Fabio Cherant isn’t a guy who has been given anything in his life. He’s gone out and earned everything. Cherant will look to do the same thing on Tuesday night when he takes on Aleksa Camur in the main event of Dana White’s Contender Series 22. The event will take place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas and will air on ESPN+ in the United States.
The 24-year-old light heavyweight from Massachusetts has had a perfect start to his professional mixed martial arts career. After spending his amateur career competing for New England regional promotion Cage Titans, Cherant has competed exclusively for CES as a professional, picking up submission victories in all four of his fights — none of them getting out of the second round.
So how did Fabio Cherant find the sport of MMA? It all began in a way that many males that grew up with brothers in the house can relate to.
“I initially liked the sport because, when I was younger, me and my brothers would have those Walmart-brand MMA gloves you get and we would just throw those on and go in the backyard, or the basement, and just beat the crap out of each other,” Cherant told The Body Lock.
“Later on, my foster dad got me the UFC Undisputed game. I started playing and was intrigued. From there, I started looking it up and the first fight I ever saw was Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson (at UFC 100), when Dan Henderson dropped the H-Bomb on him. Then it was the Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner and from there I was like ‘You know what? One day I would like to give this a try to see what it’s like.’
“After I graduated, I went to the military and when I came back from Basic (Training) — I was a reservist not doing much — it was my 21st birthday. We went out somewhere and we saw a guy who was on The Ultimate Fighter, Pat Walsh. My buddy was a huge MMA geek and was like, ‘That guy looks so familiar.’ We went up to him and started asking him questions. Finally, he was like ‘Yeah, I was on The Ultimate Fighter.’ He invited us to his gym and he probably didn’t think we were serious. We just showed up and it started out as a hobby. The more and more I was doing it, the coaches were showing me a lot of attention. After about a month and a half, I was getting ready for my first fight.”
Fighting in New England, you find out very quickly that it is a small regional world. A lot of the up and coming fighters from the area compete in the same organizations and learn a lot of lessons along the way. Cherant continues to evolve in the sport from a physical perspective, but more so in the mental side of the game, especially when it comes to the fights themselves.
“From my first fight to now, I went from paying attention to everything to being in the cage and focusing on who’s in front of me,” Cherant explained. “People in the crowd would be screaming stuff and it would get in my head. As fights went on, it got better. I could focus more, listen to my corners and going from Cage Titans to CES, it was me evolving in a way. Going from the Cage Titans crowd to the CES crowd, it’s tough to explain, but the process itself has been amazing. I’ve always gotten a lot of love from both promotions I fought for. They took good care of me. Now it’s time to go out there and show people that we have a lot of talent coming up in New England, and I’m just one of them.”
One of those talented fighters from the region is heavyweight Yorgan de Castro, who earned a UFC contract on the first Contender Series event of 2019. As the biggest underdog on the card, de Castro took on Alton Meeks, a big-time grappler and wrestler from Orlando, Florida. De Castro was able to utilize great defensive grappling skills and picked up a first-round TKO after landing a vicious leg kick.
Cherant, who has been a long-time teammate and regional link throughout his short MMA career of de Castro’s, was fired up watching it all unfold last month.
“It motivated me a lot,” Cherant said. “Me and Yorgan, we go way back. We train together and we’re teammates. From the jump, me and him went pro around the same time and we both fought on the same card all the time — kind of grouped together. To see him get it, it made me think that this is possible. We’re just some small-town kids trying to make a name for ourselves. He did, and it’s just awesome to see.”
After picking up a second-round submission win over Ron Marshall at November’s CES 53 event, Cherant was scheduled to take on Marquis Allen four months later at CES 55. As the event was about to take place, Allen found himself in some legal trouble as he was wanted as a fugitive in Ohio on federal drug charges. Cherant, as one would expect, was bummed out at missing an opportunity to fight. Luckily, Cherant’s manager was able to turn the negative into a huge positive rather quickly.
“I was supposed to fight back in March and some stuff happened with my opponent,” Cherant stated. “Things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. Huge shoutout to my manager Jason House, he called me up and was like, ‘Look, just relax, take it easy, we’re going to take care of you.’ Within a day, I got a text message with opponent, date, weight. I said, ‘Let’s go!’ I didn’t think twice. Then I started to look him up. I couldn’t have asked for a better opponent to do this.”
Cherant didn’t know much about his upcoming opponent in Aleksa Camur when he was offered the fight. Camur, who is a teammate for former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, has an identical record but has finished all four of his fights via strikes.
As history suggests, the fight will unlikely go to the judges’ scorecards on Tuesday night. However, if it does go a full 15 minutes, the Wrentham, Mass. resident is ready for it.
“It’s MMA. Anything is possible,” Cherant stated. “I’m not good at predictions. Anytime I’ve made a prediction, it hasn’t gone my way. It’s tough because, how can you prepare for a grappler when he’s not a grappler? I like it. It’s fun. It’s going to be chess moves. If it goes to the judges, it goes to the judges, but I don’t think this will go to the judges.”
On Tuesday night, 10 more of the best regional prospects in the sport will vie for an opportunity to compete in the hallowed UFC Octagon. Of those 10 fighters, five of them will likely have the chance to plead their case to Dana White and the matchmakers — through performance and communication. For Cherant, his case stems from a place of giving back to his community and to those who are growing up in a similar situation as he did.
“It will mean a lot to me,” Cherant said. “I see a lot of guys on The Ultimate Fighter, the Contender Series, all pleading the same case. They’re here to be the best, they’re here to do this and that, but my purpose is different. I’m just a kid who came from nothing that is trying to show kids, probably growing up the same way I did, that were told they weren’t big enough, they weren’t athletic enough, that they can. Put your mind to it, set a goal, and you can do it. Watch it happen.
“I can’t tell you how many times people told me I couldn’t do something. I’ve gone out and done it. People told me I wouldn’t last a day at basic training. I went in, I graduated and was in the military. People told me I wouldn’t be able to fight. Look where I’m at now. I’m just trying to inspire others to go for what they want in life. Never settle. Never settle because settling is the easy way out.”