Jeremiah Wells might be the one who currently lives in Philadelphia, but fellow CES MMA 52 headliner Jason Norwood also gets to fight in familiar territory tonight.
Norwood (18-5), who fights Wells (5-1-1) for the promotion’s vacant welterweight title, is currently based in Texas but was born in Philadelphia. And, on the same night that CES MMA debuts in the city, the veteran gets to have his own debut of sorts.
“I have 21 professional fights, and I never fought at home,” Norwood told AXS TV’s Phoenix Carnevale. “My daughters mean everything in the world – sorry, mom – so it’s hard to be away from them. But I’ve never been able to kiss my mother and then go to a fight. So this is going to be different for me, in that aspect.
“I’m about to go have dinner with my family – my family I’ve never had dinner with before a fight. That’s always enjoyable. I haven’t seen my father’s church in three years, my father’s a minister, so it’s good to go back and see that again, too.”
CES MMA 52 takes place tonight at 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, and the main card airs on AXS TV.
While Norwood has a chance to reconnect with his roots, Wells gets to enjoy the comfortable experience of sleeping in his own bed before putting on a show in front of a friendly crowd of family and fans.
Although this is the first time that Wells and Norwood share a cage, it isn’t the first time they’ve been in the same card. At CES 49, in April, Wells scored his first CES MMA win before Norwood lost in a five-round bid for Chris Curtis’ title in the headliner.
Wells watched and saw a good, technical fight. But he believes Curtis, who’d later retire and vacate the belt, didn’t put enough power behind his shots. He, on the other hand?
“I hit hard. I hit hard to the point – when I hit you, you feel it,” Wells said. “It comes back. I hit you, it’s like an earthquake. It comes right back into my hand. And then you know, I’m a different man. I’m ready to put all this power into him and break him down.”
Norwood has also done his homework on the competition in front of him, of course. And, while he knows he has an unconventional style to crack, he also believes he’s got just the strategy to do so.
“What I’m going to do is, I’m going to take all these unconventional tools that he uses and I’m going to take them away from him, conventionally,” Norwood said.
Whoever succeeds will get a belt to show for it. And that’s an achievement that, of course, carries some weight for both.
For Wells, it would be a “weight off his shoulders” and concrete proof of something he’s believed since coming back from a scary childhood experience.
“When I was a child, I got stung by a bee,” Wells said. “I was in the hospital for a couple of days. I was pronounced dead for like 10 minutes and everything. But I came back, I weathered the storm, I learned how to walk again and I’m here. I think God put me here for a reason.
“He put me here in his shoulders, showed me what I’ve been blessed with. With this talent, this ability to put a person down and I’m ready to shock the world, pause the crowd.”
For Norwood, the importance of being CES MMA champion is based on multiple pillars. It’s a chance to showcase his skills in a national stage. It’s a chance give back to those who have put time and effort into making him a better fighter. It’s a chance, he says, of simply being “a good person.”
But it also means a chance to inject more resources into his organization, which offers assistance, from counseling to group workouts, for fellow military veterans.
“This money enables me to stop taking money from them to do my non-profit, because that’s what I’m doing,” Norwood said. “So this is some money that goes to my non-profit, so I stop dipping out of my kids’ mouths.”
To hear from tonight’s headliners, check out the video above.
And for more on CES MMA 52, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.