CES MMA 48 on Feb. 2nd

Two tours in Afghanistan and an opioid addiction failed to knock out Brian Marino.

It’s hard to imagine a mere mortal standing in his way.

The 32-year-old North Attleboro, Mass., native returns to the cage for the first time in eight years Friday night at Twin River Casino, three years removed from his final tour as a U.S. Army Sergeant and nearly 10 months since quitting prescription pain-killers cold turkey.

Marino’s tumultuous journey back to mixed martial arts resumes Friday, Feb. 2nd, 2018 in a three-round welterweight bout against Jerome Mickle (2-3, 1 KO) of the Bronx on the main card of “CES MMA 48,” which airs live on AXS TV Fights. Marino enters relaxed as can be, knowing the fight inside the cage can’t possibly be tougher than the real-life battles he faced both on and off the battlefield.

“I got that in the back of my mind the whole time,” said Marino, who sports a 5-1 record ahead of Friday’s comeback bout. “This dude’s not shooting at me. There are no grenades. There are no [explosives]. I’m not going to step on a roadside bomb walking out to the cage.”

A former standout wrestler at North Attleboro High School, Marino discovered MMA while working his way back into shape after graduation. He had landed a job with the bricklayers’ union, but admits the daily grind of getting up each morning and working long hours forced him to lose the competitive edge that made him such a standout athlete in the first place.

After trying out a few MMA classes at his nearby gym, one of the local promoters approached him about fighting professionally.

“I remember thinking, ‘No way! I’d never be able to do that,'” Marino said. “A couple months later, there I was in the cage fighting.”

Marino fought six times in a year and a half after turning pro in 2009, but MMA wasn’t paying the bills, so in the midst of training for fights, he began pursuing a career as a correctional officer. He aced the written test, but cites “politics” as the reason he couldn’t get a job in his field, so he took the next-best route and joined the military, fulfilling what he admits was always a lifelong dream.

“It was something I just always wanted to do,” he said.

Marino drew inspiration from the late Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety who left the NFL to join the Army in 2002 and also served in Afghanistan before dying from friendly fire two years later.

“If he can leave a multi-million dollar contract to go defend his country,” Marino said, “why can’t I as just a local fighter?”

Marino served two tours, one year-long trip to Afghanistan in 2011 immediately after completing basic training and another in 2013 that spanned nine months. The first tour featured a few “close calls,” as Marino put it, but he managed to stay out of harm’s way the second time around in the scout platoon serving in a personal security detachment role for his troop’s sergeant major and commander.

Two days before he returned home for the final time, his ex-wife gave birth to their son, Landon. Shortly thereafter, he was prescribed Percocet to deal with a back injury he suffered overseas, which is when his real trouble began.

By then, his ex-wife and son were staying in Louisiana while he still lived in North Attleboro. In addition to readjusting to civilian life and working days as an iron worker, Marino had to deal with the fact his son lived more than 1,500 miles away. The drugs helped mask the pain, but his family soon intervened. Rather than check into a rehabilitation center, Marino quit on the spot and has been clean since last April.

Even with everything around him seemingly caving in, Marino always dreamt of resuming his career in MMA. Before his final fight, a win over Dan Bonnell in November of 2010, Marino spent eight weeks of his training camp in Illinois at UFC vet Matt Hughes’ gym, The Hit Squad, working alongside fellow UFC standout Robbie Lawler and world-renowned coach Marc Fiore, among others. It changed his perspective on the kind of tutelage he needed to succeed at a higher level.

“It was a night and day difference,” Marino said, “so I knew in order to continue this I would need to be in a gym or in a room where there are guys at that level.”

Marino eventually joined Lauzon MMA in Easton, Mass., home of 25-time UFC vet Joe Lauzon. Former CES MMA standouts and current UFCA contenders Rob Font, Calvin Kattar and Kyle Bochniak frequent Lauzon’s as well, most recently in preparation for the UFC 220 fights in Boston.

“That was probably one of the greatest decisions I made,” Marino said. “Every Saturday and Wednesday that place is like a who’s who of New England fighters.

“I shopped around to a few different gyms to see where I fit in best and whatnot and Lauzon’s was the fit. There are a lot of guys like me in that gym, guys that will really give it to you sparring-wise, blast you with combos, but then afterward kind of talk to you and help you. ‘I caught you with this combo because you were doing this.’

“You go to some other gyms and ask, ‘How’d you do that? What’d you do?’ and they’re like, ‘Figure it out on your own.’ Yeah, MMA, when you fight, is one-on-one. It’s you and the other guy in the cage, but it’s a team sport in the sense of your team and your partners are what get you ready for it.”

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As he begins the second phase of his MMA career this weekend, Marino still plans on pursuing a career a correctional officer. He’ll willingly balance both jobs because, he says, he cannot work a 9-to-5 like most people. The life he lives is the only life he knows. Given everything he’s overcome outside of the cage, he’s going to be difficult to stop come Friday night.

“I couldn’t be that guy who goes to work, goes to the gym and comes home. I had to have something else that I’m driving for,” Marino said. “I always say, ‘Fuck average.’ I don’t want to be average. I don’t want to be your average guy.”

Tickets for “CES MMA 48” 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.

Providence, R.I., heavyweight Greg Rebello (23-8, 14 KOs) headlines the event in a five-round title bout against 96-fight vet and former UFC and Bellator contender Travis Wiuff (75-25-1) of Minnesota for the vacant CES MMA World Heavyweight Championship.

The preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET with the televised main card following at 9.

In addition to the Rebello-Wiuff headliner, the “CES MMA 48” main card features the return of top prospects Dinis Paiva Jr. (10-6, 6 KOs) of East Providence, R.I., and Peabody, Mass., bantamweight Rico DiSciullo (8-1, 3 KOs).

Paiva Jr. faces Minneapolis veteran Kevin Barberena (5-3) in a featherweight bout. The two boast matching three-fight win streaks; Paiva’s recent run includes back-to-back wins on AXS TV, while Barberena has won three in a row – all by submission – dating back to April of 2016. DiSciullo steps up to face Jaime Hernandez (2-1) of Colorado. DiSciullo makes his eighth appearance with CES MMA and enters his bout against Hernandez on a two-fight win streak.

The “CES MMA 48” main card also features the Rhode Island and Twin River debut of three-time Bellator vet Tim Caron (8-1, 4 KOs) of Manchester, N.H., in a middleweight bout against Maryland’s Timothy Woods (7-5, 4 KOs), plus a featherweight showdown between unbeaten Dylan Lockard (3-0, 1 KO) of Hollis, N.H., and Cortland, N.Y., vet Shane Manley (3-3).

Female strawweight Hilarie Rose of Norfolk, Mass., is one of five fighters debuting on the preliminary card. Rose faces Linsey Williams (0-2) of Coon Rapids, Mich. Middleweights Tommy Davis of Marblehead, Mass., and Armus Guyton of Ithaca, N.Y., debut against one another while light heavyweight Fabio Cherant of Wrentham, Mass., makes his pro debut against the Plattsburgh, N.Y., native Dysard (0-3). Brandon Morrotte of Hampstead, N.H., debuts in a three-round featherweight bout against Elmira, N.Y., native Quentin Gaskins (1-4).

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Greg Rebello gave himself an ultimatum when he flew out to Vegas in July to compete on the inaugural episode of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.

“I told myself, if I get outclassed and I get destroyed, then that’s it for me,” Rebello said. “There’s no need for me to continue and fight again.”

Rebello fought tooth and nail with heavyweight Azunna Anyanwu, establishing a comfortable pace until Anyanwu caught him with an overhand right that sent Rebello crashing to the canvas, ending the fight 3 minutes and 4 seconds into the second rough. A tough loss, yes, but by no means the type of overwhelming defeat that would’ve forced the 35-year-old Providence, R.I., to rethink his future in mixed martial arts.

“I was doing good. I felt like I was starting to get into a groove and felt like I was going to win that fight. It was an awesome experience until I decided to take a left step right into a right hand,” Rebello deadpanned.

The 31-fight vet stayed true to his promise and made a triumphant to the cage four months later, closing out 2017 with a convincing win over Derrick Brown. Now Rebello (23-8, 14 KOs) has his sights set on perhaps his toughest to date, a five-round championship showdown against former Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) and Bellator mainstay Travis Wiuff in the main event of “CES MMA 48” live from Twin River Casino on Friday, Feb. 2nd, 2018.

The Rebello-Wiuff fight, which will be contested for the vacant CES MMA World Heavyweight Title live on AXS TV Fights, replaces the originally-scheduled Matt Bessette-Jamall Emmers fight after Bessette withdrew from the card to compete at UFC 220 last weekend in Boston.

Wiuff (75-21, 24 KOs) boasts a wealth of experience, 96 fights to be exact, over the course of 16 years in professional MMA. In addition to the UFC and Bellator, the well-traveled Wiuff also fought for PRIDE Fighting Championships and World Victory Road in Japan and enjoyed a brief stint with the short-lived International Fight League in 2006.

Among his most notable achievements, Wiuff won three titles on the independent circuit between 2005 and 2011, outlasted seven other heavyweights with three victories in one night to capture the YAMMA Eight-Man Heavyweight Tournament Championship in 2008, and advanced to the finals of the Bellator 2012 Summer Series Light Heavyweight Tournament.

Rebello had other options for his Feb. 2nd return — some with less experience than Wiuff — but chose the toughest path in hopes of earning the type of signature victory that could put his name back in the spotlight.

“Arguably, Travis is the most well-experienced and has the most big-show experience of anyone who’s fought for CES. That’s a fact,” Rebello said.

“Travis has fought for world titles, he’s fought [12] times for the UFC and Bellator, he’s fought for PRIDE – he’s fought everywhere. He’s been around the block. A win over him is definitely something that will open eyes.”

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Rebello almost didn’t make it this far. Following the birth of his first child, Mya, in 2012, Rebello admittedly struggled with balancing fighting and fatherhood. Eight months later, Rebello announced his retirement after a sluggish performance in a loss to Lewis Rumsey at “CES MMA 17” with a tearful goodbye to the Twin River crowd. By the end of the year, he had reversed course and returned with a vengeance, winning seven of his next nine fights to set up his date with destiny in Nevada last summer.

Life outside of the cage is a little less hectic, even with a two-year-old son, Cameron, added to the mix. Rebello is now moonlighting as a personal trainer at his wife Nicole Costa’s gym, Body Rock Fitness & Nutrition in Lincoln, which recently expanded to two floors in order to accommodate its growing clientele. The balancing act has become much easier, and Rebello is flexible with his clients, whether it’s teaching women’s self-defense boxing classes or weight-training.

The best part? He’s in the gym more than ever before, beginning a process he calls “un-fattening” himself as he wraps up his training camp for next week’s fight.

“I’ve got no excuse,” Rebello said.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Doesn’t this take time away from training?’ No, because I’ll get there first thing in the morning, train four to five people, then I work out myself, get home, eat, take care of my son and then I drop him off to the babysitter and go back to the gym to train. I actually get more training sessions in.”

His dedication is unmatched. At 35, Rebello’s aware he probably only has one more run left in him before the last grain of sand slips through the hourglass. He continues to draw motivation from anywhere he can get it. After beating Rebello in July, Anyanwu went on to face undefeated heavyweight Justin Ledet at UFC Fight Night 116, losing a controversial split decision.

“I thought [Anyanwu] won, but they gave the other guy the decision,” Rebello said. “That just tells me I can get in there and compete.”

There’s also irony in the fact Bessette got the call to compete at UFC 220 even though he, too, lost in Nevada in July after dislocating his thumb in the opening round the same night Rebello faced Anyanwu. Bessette made his UFC debut against Enrique Barzola, replacing Allen Arnold, who was forced to withdraw due to visa issues.

“If you look throughout my career, how many times have I been right on the fence? I either lost a really tough fight, or I’ve gotten on a really good win streak and the fight I needed to win, I just came up short,” Rebello said. “That’s kind of how it’s always been. It is what it is. But I’ve never been one of those guys to say, ‘I’m not good enough,’ and quit. I know I’m good enough.

“Sometimes, it’s a crazy sport. If you give one inch, it can be the end of the night for you. It was tough, it was frustrating, but I was happy for Matt. Whatever. It just means I have to step up and fight, because I don’t want to sit on the shelf.”

Wiuff is as well-rounded as it gets; in addition to his 24 knockout wins, he’s won an additional 25 fights by submission and 26 by decision. Rebello compares him to Mike Stewart, whom he faced in 2012. Rebello lost that fight by third-round submission, overwhelmed by Stewart’s size and strength, but considers himself better-equipped for that type of fight now that he’s had extensive wrestling training under at Tri-Force MMA in Pawtucket.

“When I fought Mike I wasn’t really wrestling,” Rebello said. “I wasn’t training at Tri-Force. We have a lot more wrestlers and a lot more grapplers there, so I definitely got exposed with the wrestling. I thought my wrestling was decent, but it obviously wasn’t. Since then, I’ve filled that gap training with guys like Brennan Ward, Pete Jeffrey and all of them wrestlers at Tri-Force.

“[Wiuff] kind of has that style where he puts you on defense and tries to grind you and beat you up. I’m a lot better now than I was then, so it’ll be a different story.”

Feb. 2nd is also Rebello’s second shot at the CES MMA title. He lost to Ashley Gooch with the belt on the line at “CES MMA 37.” Gooch ultimately lost his first title defense to Juliano Coutinho, who promptly retired to vacate the belt a second time. More importantly, it’s an opportunity to earn a signature and put himself back on the map.

“This is the fight we were looking for,” Rebello said. “I’m 35. It’s now or never. I’ve got to go out and get my name out there, and a win over Travis is going to do that.”

Tickets for “CES MMA 48” are priced at $47.00, $57.00, $102.00 and $127.00 (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.

The preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET with the televised main card following at 9.

In addition to the Rebello-Wiuff headliner, the “CES MMA 48” main card features the return of top prospects Dinis Paiva Jr. (10-6, 6 KOs) of East Providence, R.I., and Peabody, Mass., bantamweight Rico DiSciullo (8-1, 3 KOs).

Paiva Jr. faces Minneapolis veteran Kevin Barberena (5-3) in a featherweight bout. The two boast matching three-fight win streaks; Paiva’s recent run includes back-to-back wins on AXS TV, while Barberena has won three in a row — all by submission — dating back to April of 2016. DiSciullo steps up to face Jaime Hernandez (2-1) of Colorado. DiSciullo makes his eighth appearance with CES MMA and enters his bout against Hernandez on a two-fight win streak.

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The “CES MMA 48” main card also features the Rhode Island and Twin River debut of three-time Bellator vet Tim Caron (8-1, 4 KOs) of Manchester, N.H., in a middleweight bout against Maryland’s Timothy Woods (7-5, 4 KOs), plus a featherweight showdown between unbeaten Dylan Lockard (3-0, 1 KO) of Hollis, N.H., and Cortland, N.Y., vet Shane Manley (3-3).

Woods also boasts an appearance with Bellator in 2014 on the preliminary card of Bellator 118, defeating Eugene Fadiora by unanimous decision, his most noteworthy win to date. Lockard returns to CES MMA for the first time since November of 2016 when he defeated Russell Campbell by first-round submission. Manley won his only bout with the promotion at “CES MMA 31” in 2015 before facing veteran former CES MMA title-challenger Chris Foster at Bellator 178.

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With a spot up for grabs in the main event of CES MMA’s 2018 season-opener, veteran heavyweight Greg Rebello is stepping into the proverbial batter’s box to take one more shot at an elusive world title.

Rebello headlines “CES MMA 48,” scheduled for Friday, Feb. 2nd, 2018 live on AXS TV Fights from Twin River Casino, in a five-round bout against 96-fight vet Travis Wiuff of Rochester, Minn., for the vacant CES MMA World Heavyweight Title.

Wiuff boasts an impressive resume that includes 75 wins — 24 by knockout and an additional 25 by submission — with an appearance on nearly every major promotion over the past 17 years, among them the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), Bellator, PRIDE Fighting Championships and World Victory Road in Japan, plus the short-lived International Fight League, which featured team competition.

Rebello (23-8, 14 KOs), the Providence, R.I., native and longtime standout on the regional circuit, fights for the CES MMA strap for the second time. In August of 2016, he faced Ashley Gooch for the then-vacant crown at “CES MMA 37,” but lost by third-round knockout despite a valiant effort in which he hit Gooch with everything he had over the first two rounds. Gooch lost the belt in his first title defense at “CES MMA 45” against Juliano Coutinho, who promptly retired to vacate the title for a second time.

Feb. 2nd will be Rebello’s 16th appearance with CES MMA. He rebounded from his loss to Gooch with back-to-back wins over Danyelle Williams and Kevin Sears, earning him a spot on the inaugural episode of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in Nevada this past summer against Azunna Anyanwu. Rebello, 35, fought four times last year for the first time since 2013 and just the third time in his career.

The Rebello-Wiuff title bout replaces the originally-scheduled main event between CES MMA World Featherweight Champion Matt Bessette and Californian Jamall Emmers, which was scratched when Bessette earned a spot on the preliminary card of UFC 220 this past weekend in Boston, one of four CES MMA alumni to compete at the event. The list also included Calvin Kattar, former CES MMA title-holder Rob Font and Kyle Bochniak, continuing the longstanding tradition of CES MMA carving a path to the UFC for the region’s top fighters.

Tickets for “CES MMA 48” are priced at $47.00, $57.00, $102.00 and $127.00 (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.

The preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET with the televised main card following at 9. Veteran MMA journalist Ron Kruck and UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich handle the play-by-play and color commentary, respectively, for AXS TV Fights. This year’s season-opener also doubles as a Super Bowl kickoff party in New England with fans encouraged to wear either New England Patriots or Philadelphia Eagles apparel to the event to enter to win door prizes. Super Bowl LII is scheduled 48 hours later on Feb. 4th.

In addition to the Rebello-Wiuff headliner, the “CES MMA 48” main card features the return of top prospects Dinis Paiva Jr. (10-6, 6 KOs) of East Providence, R.I., and Peabody, Mass., bantamweight Rico DiSciullo (8-1, 3 KOs).

Paiva Jr. faces Minneapolis veteran Kevin Barberena (5-3) in a featherweight bout. The two boast matching three-fight win streaks; Paiva’s recent run includes back-to-back wins on AXS TV, while Barberena has won three in a row — all by submission — dating back to April of 2016.

DiSciullo steps up to face three-time CES MMA vet Brandon Seyler (7-6, 1 KO) of Erie, Pa., in a bout originally scheduled for 2016 on the “CES MMA 35” undercard. Seyler earned his first win with the promotion at “CES MMA 45,” defeating Kris Moutinho by submission before facing Paiva on AXS TV at “CES MMA 46” in October. DiSciullo makes his eighth appearance with CES MMA and enters his bout against Seyler on a two-fight win streak.

The “CES MMA 48” main card also features the promotional and Twin River debut of three-time Bellator vet Tim Caron (8-1, 4 KOs) of Manchester, N.H., in a middleweight bout against Maryland’s Timothy Woods (7-5, 4 KOs), plus a featherweight showdown between unbeaten Dylan Lockard (3-0, 1 KO) of Hollis, N.H., and Cortland, N.Y., vet Shane Manley (3-3).


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