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May 9, 2017

Fan-favorite Soriano has eyes set on huge 2017

[CES Press Release]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (May 8th, 2017) -- Like most fighters, Sean Soriano wants to take advantage of CES MMA's sterling reputation as a gateway to the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), a path traveled by other regional standouts such as John Howard, Tateki Matsuda and countless others.

The difference for the Providence, R.I., native, who now lives and trains in Boca Raton, is he wants to do it on his terms with the leverage on his side, a rarity for fighters under the promotional guidance of MMA's most sought-after conglomerate.

Soriano (9-5, 4 KOs) makes his long-awaited homecoming Friday, May 12th, 2017on the main card of "CES MMA 44" at Twin River Casino, fighting live on AXS TV and in his home state for the first time in five years in a nationally-televised featherweight bout against Jacob Bohn (5-2, 1 KO).

"There's nothing like being in Rhode Island," said Soriano, who ultimately moved south to train with the famed Blackzillians. "Everywhere you go, you know someone or someone knows you. You feel at home."

The 27-year-old Soriano is a byproduct of what some would derisively describe as the UFC experience; he made the jump in 2014, agreeing to fight Tatsuya Kawajiri in Singapore on just three weeks' notice. Eight months later, he battled through multiple staph infections during training camp prior to facing Chas Skelly, a replacement for his original opponent, at UFC Fight Night 50 in Connecticut with friends and family in the audience.

Following a loss to fellow New England featherweight and CES alum Charles Rosa in Rosa's hometown of Boston in January of 2015, the UFC released Soriano nine days later, a brutal reminder of just expendable fighters become at that level when the supply is far greater than the demand.

In hindsight, Soriano wishes he had been "smarter" when choosing or accepting fights, but the pressure to jump whenever the UFC calls often coaxes fighters into matchups they're not 100 percent comfortable with because of the stigma that comes with turning down an opportunity.

"They play a game with you. You're in their world," Soriano said. "I've heard all the stories from teammates. They say they'd call them about fight and if they didn't like it they'd say, 'Now you have to wait two months.' Why? Because I didn't like a particular matchup? You're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

"I knew that's how I'd get in. I had friends tell me, 'You'll be a replacement,' or 'You'll get called late.' Sure enough, I fought Kawajiri on three weeks' notice. I flew to Singapore myself. I was there alone for the week until [my coach] Henri Hooft arrived. Imagine being there alone."

Soriano admits the pressure to perform in front of fans who'd already bought tickets also influenced his decision to fight Skelly in September of 2014, but ultimately blames himself for his shortcomings, citing "decisions I made in the cage" more than anything else.

More than two years removed from his last bout with the UFC, Soriano is intent on controlling his own destiny the second time around. He returned to CES in September, suffering a tough loss to Levan Makashvili in Connecticut on the main card of "CES MMA 38."

With losses in three of his last five bouts, Friday could be as close to a "must-win" scenario as it gets for Soriano. He's got his sights set on a big 2017, perhaps culminating in a title bout with reigning CES MMA World Featherweight Champion Matt Bessette, who defends his title against Texas' Rey Trujillo (22-18, 15 KOs) in Friday's main event.

"I'm just looking at this year," he said. "I'm going to win this fight Friday, fight two more times for CES and go 3-0 in 2017. Then next year I'll worry about whatever happens."

Soriano's path could follow that of Howard, who was released by the UFC in 2011, won five consecutive fights with CES MMA (four by knockout) and subsequently earned a second shot with the UFC, where he fought seven more times until 2015.

"I'm trying to get my career back in order and CES is the best way to go," Soriano said. "They've always showed me love.

"I have to control my own destiny. I have to be smart about things. Not a lot of people get second chances. I have to make sure it's the right time and make sure I stay and do what I do. I need to win. When I win, everything follows."

Similar to teammate Andre Soukhamthath, himself a Rhode Island native who moved to Florida to train with the Blackzillians and earned a spot on the UFC roster, Soriano is relying on the depth of knowledge he's gained since rolling the dice and relocating several years ago.

"Obviously, my career has had a lot of ups and downs. Being out here, being around this much talent and around this mindset, I used to tell Andre before he moved that the biggest thing I learned is not just about fighting, but about how they live, how they do things, how they work.

"When I came out here, I had the chance to corner guys in UFC fights. You see how things should be, how things should work. The little things I've learned about the game, I might not have learned anywhere else.

"I've got to be real with myself, too. A lot of people are delusional. You have to look in the mirror and understand how you have to go about it. That's how I got to the UFC. I understood. I saw the future. I knew I needed to be where the best were."

Tickets for "CES MMA 44" are priced at $40.00, $55.00, $100.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at,, or by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.

The Bessette-Trujillo five-round title bout headlines a stacked main card, which also includes the return of Providence heavyweight Greg Rebello (21-7, 13 KOs), looking to continue his climb back to the top of the division in a scheduled three-round bout against Colorado's Kevin Ray Sears (6-3, 3 KOs).

Welterweights Jon Manley (9-3) of Adams, Mass., and Manny Walo (11-2, 2 KOs) of Jersey City, N.J., clash in a CES MMA title eliminator with the winner facing reigning world champion Chris Curtis.

Manley, a standout on Season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter, makes his third CES MMA appearance and first since 2015 while Walo returns hoping to earn a second shot at the CES MMA World Welterweight Title following a stunning, 11-second knockout loss to then champion Chuck O'Neil in his first opportunity at "CES MMA 27." Manley has won his last four, including two appearances with World Series of Fighting (WSOF), and eight of nine overall.

The reigning champion Curtis, now 15-5 overall, recently defended his title at "CES MMA 42," stopping challenger Wilfredo Santiago via second-round knockout on AXS TV.

Light heavyweight Mike Rodriguez (6-2, 4 KOs) of Quincy, Mass., who has made quick work of his last two opponents in a combined 46 seconds, jumps right back in on the main card "CES MMA 44" against New Jersey's Alec Hooben (5-2, 1 KO) and undefeated flyweight Carlos Candelario (5-0, 1 KO) of New Britain, Conn., faces Grand Rapid, Mich., native Shawn Mack (6-2, 1 KO).

Rodriguez set a new CES MMA record with his 7-second knockout win over Hector Sanchez in January and pummeled James Dysard in just 39 seconds at "CES MMA 43," earning him his third appearance on AXS TV Fights on May 12th. Candelario, a rising star in the flyweight division, makes his fifth appearance with CES MMA after submitting Miguel Restrepo in January.

The preliminary card features the return of three-time CES MMA vet Toby Oden (2-1, 1 KO) of Milford, Mass., making his first appearance since 2015 plus two exciting female bouts. Oden faces Paul Sims of Philadelphia, who makes his professional debut. Oden last fought at "CES MMA 29," scoring a first-round knockout win over Wayne Alhquist.

Also on the preliminary card, undefeated female flyweight Maria Rivera (2-0, 1 KO) of Framingham, Mass., returns for the third time since January in a three-round bout against New Haven, Conn., pro debut Marisa Messer-Belenchia while renowned bantamweight prospect Kerri Kenneson of Hooksett, N.H., debut against unbeaten Jennifer Norris (3-0, 1 KO) of Baltimore.

Milford, Conn., middleweight Justin Sumter (3-1, 2 KOs), who earned an impressive first-round knockout win in his CES MMA debut at "CES MMA 43" in Massachusetts, returns to face unbeaten Sandwich, Mass., native Brian Sparrow (2-0), who makes his second appearance with CES MMA in his first fight since 2013. Middleweight Adam Quitt (1-4) of Framingham, Mass., ends his three-year layoff against Brazilian Reginaldo Felix (0-2).

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-- CES --