it’s amateur or professional,” Egan said. “Sean and a lot of his buddies are still here. I knew those were definitely the guys I wanted to surround myself with.
“I’m not into MMA for the money, fame or recognition,” he continued. “I initially came here to better my fighting career. I’m not in this for anything other than the mental, physical and spiritual test. I truly believe MMA is the ultimate of those tests. That’s the reason I do it. I literally do it to test myself.”
Egan made his U.S. MMA debut in November in 2010, beating Eric Attard by second-round knockout, and has since become a fixture on the regional circuit, including his last two fights with CES MMA. He beat Aldo Santos in August of 2013 at Twin River before losing his last fight in November to veteran Harley Beekman.
“That was disappointing for me,” Egan said. “I trained hard — maybe a little too much mentally and physically in preparation. Maybe I overthought it. I was a little burnt out going into the cage, and it was too late that night to make adjustments.
“No excuses. Harley absolutely won the fight. With this fight coming up, I learned a lot from my last time out. I learned a lot about myself. I feel like my preparation has been far greater both mentally and physically. I’m excited to get back in there.”
Moraza-Pollard is coming off back-to-back losses, but has appeared in bouts for both Reality Fighting and the Bellator Fighting Championships and has faced a handful of New England’s top welterweights, including Keith Jeffrey and Brett Oteri.
“He’s got a lot of experience. I’m taking him very seriously,” Egan said. “I feel like a win over Chip would help me get back on the right track. A win over anyone, anywhere would get me on the path again and back to where I want to be.”
The main event of “CES MMA XXII” features Providence lightweight Luis Felix (10-7, 3 KOs) facing seven-time UFC vet Drew Fickett (42-20, 3 KOs) of Tucson, Ariz., who has won 31 bouts by submission.
Looking to keep the momentum going from his win over Chris Woodall in November, former TUF vet Chuck O’Neill (12-6, 4 KOs) of East Bridgwater, Mass., will battle Dade City, Fla., welterweight Roger Carroll (13-10) in a three-round bout. Caroll has won 11 bouts by submission. Lightweight contender Andres Jeudi (5-2, 1 KO) of Somerville, Mass., will face Brendan Rooney (5-1) of Shelton, Conn.
Also on the undercard, rising featherweight star and Johnson & Wales alum Charles Rosa (6-0, 3 KOs) of Boynton Beach, Fla., will return to Twin River for the fourth time in a three-round bout against Philadelphia veteran Brylan Van Artsdalen (9-9, 1 KO), an eight-time Bellator veteran.
Marshfield, Mass., featherweight Brendan Fleming (3-2) will take on Baltimore’s Robert Sullivan (3-1); fellow featherweight Josh LaBerge (8-4, 3 KOs) of Fall River, Mass., will battle Philadelphia’s Steve McCabe (6-14, 5 KOs); Tommy Venticinque (0-1) of Warwick, R.I., will face Rick Rivera of Springfield, Mass., in a welterweight bout; and Winthrop, Mass, featherweight Kyle Bochniak (1-0) will aim for his second win of the year when he faces Marius Enache (1-2) of Philadelphia.