Nothing has changed stylistically for Nate Andrews during his recent six-fight win streak. No tweaks. No gimmicks. No inspirational quotes taped to the inside of his locker.
The Nate Andrew who’s steamrolled through his last six opponents is the same Nate Andrews who ran off six consecutive wins before suffering his first and only loss in 2014, minus the unnecessary pressure of keeping his perfect record intact.
“I go out there and have fun,” said the East Providence, R.I., lightweight, who fights Friday, April 6th, 2018 at Twin River Casino for the vacant CES MMA World Lightweight Title at “CES MMA 49” on AXS TV.
“Nerves don’t get to me like they did earlier in my career. Now it’s fun to me. That’s the most important thing.”
The cool, calm Andrews (12-1, 5 KOs) faces Chris Padilla (9-3, 4 KOs) of Gardena, Calif., in one of two five-round world title bouts on the “CES MMA 49” main card. Reigning CES MMA World Welterweight Champion Chris Curtis (17-5, 6 KOs) also returns to Twin River to defend his title against Lawton, Okla., veteran Jason Norwood (18-4, 5 KOs).
Tickets for “CES MMA 49” are priced at $47.00, $57.00, $102.00 and $152.00 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com, www.twinriver.com, www.cagetix.com or www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 401-724-2253/2254 or at the Twin River Casino Players Club. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Friday’s preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET with the televised main card airing live at 9.
Some would argue Andrews’ shot at a world title is long overdue since he quietly began his recent win streak with a first-round knockout over Jay Bakanowski at “CES MMA 29” in 2015, but Andrews truthfully never coveted the belt, not with teammate Luis Felix capturing the championship from Julian Lane later that year at “CES MMA 30.”
Like most fighters, Andrews has always had his sights on the UFC. Winning the title Friday would be the logical next step toward getting the call.
“Now that it’s open, I’m happy that I have this opportunity,” Andrews said. “I think it’s another notch on my belt. ‘Look at this guy’s record. It’s this good, and he has a belt.’ It’s one of those things that it’s almost like, ‘How can you deny him at that point?'”
Andrews’ recent hit list includes Lane, whom he eviscerated via second-round knockout at “CES MMA 33,” veteran George Sheppard and regional fan-favorite Bruce Boyington. Each of his last six wins have come by submission or knockout, including two in the third and final round against Manny Muro and Sheppard in back-to-back bouts.
“My work ethic is the same as it’s always been,” he said. “It’s always been about, ‘Give it your all, or don’t do it all.’ My work ethic hasn’t changed. My skill level has gotten way better. I’ve learned more over time, I’ve gotten better, and I’ve learned how to really understand the game more and put it all together. Since then, besides that, the work ethic is the same it’s always been. Give it 110 percent.”
While Andrews’ approach hasn’t changed much, if at all, it’s clear he’s more polished and better prepared both mentally and physically to handle his recent ascent to the top of the lightweight division. His manager, Tyson Chartier — himself a former fighter — also manages Rob Font, Calvin Kattar and Kyle Bochniak, all of whom competed together at UFC 220 in Boston, so Andrews’ name has certainly come up in conversations between Chartier and UFC executives.
At this point, Andrews knows the only thing he can control is his own performance in the cage. It takes a little luck, too, to get that call, especially in the red-hot lightweight division, which is loaded with talent at the UFC level from Tony Ferguson to Khabib Nurmagomedov, and even Connor McGregor, who remains among the top 10 at 155 pounds despite not having fought since 2016.
“It’s not like they’re just hiring lightweights left and right,” Andrews said. “For lightweights, it’s definitely one of those things where if someone gets hurt, or someone backs out of a fight, they go through their roster first and if no one takes it, they say, ‘Who’s out there? Who can we get in?’ It’s also who you know, too. It’s good to have certain connections that you make over the years that try to help you get that opportunity, too.”
Padilla presents a unique challenge. He won his first seven pro fights, ran into a bit of a rough patch in 2017 and has since rebounded with wins in two of his last three sandwiched around an appearance on Bellator 192. Friday will be his first appearance with CES MMA.
“He’s a very tough guy,” Andrews said. “I think he’s going to come out hard like he always does and I think he’s very tough, but I just don’t think he’s fought anyone at my level or anyone of my caliber of skill level. He’s going to come out tough, but I’m going to be a handful for him.”
While this is Andrews’ first five-round fight in addition to his first title bout, he’s maintained a consistent approach to his training routine without much outside interference, not even from Felix, whom he declined to seek out for advice on handling the pressure of fighting for a championship. The way he sees it, no one can guide him better than himself.
“I actually always train as if I’m training for a five-round fight, so I feel like I’ve been training for a title fight my whole career,” Andrews said. “Every fight has been a title fight for me.”
Andrews hasn’t fought three full rounds since his loss to Gemiyale Adkins four years ago, but doesn’t expect conditioning to be a problem, not with the way he trains for each bout. He’s prepared for whatever happens Friday, whether it’s a quick finish or a long night at the office.
“I’m ready to go. I train hard,” he said. “Obviously, I want to get the finish early and get in there and get out, but I’m ready to get in that deep water and show him how much I can swim.”
The AXS TV main card also features the return of UFC vet Sean Soriano (10-5, 5 KOs) of Woonsocket, R.I., red-hot welterweight Gary Balletto Jr. (5-1, 2 KOs) of nearby Cranston, and fan-favorite Kaline Medeiros (8-6, 2 KOs) of Fall River, Mass.
Balletto Jr., a winner in his last five bouts, returns to face Philadelphia native Jeremiah Wells (3-1-1, 1 KO). Soriano makes his third consecutive appearance with CES MMA in a featherweight bout against Jonathan Gary (13-9, 7 KOs) of Oklahoma City while Medeiros, a four-time Invicta Fighting Championships and two-time CES MMA vet, battles Brooklyn’s Jenna Serio (3-2, 1 KO).
Unbeaten flyweight Richie Santiago (6-0, 1 KO) of Milford, Mass., puts his perfect record on the line on the main card in a showdown against Binghamton, N.Y., native Matt Almy (3-1, 1 KO).
Providence, R.I., bantamweight Marquis Brewster (4-0, 1 KO) highlights the six-fight preliminary card in his toughest test to date against Tashawn Mack (6-4, 1 KO) of Lansing, Mich., who makes his second appearance with CES MMA. Unbeaten Providence bantamweight John Douma (2-0, 1 KO) returns for the third time to face Cortland, N.Y., vet Zachary Burhans (3-1) and Jose Lugo (1-0) of Woonsocket makes his second appearance with the promotion in a flyweight bout against Bronx debut Carlos Rodriguez Jr.
Also on the preliminary card, Springfield, Mass., lightweight Pat Casey debuts against Ryan Castro of Patchogue, N.Y., while light heavyweights Terrance Jean-Jacques of Haverhill, Mass., and Mark Glover of Elmira, N.Y., make their professional debuts against one another in a three-round bout.