clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Andre Soukhamthath’s win at UFC Fresno inspired by memory of son

UFC 209 Ceremonial Weigh-in Photos
Andre Soukhamthath
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Andre Soukhamthath bounced from coast-to-coast ahead of the biggest win of his fighting career, which is perfectly in line with the rest of his unlikely journey to the Octagon.

Sporting an 0-2 record in the UFC and with no guarantee that he’d get a third shot in the promotion, Soukhamthath took it upon himself to reach out to the matchmakers in the hopes that he could step in for an injured Bryan Caraway, who was scheduled to fight Luke Sanders at UFC Fresno on Dec. 9.

Fortunately for Soukhamthath, he received a swift and positive response.

Unfortunately for Soukhamthath, he was already on a plane that was taking him 1,400 miles away from his usual stomping grounds in South Florida.

“I contacted them publicly on social media and then I had my management contact them, but the crazy thing was I had a flight because that was the day before Thanksgiving,” Soukhamthath told MMA Fighting. “I was on a flight to Rhode Island back home visiting some family and I had my youngest son with me and then right when we landed, my wife called me, she FaceTime’d me and she was like, ‘We’re going to Fresno.’ And I was just like, ‘Oh s**t.’ I didn’t think I was going to get to fight, so I just landed in Rhode Island, I’m like, ‘Oh s**t, I gotta find a flight back as soon as possible.’ I was planning to do my camp back in Rhode Island with my old team, but some things weren’t fitting the puzzle right so I decided to fly right back home after Thanksgiving and start camp with my team in South Florida.

“But if I knew that I was going to get that call, I wouldn’t have even jumped on the plane in the first place because it was very stressful. Being at my parents house and trying to train, Thanksgiving going on, it was a very stressful time. And then my kids got sick after we got back home. So I would have just canceled that whole trip, but it made the win that much sweeter in the end. I had a sweet tooth, now I’m just like my mouth is full of sugar right now. It’s so much sweeter.”

The 29-year-old Soukhamthath’s first two UFC outings ended in split decision losses and he made sure not to leave anything in the hands of the judges this time around. “The Asian Sensation” floored Sanders with a right hand, setting up a ground-and-pound finish 66 seconds into Round 2.

All that after taking the fight on less than three weeks’ notice.

Since Soukhamthath replaced Caraway, a fighter currently in the top-10 of the UFC’s official rankings, it raises the question as to how much this win elevates his stature.

“I think it puts me at least top-20,” said Soukhamthath. “Luke Sanders, even though he lost his last fight to Iuri Alcantara, he’s never been knocked out before and I was a huge underdog. I knocked him out in six minutes. It’s not like I can’t fight. Anybody that’s seen me fight, they know that I can fight, they know that I can hang in there with the top fighters in the world.

Alejandro Perez, I dropped him three times, he couldn’t do anything to me really. I might have lost that on paper, but anybody that saw that fight knows that I whupped his ass. Albert Morales, another guy, I hurt him a couple of times. People know that I’m right there, people know that I can hang with anybody in the division and the roster. I think knocking out Luke Sanders for the first time, absolutely I proved it.”

Going from the chopping block to the top-20 may seem like a stretch, but that’s nothing compared to the move that Soukhamthath made to start his MMA career in the first place. In high school, he was a talented soccer goalie who was fielding scholarship offers from several Division II schools and he wasn’t thinking about much more than getting his education.

Soukhamthath’s plans changed when his girlfriend - now his wife - Jamie became pregnant with their first child, LeAndre. It didn’t take long for Soukhamthath to realize that he had to shift his focus to providing for his unexpected family.

However, even with their best efforts, there was little Andre and Jamie could do when LeAndre was diagnosed with a rare skin disease called epidermolysis bullosa. Their newborn son passed away before he turned a year old.

A decade later, Soukhamthath still draws motivation from his firstborn’s fight, and that memory helped him to center himself in preparation for his bout at UFC Fresno.

“Me and my wife were caring for a sick child for nine months,” said Soukhamthath. “It really started getting bad when he was five months and that’s when I realized that this could be fatal and that’s exactly what happened.

“So he passed away at nine months, I was 19 years old. I was very young going through that, my wife also, but the gym saved me. That’s how I mourned. I went to the gym and I trained and I got better and it took a lot of stress away. It didn’t take the pain away, but it relieved it a little bit, because there’s always going to be a little bit of pain that is there, but this last fight I realized that - I humbled myself, I remembered where I came from and I remembered why I started. My son that I lost, he was the main inspiration for me this camp and I think that’s why I fought so strong.”

The Soukhamthaths are raising two sons now, 18-month-old Parker and 5-year-old Benson. Their older son has been told about the brother he never knew, and according to Soukhamthath, it’s a great comfort for his family to know that LeAndre is still with them.

“Benson knows who LeAndre is,” said Soukhamthath. “Benson says that he’s an angel and he’s watching over us and that’s his big brother, so he definitely knows who his brother is. I’m going to keep his memory alive always, especially with my kids. Because he was such a pure soul, so for his brothers to know that they have someone watching over them and someone to inspire them to be good people, I think that’s very important.”

In the early days of Soukhamthath’s career, Jamie handled much of nitty-gritty, though he’s since hired another manager so as not to overwhelm his wife who has a full-time job in addition to being a mom. She’s still part of his fight team when he needs back up, and given everything they’ve been through, Soukhamthath wouldn’t have it any other way.

“She still does a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, like handling my coaches’ flights, doing my PR when people want to collaborate with me. She still does all that stuff,” said Soukhamthath. “But when it comes to picking up fights and where and who and negotiating money, I let somebody else handle that. Just because it’s too much for her, it’s easy for me, but when I look at her some days she’s exhausted.

“She works 40 hours a week, she has kids, she’s handling my career and she’s handling stuff for her family, so it definitely does bring us together that we’re in the same thing, she’s always in my corner. It’s a family business.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting