Andre Soukhamthath is expecting to celebrate a win this weekend and that will be the cherry on top for what is already a joyous time for his people.
A native of Rhode Island with roots in Laos, Soukhamthath takes on Montel Jackson in a bantamweight bout on the early prelims of UFC 236 in Atlanta on Saturday, one day before the start of Lao New Year. The 30-year-old who is known as “The Asian Sensation” didn’t realize that the events were lining up when he initially agreed to the bout, but he recently told MMA Fighting that he’s definitely going to let everyone know what’s going down should he get some mic time after the fight.
“That’s what I was put in this world to do. I’m here for a reason and I think one of those reasons is to represent the community, the Laos people,” Soukhamthath said. “Not a lot of people even know where Laos even is, so it’s my job to be where I’m at to expose our culture, our people, and the way we do things.
“Definitely, anytime I get a chance to I’ll shout the Laos people out. You’ll definitely hear me shout ‘em out after this win.”
Soukhamthath knows that there will be even more eyes from the Laos community on him than usual when he takes on Jackson, which is to be expected six fights into his UFC career anyway.
Fighting in the world’s largest MMA promotion has given him plenty of exposure and he’s used that notoriety to help raise money for flood relief in the Champasak Province of Laos after a dam collapse last summer caused widespread destruction, leaving thousands affected and 40 dead. Last August, Soukhamthath auctioned off all of his UFC fight gear and offered private training lessons in Rhode Island and Florida, generating about $4,500 in one week that he, along with the Jai Lao Foundation, put towards aid for his countrymen.
Soukhamthath hasn’t had the chance to visit his country in over a decade, but he hopes to take his family there someday. For now, he’s looking forward to continuing to represent the Laos community, which has a presence all over North America including in Atlanta where he fights Saturday.
“I’m glad that I’m fighting on Lao New Year weekend because it gives my people something to celebrate, especially me winning,” Soukhamthath said. “And you never know, I might pop up into a temple or one of the festivals in Atlanta and surprise some people.”
In five pro bouts, Soukhamthath has shown flashes of the fighter that made him a champion in Rhode Island’s Classic Entertainment & Sports promotion, but overall he’s struggled to make a mark in the UFC’s 135-pound division winning just two of his first five bouts. The goal now is to put together his first win streak inside the Octagon and secure a new contract down the road with the UFC, the organization that he considers to have the best talent.
Given his strong Asian roots however, Soukhamthath seems like a natural fit for the Singapore-based ONE Championship promotion that has made waves over the past few years with its development of homegrown stars in countries like Myanmar and the Philippines and high-profile signings of established names. And though Soukhamthath plans to stick around in the UFC, he only sees it as a good thing for fighters to have options.
“That’s the best thing about what’s happening right now. You have so many different promotions,” Soukhamthath said when asked if he had considered competing for ONE in the future. “You’ve got the million dollar tournament with PFL, you have Bellator, you have UFC, and now you have ONE, that pays a lot of money.
“It would be perfect for me. I’m Asian, there’s not a big Laos star. I’m really good friends with Aung La N Sang. He’s a freakin’ star. He’s got millions of followers and people idolize him. The Burmese people, Malaysia, so I try to learn from him, from what he’s doing with ONE, so I can try to carry it into my social media and try to get my Laos fans in my country and all over the world. So ONE definitely does sound exciting, but I’m pretty happy with how the UFC is treating me right now.”