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Pawtucket’s Chattelle seeks MMA middleweight title

November 16, 2011

Mixed Martial Arts figher Todd Chattelle of Pawtucket throws a punch while praticing his Muay Lao techniques with coach William Soukhamthath during a workout at USA Karate MMA in North Providence on Tuesday night.

At this time last year, fighting for a championship was the furthest thing from Todd Chattelle’s mind.
The Pawtucket fighter was a few weeks removed from the worst defeat of his pro career -- a knockout loss to undefeated Derek Brunson that saw Chattelle hit the canvas just 14 seconds into the fight. Chattelle was hoping to keep his record above .500 with a hard-fought win, but instead, he slipped to 6-6.
But fast forward to this year. An upset TKO of Woody Weatherby in February kicked off a three-fight win streak that not only helped land him a pro contact with Classic Entertainment & Sports, Inc. in August, but also give him a long-awaited opportunity to fight for a championship tomorrow night.
The 32-year-old Chattelle (9-6, 8 KOs) will fight Brett Oteri (8-2, 1 KO) of Dedham, Mass. for the inaugural CES Mixed Martial Arts middleweight title in the five-round main event of the action-packed “Undisputed” show at the Twin River Event Center.
“I feel blessed,” said Chattelle, who fights for Team United Muay Lao. “Where I came from, not a lot of people get a lot of chances like this, and I want to really capitalize on this.”
At this time last year, just appearing on the undercard of an event such as this one would have been good enough for Chattelle, but now his face is plastered on fight posters and billboards across the state hyping the show. And he’s on the brink of a title belt and bigger opportunities in the sport.
What turned things around for him?
“I was hit or miss, making bad decisions and trying to learn the sport,” noted Chattelle. “But I ended up getting with some good coaches that really believe in me. So have my family and friends and my girlfriend that I’ve been with for over a year now. She’s really had my back and given me positive reinforcement.”
Not only did Chattelle have to battle back from his loss to Brunson to earn a shot at a title, but he also had to overcome a quick 0-2 start to his career that put him behind the eight-ball in the sport.
But that all pales in comparison to the battles he had in his personal life long before he began his life as a mixed martial arts fighter.
***
“I’VE BEEN GOING THROUGH things my whole life,” Chattelle said on Tuesday night before getting in a final workout on the second-floor USA Karate MMA studio on Mineral Spring Avenue in North Providence.
Chattelle spent a few minutes in a side room adjacent to the facility’s central workout area talking about his troubled youth, growing up in Pawtucket with six brothers and one sister and briefly attending Shea High and Davies Tech before eventually getting his GED.
“I had a rough road at that point in my life,” said Chattelle. “I got into a little bit of trouble and stuff like that. At 15, 16, I ended up going to training school for something really dumb. My family was homeless at the time and we had nowhere to go, so I had a plan where I was going to get a gun and rob a store, and I thought I was going to do something. I knew it was extreme, but I took my chance and I got in big trouble for it.”
Chattelle’s troubled years as a teenager also saw him almost come very close to losing his life a few times.
“I’ve been shot with a .44 Caliber,” noted Chattelle. “I was stabbed too in the liver around that time. They had to operate on my liver because I was close to death. I got hit in the face with a crowbar. I’ve been through some stuff.”
But Chattelle’s time in training school turned out to be a wake-up call for him, and during his stint, he came across two things that eventually helped him out in life.
“I actually met God when I was in training school, so that’s helped me a lot in my life, going toward that direction,” he said. “And I’ve always loved boxing at a kid, and when I ended up going to training school, I met Brooksie Benton and Chuck Sullivan. Brooksie taught me how to box, and Chuck showed me a couple of things.
“Once, they threw me in there with a big strong kid, and I thought to myself, ‘Aw, man, this kid’s going to kill me!’ But I ended up dropping him and I did really good, so from that point on, I was hooked on boxing.”
Chattelle continued to jump rope and train everyday, from the end of his time in training school through the long hours he put in at his new job as a concrete finisher, and at 19, becoming a father to a baby girl.
“I went to B&F Boxing at the community center on Dexter Street in Central Falls,” said Chattelle. “Bert Neves and my boxing coach now, Jose Santos at 401 Boxing (in Cranston), were coaching me and helping the kids out there.”
When the Dexter Street facility shut down several years later, Chattelle went to the Elite MMA compound on Smithfield Avenue in Pawtucket, which was owned and operated by Neves’s nephew, the late Manny Neves.
While the complex offered a boxing ring and punching bags for boxers, it was primarily used for mixed martial arts training, and that’s when Chattelle knew he was training for the wrong sport.
“When I went there, I said to myself, ‘Boxing is for wimps,’ ” Chattelle said with a smile. “ ‘This is way better,’ and I fell in love with it.”
Manny Neves, who in 2007, became a Muay Thai world light heavyweight champion and U.S.A. Martial Arts Hall of Fame instructor and competitor, ended up training Chattelle that year.
That summer, Chattelle made his pro debut, but it didn’t start off the way he hoped. On July 13, he dropped a close decision to Denny Olson in Mansfield, Mass., and a month later, at Mass Destruction 23, he suffered a TKO defeat to Greg Rebello.
“(Those losses) were tough, but I knew I could do this,” remarked Chattelle. “And Manny helped keep me going. I really didn’t believe in myself most of my life, but he kept pushing me and I kept going.”
Chattelle came back to win his next three fights, all of them by TKOs, and in 2009, he met another person who would be influential in his career, Thomas Evans, the owner of USA Karate MMA.
“I worked with Tom bouncing at a nightclub and he said, ‘Todd, why don’t we open up a school?” recalled Chattelle. “I never really taught, I just helped out a little bit at Elite MMA, so I said, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I’m ready,” but he said, ‘Why don’t you just come and help me teach over there?’ ”
Chattelle followed Evans to his school, and a short while later, Team United Muay Lao was formed. Today, it contains some of the region’s best fighters, such as Woonsocket’s Andre Soukhamthath, one of the top amateurs in New England and whose father, William, is Chattelle’s Muay Lao coach.
“Things started coming together,” remarked Chattelle. “We all work together, helping each other out and sharing information.”
***
NOT A LOT WAS EXPECTED from Chattelle when he fought Weatherby on Feb. 25 in the co-feature of CES’s “Rhode Rage“ show at Twin River. Weatherby was 8-4 and a fighter whose career appeared to be on the rise, and Chattelle was a .500 fighter and apparently the night’s sacrificial lamb.
“That was the fight that turned things around because I knew Weatherby was a really tough guy,” added Chattelle. “Really good jiu jitsu. Good kickboxer. A good all-the-way around MMA fighter who’s been on the Ultimate Fighter show.”
Chattelle only needed 52 seconds to come away with his technical knockout. He wasted no time belting Weatherby with a left knee to his face and opening a cut over his left eye that was so bloody, a ringside physician ordered an end to the bout.
“I figured, ‘All right, these guys are calling me to fight him because they want to build this guy up,’ ” added Chattelle. “ ‘I’m new to them. They don’t know me.’ And I went into the fight not with an ‘I don’t want to lose’ attitude, but a ‘win or nothing’ (attitude). I didn’t care about losing or what people thought. I just fought my heart out and I ended up beating him.”
Chattelle’s next fight was April 8 back at Twin River against Jeff Nader, who had a 4-4 mark, but like Chattelle two months earlier, fought a much better fight that his record indicated. Chattelle won the three-round fight via an extremely close split decision by scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 28-29.
“That kid is tough,” admitted Chattelle. “That was a war, probably one of the toughest wars I’ve ever been in. We were going at it for two rounds, and after the second (round), I was sitting on my chair and saying to myself, ‘I’m never going to give up,’ and ’I hope the kid has give-up in him and he doesn’t want to get off that stool for the third round,’ And I looked across and he looked to be a little tired and flustered, but he came back out and he was tough.”
Chattelle’s stock continued to soar. After becoming the third MMA fighter to sign a contract with CES, Chattelle took Twin River by storm on Sept. 9 and scored a quick 62-second TKO of Elias Rivera. Two right uppercuts dropped Rivera to the mat and two overhand rights finished him off.
That helped set the stage for tomorrow’s fight, which features an interesting matchup between the standup fighter in Chattelle, who recorded six of his TKOs with his punching ability, and the ground specialist in Oteri, who notched half of his victories with submissions.
“From what I know of him, he’s a really good wrestler-jiu-jitsu combination,” said Chattelle. “He went into bodybuilding for a while, so he should be pretty strong. Most likely, he’s going to try to take me down, so I need to go in there and pretty much be myself.”
And should the fight drop to the ground, Chattelle will be ready for whatever awaits him. The bulk of his fight with Nader was on the canvas, and Chattelle was able to do enough damage there to pick up the victory.
“I’m working my ground game a lot,” said Chattelle. “I’ve been working on it for years. It’s just that I just feel more confident in standing and banging with somebody. I feel like I could finish the fight easier that way than trying to look for a submission or wrestle. And fans want to see fights finished. They don’t want to see wrestling matches or stuff like that. They want to watch fighting.”
Chattelle has been hard at work training for this fight with his large coaching staff that contains “all-around MMA coaches” in the Jeffrey brothers, Keith and Peter, from Tri-Force MMA, Brazilian jiu jitsu coach Tim Burrill, Santos, Soukhamthath, and Evans.
But the big key to the fight could be in Chattelle’s conditioning. Both fighters will be fighting a five-round bout for the first time in their careers, so stamina should play an important part in the outcome should the fight go the distance.
“My conditioning should be good and it should show,” noted Chattelle. “Even though the fight’s going to five-minute rounds, I’ve done everything I could to be ready for that and it’s going to show.”
A victory by Chattelle will obviously beef up his resume and put him in line to do bigger and better things in the octagon, and he already has an eye on what he’d like out of his future.
“Hopefully, I can put in another four or five years into the sport and see what happens,” he said. “A lot can happen in one year, like it’s already happened, but if it keeps going like this and I keep training with the right people and keep training hard, hopefully, Strikeforce, UFC, something like that happens.
“I’d like to make enough money to put my kids through college and not have to struggle, and I ready don’t want to do concrete for the rest of my life. I’ve already done it for 12 years.”
Chattelle admitted that he’d like to continue coaching mixed martial arts and help leads his students on the right path, not only in the sport, but in life. It’s something he does in addition to his working at his full-time job and spending time with his children (in addition to his 13-year-old daughter, he has a nine-year-old son) and his girlfriend.
“I’ve been hanging in there, making ends meet, and now everything’s starting to come together,” he said. “I don’t how I find time to do everything, but it’s really tough. I never get to spend enough time as I’d want with my kids or my girlfriend. You just hope that this goal and this dream you have can come true, and you just go towards it and you follow your heart.”
***
WHILE THE EVENT CENTER promises to be packed with several Rhode Island fans pulling for Chattelle, he won’t be the only Blackstone Valley fighter who will appear on tomorrow’s card.
One of the night’s featured attractions will be an intrastate showdown pitting Lincoln’s Jeff “The Candyman” Anderson (10-4, 2 KOs) against Providence’s Mike Campbell in a lightweight fight.
Keith Jeffrey (5-2-1) will also represent Pawtucket in a middleweight contest against New York native Kevin Horowitz (3-3), and East Providence’s Dinis Paiva Jr. (1-1, 1 KO) will try to spoil the MMA debut of another New Yorker, Cliff Moulton, in their lightweight duel.
Only $55 and $100 tickets for the show are available and can be purchased by calling CES at 401-724-2253/2254, going online at www.cesboxing.com or www.twinriver.com, or visiting at the Players Club booth at Twin River or through any TicketMaster location.
The doors open at 6 p.m. and the first bout is scheduled for 7. Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for the show, and anyone who is under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and enter through the West entrance.

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