It’s three days until fight night, but Nathan Ghareeb has been ready for weeks.
The Southampton, MA, native returns to the cage Friday night in the main event of CES 70 at the MassMutual Center live on UFC FIGHT PASS®, where he faces former training partner and Waterbury, CT, native Dan Dubuque for the vacant CES MMA World Featherweight Championship.
Much has been made about the rivalry between the two; they trained together back in 2018 at the Fighting Arts Academy (FAA) in Connecticut and even sparred one another leading up to Ghareeb’s last fight in June. When presented with the opportunity to face one another in an actual fight that counts, neither side balked, and to add even more fuel to the fire, there has been no shortage from both camps on who’s going to win and how, making this a fight MMA fans can’t afford to miss.
Tickets for CES 70 are available online at CESFights.com or MassMutualCenter.com. Preliminary bouts begin at 7 pm ET followed by the FIGHT PASS live stream at 8 with play-by-play announcer Michael Parente (@MichaelParente); color commentator Joe Lauzon (@JoeLauzon), a 27-time UFC vet; and FUN 107 on-air personality and cageside correspondent Madelyn Levine (@maddieonair).
Both Ghareeb (6-1) and Dubuque (8-5) have been plenty vocal in the weeks leading up to the fight. They’ve been pegged as rivals, friends turned foes, blood-thirsty enemies on a collision course with destiny, but the truth is there is a mutual respect shared between the two, even if it hasn’t always been conveyed adequately through the press.
Dubuque, a former world-title challenger in 2019 when he faced Bruce Boyington for CES’ featherweight crown, recently spoke about his motivation for accepting this fight despite not having fought in more than two years. The 36-year-old righty, who owns his own home and business inspection company, Connecticut Inspection Consultants, LLC, boasts a deceiving 8-5 record because, in his own words, “I only take tough fights.”
Likewise, Dubuque added, “I have a career. I do this for fun. If this doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world for me.”
Ghareeb, who notes that, unlike Dubuque, “I commit my life to this,” has compared the buildup to this fight to a “toned-down” version of the Colby Covington-Jorge Masvidal UFC 272 hype, but also seemed irked that Dubuque took exception to this initial opinion of the fight where he said, “I don’t just want to beat him – I want to finish him.”
Explained Ghareeb: “I truly believe I am a better fighter. He’s more of a gatekeeper – a tough guy who relies on his grit and toughness. That’s great, but that’s the generation before me. They destroyed their bodies. I’ve been smart with my career. I respect the guy for what he’s done, but, like I said before, this is a different game and I’m a different generation of fighter.
“If you sign a contract to fight me, understand one thing: I’m going to come out there to hurt you. This is everything I work for. He does this for fun. I sacrifice everything to do this. When they told me he wanted this fight, I said, ‘Fine. I’ll give you what you’re asking for.’” This is an opportunity for me to make an example of somebody. Even if you’re a friend of mine, if you think you’re going to step up and beat me you’re wrong.”
If it looks and sounds like Ghareeb has a chip on his shoulder, it’s because he does. A self-described “nomad,” Ghareeb has never worn out his welcome at one gym for very long. He’s taken advantage of learning different disciplines and techniques through different trainers, whether it’s been at FAA or in West Virginia, Germany, Austria, and even Thailand. He never had the luxury of working his entire life out of one prestigious academy or working under the guidance of one well-known trainer or manager, and for that reason, he says, he’s been overlooked.
“How many people knew who I was until August? I was some goofball who showed up and fought,” Ghareeb said. “They’ve always talked about the guys from eastern Massachusetts who come from notable gyms. I was just some guy. Now I’ve had the chance to go up against some of those guys and prove my worth. The reality is I’m not trying to be the best in New England. I’m trying to be one of the best fighters in the world.”
While Ghareeb has felt overlooked throughout his entire career based on his background, Dubuque feels he’s now the underdog this weekend based on some of the predictions that have come down the pipeline in recent weeks. Whoever wins will suddenly find themselves in the conversation for a bigger opportunity, perhaps before the end of 2022. All “pleasantries” aside, this one has the makings of an instant classic.
“I respect Nate. I just think I’m more of a dog than him. Flat out,” Dubuque said. “If he lets the fight go on, I’m going to be there all 25 minutes. I think he’s greatly underestimating me and overlooking me. I think he’s going to find out the hard way.”
Full fight card details are available online. Follow CES MMA on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @CESMMA.