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August 2, 2017

Almeida, Gonzalez collide for interim title at CES MMA 45

[CES Press Release]

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Aug. 2nd, 2017) -- It's been a long time coming for both Saul Almeida and Pedro Gonzalez, two of the northeast's most successful, talked-about fighters, who finally get their opportunity to lock horns for a title one week from Friday.

Combined, the veteran Massachusetts featherweights have fought 43 times over the span of nine years, boasting resumes as good as anyone in their weight class in the northeast.

On Friday, Aug. 11th, 2017, Framingham's Almeida (19-8, 1 KO) and Glocester's Gonzalez (12-5) meet face-to-face for the CES MMA Interim Featherweight Title on the main card of CES MMA 45 from Twin River Casino live on AXS TV, presumably for the opportunity to face reigning featherweight world-title holder Matt Bessette and unify the belts.

The Almeida-Gonzalez fight is one of two title fights and one of six televised bouts on AXS TV Fights, which airs live beginning at 9 p.m. ET. The nine-fight card also features the long-awaited return of reigning CES MMA Heavyweight Champion Ashley Gooch (10-5, 7 KOs) defending the strap against fan-favorite Juliano Coutinho (7-3, 3 KOs), plus the network television debut of Cranston, R.I., welterweight Gary Balletto Jr. (3-1, 1 KO).

Tickets for "CES MMA 45" 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.

Almeida and Gonzalez have traveled much different paths to the top of their weight class through the years. The 28-year-old Almeida, a submissions specialist and one of the most polarizing figures in regional MMA, has paid his dues on this circuit, fighting for various promotions - some defunct, some still thriving - including CES MMA, Bellator and the World Series of Fighting.

Aug. 11th marks his 11th appearance with CES MMA and he also boasts the distinction of being the only fighter on the card who also appeared on the promotion's inaugural event in 2010, a testament to his durability and willingness to fight anyone at any given time, making him a worthy candidate for the interim title.

"Ever since I began doing this, I wanted to collect titles and collect belts, because it means you're fighting the best around," said Almeida, who most recently defeated Josh LaBerge at CES MMA 42. "To have been a part of CES 1, it's been a journey, and it's been fun to travel along that road.

"Fighting for the interim title, it's a nice step. Winning just means it's a start. That's how I look at it. I can't wait."

Gonzalez, while not as ingrained into the CES MMA culture as much as Almeida has been through the years, has also put everything he has into this sport, in some cases risking personal and professional relationships, in order to reach his goal of becoming a world champion.

He's dealt with his share of setbacks, injuries or problems outside of the cage that have stalled his progress, but after winning his fifth consecutive bout in April at CES MMA 43 - a streak that remarkably spans five years, further illustrating the gap between fights he's endured - Gonzalez is back in the conversation among elite featherweights, a lesson to anyone watching that giving up is not an option.

"It's the same thing in life," Gonzalez added. "I've been through so much, yet I've come this far. Never give up. I've had some injuries, some personal problems, I've had so much going on - and I still do - but I'm not giving up until I get there. I'm one step closer to that."

As for the matchup itself, Almeida's lanky, 6-foot-1 frame and ability to wear down opponents is always a factor. Gonzalez, however, has earned submissions in 11 of his 12 victories, so he has no problem taking the fight to the canvas against an equally-adept submission specialist.

Asked how he thinks Almeida will approach the fight, Gonzalez said matter-of-factly, "Honestly, I don't know."

"It just goes by who wants it more. I've seen him fight multiple times. I know what he's bringing to the table. As far as how to beat him, I don't know. Once you get in that cage, everything changes. I'll just go in there and do what I do. I'm sure he'll try to grind it out. If that's what he does, whatever. I just hope what I've done in training leading up to this fight is enough."

Almeida, as always, remains confident. He's banking on his experience and unmatched resume being a difference-maker next Friday. He's faced some of the best, not just in the northeast, but in all relations, and feels there are few featherweights who can boast a similar claim.

"[Gonzalez] has been winning, but who's he been fighting? You know what I mean?" Almeida said. "I don't know if you can name one person in New England who is still actively in MMA who's fought tougher people than me. The list and the amount of names, I don't think you can name one.

"He's on a nice streak, good for him, and he's coming off another win and that's why he's here, and I'm coming off a win and that's why I'm here. He's a tough guy. I look forward to the challenge."

"Saul is going to try to get into my head a little bit. Whatever," countered Gonzalez. "That's his game plan. As soon as the cage door closes, it's just me and him in there. I'm just trying to keep my cool. I'm not trying to say anything or bash anyone. I respect Sityodtong, Juniko and everyone he trains with.":

In fact, Gonzalez used to actively avoid fighting opponents out of Sityodtong because he began training under Neil LeGallo, the right-hand man of owner Mark Dellagrotte.

"It was just a respect thing," Gonzalez said.

Times have changed, and, as Gonzalez says, he's at the point in his career where his focus is on "getting to the next level" more so than respecting his own history, so he's prepared to roll the dice against Almeida knowing the payoff for victory could be tremendous.

"It's for a title and it gets me closer either to Matt Bessette or another fight, but I haven't even thought of the belt," he said. "I'm trying not to think about it. It's just another win, another way for me to get closer to where I want to be."

The idea of an interim title being up for grabs created an initial stir on social media, even from Bessette, who suffered a recent thumb injury while competing on Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) president Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series in Nevada, but neither Gonzalez or Almeida have a problem with where this road might lead them.

"[Bessette] had a great opportunity to be on the Dana White show and I was pulling for him. I was hoping he would win, but stuff like that happens. He got injured. It's a business. That's how it works. He has the belt. If all goes well, hopefully I get a belt. If he wants to unify it, I'm more than happy to do so. I like him before and I'll like him after that, but a fight is a fight."

The heavyweight championship main event features a contrast of styles with the heavy-handed Gooch locking horns with the submission specialist Coutinho, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt fighting out of Wareham, Mass., making his third appearance with CES MMA.

Gooch captured the then-vacant title at "CES MMA 33" in August, knocking out Greg Rebello in the third round and snapping the Providence native's four-fight win streak. Aug. 11th will be his third appearance at Twin River, where he is currently 2-0 following wins over Rebello and Connecticut's Josh Diekmann in January of 2016.

In a highly-anticipated regional showdown that could steal the spotlight Aug. 11th, rising lightweight star Nate Andrews (10-1, 5 KOs) of East Providence, R.I., puts his four-fight win streak on the line against Maine native Bruce Boyington (14-10, 8 KOs), a veteran of 24 professional fights and a three-time WSOF vet.

Also on the main card, Balletto Jr. makes his television debut against Hooksett, N.H., vet Nick Alley (3-1, 1 KO). Balletto carries a three-fight win streak into next month's bout, most recently dismantling Chris Torres by first-round submission on the preliminary card of "CES MMA 42."

Unbeaten Milford, Mass., bantamweight Kris Moutinho (4-0, 1 KO) battles Erie, Pa., native Brandon Seyler (6-5-1, 1 KO), who makes his second appearance with CES MMA, and bantamweight Richie Santiago (4-0, 1 KO) puts his unbeaten record on the line on AXS TV against Queens, N.Y., vet Miguel Restrepo (4-3-1, 2 KOs).

The 4-0 Santiago, 24, finished each of his four fights by submission, most recently at "CES MMA 43" against Chad Kelly. Restrepo returns to Rhode Island after challenging unbeaten bantamweight Carlos Candelario at "CES MMA 41." Moutinho is off to a flying start as a pro with wins in all four of his bouts under the guidance of CES MMA, including an impressive unanimous decision win over seven-fight vet Lloyd Reyes at "CES MMA 42."

Highlighting the preliminary card, 20-year-old Providence, R.I., native John Douma against Jason Rine (0-2) of Danville, Ohio, following wins in each of his last three amateur bouts.

Ludlow, Mass., lightweight Leon Davis (8-3, 1 KO) returns to face Andrew Osborne (7-10, 2 KOs), the two-time CES MMA vet and North Carolina native who now lives and trains in North Providence, R.I. Osborne comes off an upset win over previously-unbeaten Connor Barry by unanimous decision at "CES MMA 43" while Davis, a winner in his last four fights, makes his seventh appearance with CES MMA.

Also on the preliminary card, unbeaten featherweight Dylan Lockhard (3-0) of Hollis, N.H., faces Cortland, N.Y., vet Ahsan Abdullah (7-7, 3 KOs). Lockhard earned his first two wins as a pro under the guidance of CES MMA, including a first-round submission win over Russell Campbell at "CES MMA 40" in November.

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