UFC 222’s Andre Soukhamthath has a fresh new UFC contract, a main card slot on a PPV, and became the first man to knock out Luke Sanders last time out. It’s safe to say his stock is on the rise.
UFC bantamweight Andre Soukhamthath returns to action this Saturday at UFC 222 in Las Vegas, NV. Opposite him that night, in a bout that is brimming with Fight of the Night potential, will be ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley. ‘The Asian Sensation’ is quick to point out that while he respects O’Malley’s skills, the young upstart is everything wrong with the sport today. And so Soukhamthath, coming off a huge knockout win over Luke Sanders at UFC Fresno in December, plans to shut the ‘Sugar Show’ down.
We caught up with Andre Soukhamthath ahead of UFC 222, and got his take on O’Malley, his big win at UFC Fresno, and a whole lot more. And as far as the Sanders fight in Fresno is concerned, it allowed Soukhamthath to breathe a sigh of relief.
“I feel like a huge load is off my shoulders,” he told Cageside Press. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing again, rather than stressing over what my next move’s going to be. I actually got rewarded with a five fight contract after that knockout. So I’m definitely very thankful and very blessed.”
That five fight contract is a big deal for a fighter looking to take care of his family. Though he admitted that a bonus would have been nice as well. “I think I should have got one. It’s all good, I’m not going to complain about it, it went to the right guys. Brian Ortega, Marlon [Moraes], those are all great performances. I just wish they would have spread the love a little bit.” After all, he pointed out, Ortega doubled up on bonuses that night. Why not share the love a little?
Still, getting the win was what mattered, especially since Soukhamthath’s back was against the wall heading in. “We got the job done, we got the W. I’m not going to be greedy,” he said. “I don’t just do this for the money, I do it because I love it, I do it because I want to be the best in the world.”
And while the big win in Fresno earned him a shiny new contract, nothing in his day to day life has changed. “I’m still living the same life,” he explained. “I still wake up, I bring my kids to school, after that, I eat my breakfast, I go and train, come back, recover a little bit, and I go back, back to training or back to work, to teach classes, and I come home and play with my kids. And on weekends I get to spend time with my family.”
If anything has changed even just a little bit, he added, it was the ability to bring his mom out for a little vacation, take her shopping, and do all of it without worrying about anything. Plus a gold chain for himself. Beyond that, it was on to the next one.
The next one, of course, is against Sean O’Malley, who turned heads in his UFC debut after an impressive showing on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. It’s a main card slot on a PPV — so was the main card position something ‘The Asian Sensation’ was anticipating? Actually, yes.
“Call me crazy, but I knew that they love O’Malley,” he explained. “The UFC, Dana White, they love O’Malley.” When O’Malley expressed interest in fighting Soukhamthath, “I knew he was going to get it. I’m not saying I’m on the main card because of O’Malley, but fighting him, us two fighting, that definitely is a big part of our fight being on the main card. I’m a very marketable guy too, I have a big following, and I’m a very entertaining fighter. That just makes for a great match-up. Two prospects, fighting in the octagon, it’s me and O’Malley. How could that not be a PPV fight on the main card?”
And despite reports to the contrary, Soukhamthath didn’t go out of his way to call O’Malley out. “I actually didn’t call him out. A lot of people think I called him out on a podcast, but that’s not true.” Instead, Soukhamthath recalled that when asked who a good fight would be, he answered ‘you know, I wouldn’t mind fighting Sean O’Malley.'” And for good reason, with so much hype behind him. “It would just be a great match-up. He’s a striker, I’m a striker. Lets strike. Lets have some fun.”
“I think he represents the wrong things. I think he’s bad for the sport, and I think he’s fake.” – Andre Soukhamthath, on upcoming opponent ‘Sugar’ Sean O’Malley
To be fair, “I named a couple other people,” he added. “But O’Malley, he probably took it as that. Which is fine with me. We’re in the fight business. I’m here to fight everybody, I’m not here to make friends with anyone. I’m here to fight everybody, and to prove to myself that I can do this.”
More important than how the fight came about, however, is that Soukhamthath now has a chance to shut the ‘Sugar Show’ down. While he points out that he doesn’t need to hate someone to fight them — as an Asian American kid growing up in a rough area, he fought plenty to protect his family and fend off bullies long before he was fighting pro — he sees fighters like O’Malley as fake.
“First of all, you’re getting in the way of my paper. No one gets in the way of my paper, and they’re not going to get away with it easy,” he said. Beyond that, “he’s a punk. I think he represents the wrong things. I think he’s bad for the sport, and I think he’s fake.” Which ultimately “motivates me to whip that ass a little more.”
“He’s young and stupid, and I think he represents the wrong things. He’s the last thing this generation needs.”
Soukhamthath was incredulous when O’Malley brought his antics, ‘Sugar Show’ attitude, back flips and all to the Contender Series. “It’s the contender series,” he told us. “You’re in front of fifty people, Dana White, and Sean Shelby, and you’re on Fight Pass. And you’re going to act like that?”
To Andre, it’s all about earning your stripes. Having finishes in 11 of 12 wins, and only ever losing by decision, “I earned my stripes,” he said. “I’ve been through ups and downs, struggles to get here. So for that punk to get everything handed to him like it is, it’s all good. I’m going to show him who the real OG in this game is.”
“He’s young and stupid, and I think he represents the wrong things. He’s the last thing this generation needs,” he stated, adding “so I’ll put a stop to it.”
That’s not to say he doesn’t respect O’Malley as a fighter. “I’m very impressed by him, I think he’s a good fighter. He’s very young, but he’s very smart too,” Soukhamthath said. “He keeps himself poised under pressure. You know, the Sugar Show is the Sugar Show. He believes that he is the show, and frankly, people believe that too.” Yet while admitting that O’Malley is a good, confident fighter who stays calm under pressure, Soukhamthath told us that “this time, he’s going to feel what a real OG feels like. A guy that can take a hit, a guy that can hit back, hard. We’ll see how he does.” It’s a fight that he agrees has Fight of the Night potential.
And as for O’Malley’s attempts at trash talking, “let me set this straight, I’m not a dork” Soukhamthath said. “He tried going on Fight Pass and calling me a dork, obviously because I’m Asian, he probably thinks I’m good at math. I failed a lot of math in high school. My name’s Andre and I’m an Asian kid… I’m not a dork. I carry way more swagger than that kid can ever carry. When I walk into a building, all eyes are on me. Why? Because of my swagger. Because of my looks. He’s the f***ing dork. That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Not that he has anything against nerdy, dorky types — rather, he simply sees O’Malley’s comments as relying on tired stereotypes. The “Asians are good at math” type.
“If that makes him happy to talk like that, that’s fine” he said. “But that kid knows deep down inside he does not carry the swagger I carry. He knows he’s not on my level.”
Moving into 2018, with a little extra job security, Andre Soukhamthath knows he has two jobs. “That’s being a father, that’s being a fighter.” With the stress level lowered, he’s looking to “really lock myself in to a good future after this sport. So that’s the whole game plan for me.” Yet the idea of a union, as recently floated (in the most recent of several competing efforts) by Leslie Smith and her Project Spearhead, isn’t something he pays much mind to. “I don’t want any fighters to be mad at me,” he began, “but I’m always the last to complain. I’m very thankful for getting to make a living off what I do. There’s been times where I’ve worked my ass off, and I’m only getting $8 an hour, $9 an hour. That wasn’t too long ago, that was maybe 3, 4 years ago. So I’m very thankful for where I’m at.”
“If other fighters want to make a union and stuff, that’s fine, but I don’t really want to spend my energy on that. I’m focused on me” he added. And should his needs change, well, “I’m not going to go and ask the UFC for more money, I’m going to make it myself. People always want the money fight, blah blah blah — I’m going to make myself the money fight. I’m going to make people want to watch me, I’m going to make people drawn to me, that’s my goal.”
“I could care less about the rankings and that stuff. I care about my stock.”
“You have to build. I’ve never had anything handed to me in my life. I was never spoiled.”
In a bantamweight division that is stacked with good fighters, Soukhamthath was quick to point out that there’s no slouch in the top fifteen, and plenty of good fighters like himself and O’Malley outside of it. Yet were he in the position to do so, “I’m going to go after the belt. And if I was the champion, I’m going to defend my throne, I’m going to defend my throne until I can’t anymore. And that’s just my mindset.”
“Plus I can’t make 25” he added with a laugh. And while it might be a bit before Andre Soukhamthath is ready to challenge the likes of T.J. Dillashaw, or whoever might hold the title by then, it’s clear that this could be the fight that breaks him into the top fifteen.
“I think so. And if it doesn’t put me in the top fifteen, it’s going to bring up my stock” he said. “And I could care less about the rankings and that stuff. I care about my stock. I’m trying to make some moves while I’m in the UFC. And with those moves, with my name, it’s going to go a long way after the UFC, when I’m not able to compete anymore.”
“I’m in this sport because I love it, it’s my job, but I’m trying to build my stock,” he finished. “I’m a man on a mission, who’s trying to build my stock, build my name, trying to sell myself almost. That’s all I really want to do. I want to inspire people, I want to help people, and that goes along with building my stock.”
Don’t miss Andre Soukhamthath throw down with Sean O’Malley this Saturday at UFC 222 in Las Vegas, NV, live on PPV.