Yu Ji (3-0 MMA) will look to remain undefeated when he fights Fabio Cherant (5-1) at CES 61 on Wednesday.
Yu Ji vs. Fabio Cherant
Ji, normally a middleweight, is moving up to 205 to fight Cherant after there were no fights available to him at 185. Cherant is a natural light heavyweight who came in 7.6 pounds overweight in his last bout, so Ji is expecting his opponent to be “a lot larger” than him and carry a strength advantage.
However, Ji believes he’ll earn a TKO stoppage via ground and pound.
“I think, technically, in pretty much all areas – stand-up and grappling – I should have the skill advantage,” Ji told MMASucka. “But he’s a big dude who hits hard. He seems explosive, athletic. He’ll present some challenges, but hopefully, my skills in the technical aspect will overcome.”
Cherant has secured submissions in all five of his professional wins; his lone loss came on the Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series.
Ji acknowledged his foe’s submission prowess but doesn’t believe he’ll be the sixth man to be professionally choked by Cherant.
“Not to talk down on anybody, but the quality of opposition that he’s gotten those submissions on are probably not the highest,” Ji said. “I pride myself on being a grappler, so I’m less worried about that portion. I’m more concerned about getting caught with a big shot in the stand-up.”
Ji predicted he and Cherant will stand and trade before the bout eventually hits the ground. Although if anyone initiates the grappling, Ji feels it will be him.
Overcoming the Odds?
Ji will enter the fight with Cherant as a sizeable underdog; at least in the eyes of MMA fans. As of Monday afternoon, 84 percent of 76 Tapology users predict Cherant will win. Ji was a similar underdog in his last fight; a 46-second knockout of Bellator veteran Pat Casey. However, Ji said he’s growing accustomed to being an underdog.
“The regional scene, I don’t think the public has a good appreciation for the skills of the fighters,” he said. “It’s usually like who’s the biggest name is going to be the favorite. I’m not putting action on the fights; I’m actually fighting, so I’m not too, too worried about that. I think the result will speak for itself.”
Signing with CES
Until he steps into the ring, Ji’s entire career has taken place in the Premier FC ring. That will change once he makes his CES debut after signing a one-fight deal. CES is one of the largest regional promotions in the northeast area, which is one of the reasons why Ji opted to sign with them. The promotion also has a broadcast agreement with UFC Fight Pass, which means more visibility. It could also serve as a stepping stone for Ji to get a UFC opportunity, he feels.
“A lot of guys who have fought [for CES] made the jump into bigger organizations or are getting a shot on the Contender Series,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit of a step up in competition. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for opportunities to propel me to the next level. I have all the tools and skills I need to fight at that next level. Now, I’m just trying to find opportunities to prove that.”
Ji captured the Premier FC middleweight title in his last bout. He hopes his CES debut will lead him to a larger opportunity. However, at age 36, time is not on Ji’s side, although he only started competing at age 32.
“I don’t have the miles on my body that a 36-year-old fighter does. Obviously, you’re not going to get as much of the hype or pop coming up as a 36-year-old as if I was 26, 22 or 23 with a record like mine. As long as you keep getting wins and you prove you’re the best in the area, I would imagine the bigger promotions are not going to deny you.”
Ji’s personal goal is to reach the UFC. He aims to reach the UFC, climb the ladder and test his skills against the best in the world.
“In my situation, I’m not really fighting to earn a living or anything like that,” he said. “I’ve been doing fine outside of fighting. I fight because this is what I love. This is a passion of mine. I just want to see how my skills stack up against the best.”
Even after the Cherant fight, Ji plans to keep his weight down so he can jump on any opportunity – regardless of weight class.
He believes his best shot of reaching the UFC is to get a spot on the Contender Series or build his record to a point where the promotion would consider him for a short-notice replacement.
Ji faced a slew of new challenges while training for his CES debut due to the coronavirus pandemic. His gym, Radical MMA in New York City, remains closed. He’s worked with his coach, Rene Dreifuss, every morning in the park. It’s been a struggle to coordinate places to meet up with sparring partners to train, he said.
“You wake up every day and try to make a million phone calls just to get training in. You do what you have to do.”
However, Ji said he’s gotten a lot of good sparring in despite the obstacles.
“It’s been completely different than every other training camp, but nonetheless, I feel very prepared.”
CES 61 is slated to go down Wednesday night from the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick, Rhode Island. The card will be streamed on UFC Fight Pass.