CES 29’s Matt Bessette talks overcoming leukaemia, Bellator release and opponent Khama Worthy

61f9e7fc98b11beda1f7427d58379565With a 5-2 record in Bellator, featherweight Matt Bessette was surprised when the Viacom owned promotion decided not to renew his contract earlier this year. But that hasn’t stopped the Hartford native from keeping busy, as Bessette returns to the cage June 12th against Khama Worthy at CES 29. Fighting back and proving his critics wrong is nothing new for the 30-year old. At the age of three, Bessette spent most of his time in the hospital after he was diagnosed with leukaemia. Doctors believed he only had a 50% chance of survival and it was unlikely he’d see his fourth birthday. He beat the odds but would face another challenge as he was diagnosed shortly after with asthma. But Bessette didn’t shy away from playing sports, in fact he participated in a number of activities including baseball, soccer, basketball and football. Overcoming this adversity early on in his life has aided in his mental toughness inside the cage today. “It may be kind of cliché but ever since I was a little kid it was always ‘be positive’” Bessette told MMAOddsBreaker. “My mom was always telling me to be positive, be strong and be tough. She was always telling me that ‘it was it is, but you can get through it’ She was a very mentally strong person and I definitely got that from her. It was a rough start to my life, it kind of paved the way for the person that I am today.” Bessette went on to study at the University of Hartford and it was there he got involved in mixed martial arts by a close friend. Constantly being the underdog and overcoming adversity, he saw the appeal in MMA. “I grew up fighting; I was in a lot of fist fights growing up because I was the smaller kid. At the same time I would always stick up for myself. I was always picked on by my older brother [and] his friends. Then [when I was] 22 years old my best friend John, [invited me over] to watch some cage fighting videos. We watched a couple of videos UFC 1, UFC 2, Shamrock, Royce and some Renzo stuff. We were like ‘This is awesome; we got to sign up for this where do we go?’ A couple days later we found something online and it just snowballed from there.” Influenced mainly by former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, the Underdog BJJ product started his professional MMA career in 2007. After amassing an impressive 7-3 record, he was signed to Bellator MMA in 2012. While he recalls his excitment earning a contract with one of the biggest MMA promotions, he wasn’t brought in under the best circumstances. “I was very happy but I knew for sure I was brought in to lose.” Bessette explained. “[My debut opponent] Saul Almeida got offered a fight in the UFC a couple of weeks before but had to turn it down because he couldn’t make weight in such a short time. Also he was an interpreter for Bellator a few times; he was already 1-0 in the promotion, 12 and 1 overall. It was kind of bitter-sweet. I said ‘I’m going to out there and win. I’m going to be the underdog again and I’m going to come out on top.’ Before the fight I had a chip on my shoulder and after the fight I was really happy.” After a successful Bellator debut, Bessette won three straight in the promotion including a victory over UFC veteran Diego Nunes. Making it to the Season 10 featherweight tournament semi-final, Bessette would endure his first loss in two years to eventual tournament winner Daniel Weichel – by unanimous decision at Bellator 114. He followed that up with another setback to Scott Cleve at Bellator 123 last September, but would rebound this past February earning a TKO victory over Josh LaBerge at Bellator 134. Despite the win, Bessette’s contract was not renewed by Bellator. “It kind of bummed me out. Both the fights I lost, one was against [Daniel Weichel] who just beat Pat Curran and now is fighting [Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire] in a few weeks [at Bellator 138 on June 19th]. I easily could have beat him if I was able to kept it standing in that third round. He had me in a front headlock, I was just stupid and I sat on my butt thinking I could create a pendulum sweep out of it and obviously that wasn’t the case. You live and learn. Then the Cleve fight I don’t even know what the hell I was doing. I was on cruise control, just kind letting things happen. When I realized I was on cruise control it was too late. I know Bjorn really liked me and they were trying to build me up in the promotion. Since [Scott Coker] has been around I don’t know, we haven’t been talking as much. It is what it is, but I hold no animosity towards anybody. They’re still talking to me; they just didn’t a two year contract like they had before.” Most fighters would be disappointed hearing this type of news, but “The Mangler” believes he’s in a great situation now competing for the Rhode Island based CES promotion. While he hasn’t even stepped foot in the CES cage, he’s already impressed with how things have unfolded. “I actually  like this [situation], because I get to fight on television and I have a Bellator and UFC out clause. If Bellator [or UFC] calls I fight for [them]. I’m currently fighting for one of the best [promotions] in CES. They’re seriously excellent; already I can tell they are on the same professional level as Bellator. I’ve been going to [their] fights for a few years now. I’ve been doing a lot of cross training in Rhode Island [as well]. I think I’ve always been there saying ‘hello’ to [CES Director of Operations] Pat Sullivan. They tried to get me on their [events] but I was always with Bellator. The timing was never right, but it is right now and I’m pretty happy about that.” Bessette (14-6) faces his third scheduled opponent in the form of 28-year old Pittsburgh native Worthy. A lot of fighters would be frustrated dealing with all of these changes but as Bessette explains, CES is run like a first class organization. “I would have been frustrating if it were a smaller promotion, but seriously CES Is very excellent and professional. Usually it takes several days, if not a week even if they do get a replacement. They do their job over there. ” Worthy (7-3) has fought primarily for the Pinnace FC organization in Pittsburgh and boasts five of his nine wins by knockout. Despite “The Deathstar” coming off a second round TKO loss in his last fight, Bessette isn’t taking his opponent lightly and doesn’t believe statistics play a major factor in this matchup. “I never look at the past or records or anything. I’m always a person with no face, I’m fighting my fight. If I can’t perform to my ability I deserve to lose. If I go out there 100% I deserve to win, that’s how I look at it. That being said, he has a ton of tools. I’ve seen a good amount of video; it’s not hard to miss it when it’s on Youtube. I mean obviously he’s a striker, he’s pretty accurate. He’s long and he can fight long. He tries to be aggressive and lure you in. He’s very good at that. I’ve been working on my [standup] quite a bit.” While he wouldn’t guarantee anything, Bessette believes he’ll get the finish on June 12th and earn his 15th professinal victory. “I assume that a finish is going to come; I’m not going to make a finish happen. But I’ve been training to finish, I really think a finish is coming. Whether it’s the first or second round I think I’m going to get the finish.”   You can follow Matt on Twitter at @ManglerBJJ and on Instagram @MattyMangler 

Written by James Lynch

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