When one thinks of the bucolic town of Wrentham, with its town common bordered by three beautiful churches, a Bedford Falls-type downtown area and a pair of picturesque lakes, you wouldn’t think that the town of just under 12,000 residents might be a breeding ground for a prominent mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter, but it has one in 26-year-old Fabio Cherant.
Cherant is currently the 116th-ranked light heavyweight by the tapology.com website after only taking up the sport five years ago, and for a six-week period from mid-February through late March, he held the Legacy Fighting Alliance light heavyweight champion after winning a unanimous decision over Myron Dennis to take the vacant crown.
Born in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Cherant had kind of a nomadic childhood, but ended up in Wrentham for his high school years, spending those at King Philip Regional High School.
“I’ve been all over the place,” Cherant said. “New York, Connecticut, (the Massachusetts cities of) Mattapan and Dorchester, and then my foster dad moved me to Wrentham.”
An only child, Cherant says he has foster siblings “who I consider my real siblings.”
He grew up playing sports like most boys his age, including “tackle football with my brothers,” skateboarding, and biking, and at KP he played football, lacrosse and ran track.
He had little or no experience in the swashbuckling world of MMA, but decided to take up the sport when he was 21.
“I just walked into a gym and started training,” Cherant said in a UFC interview last month. “I started doing this just to get in shape and get feeling better about myself because the gym wasn’t doing it for me anymore, and it just took off and I fell in love with it.”
Cherant said that his family wasn’t totally supportive of his foray into the brutal sport, which is sometimes referred to as cage fighting, no-holds-barred, and ultimate fighting, and is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting (also incorporating techniques from various combat sports including boxing, kickboxing and martial arts from around the world), but Cherant now claims that “my dad is probably one of my biggest supporters.”
“After I started winning fights, he said, ‘this is kind of cool,’ but since the pandemic, he hasn’t been able to come to any of my fights, but I hope to fly him out for the next ones,” Cherant said.
The 6’-1”, 205-pound fighter lost his first fight as an amateur in June 2016, but he rebounded and won his next four, culminating with a Halloween-weekend decision over Jerrel Cox just prior to Cherant’s 23rd birthday, in 2017.
“After my first amateur fight, my friends asked me, ‘What do you want to do with fighting?’,” he said in a UFC interview. “I told them I want to be in the UFC by the time I’m 25, and they kinda laughed and thought I was joking, but I was being a 100-percent serious. And it’s awesome that I got a chance to do that. It was a year late because of COVID, but I’m here now. A year late, but it still counts in my eyes.”
His meteoric rise up the MMA ladder has been remarkable once he turned pro and had his first professional bout in Feb. 2018. Cherant actually won his first four pro bouts, but after nearly a nine-month layoff, he suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of Ohioan Aleksa Camur in late July 2019.
By the time that the 4-1 Cherant got his next bout lined up, COVID hit and put the kibosh on the sport until he was able to get back in the ring for an LFA matchup with Erick Murray in late July 2020, where Cherant won by a submission (Anaconda Choke) just 57 seconds into the bout, and less than three months later improved to 6-1 with a unanimous decision over New Yorker Yu Ji.
During the early months of the pandemic, being able to train properly was a complicated venture, but Cherant said that he worked around the restrictions that prevented people from gathering too closely together.
“I trained mostly during the pandemic at one of my buddies’ garages,” Cherant recalls. “Once gyms started opening, we were sneaking into our coach’s gym at 4 in the morning, mostly training then, and then transitioned back to my buddy’s garage.”
When asked about what he concentrates on when training, he is quick to remark, “Everything, everything. It’s never good to know just one thing, I’d rather be a student of the game and learn everything than just learn one thing.”
That led Cherant to his most high-profile fight, against Dennis, who was nearly six years his senior, for the vacant light heavyweight championship on Feb. 12 earlier this year as the main event at LFA 99. With a unanimous-decision triumph, Cherant laid claim to the championship belt in just his eighth professional fight.
Along the way, he gained a nickname suggested by his coach that Cherant wasn’t particularly enamored with – “The Water Buffalo” – but the moniker has grown on the fighter and he now uses it as the handle on his social-media platforms (@Buffalomma8). “Yeah, it’s not cliché, it’s very different,” he says.
After earning the light heavyweight championship, Cherant could have rested on his laurels and enjoyed the newfound fame, but when William Knight had to bow out of his bout with Alonzo Medifield (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) for UFC 260 at the Las Vegas octagon in March because of COVID, Cherant was invited on just two days’ notice to take Knight’s place.
Not surprisingly, Cherant was probably not as prepared for the bout as if he had specifically trained for it, and he also struggled with the weight limit, coming up a half-pound over the cut-off point. The fight was allowed to go on, but Medifield made short work of the Massachusetts newcomer in his UFC debut, winning by submission in a little more than a minute.
“It was COVID. It was a huge thing,” Cherant told Cageside Press in an interview a few months after the defeat. “How many fighters missed weight during COVID, you know? Up here in Boston, it was a little tough to cut weight when gyms aren’t open, and especially the gyms that I usually use, like the ones with saunas. Saunas are closed. You look at my fights before, and you check the weight I showed up on: never 205 [lbs.], 206 [lbs.]. I’m always under 203 [lbs.], 204 [lbs.]. People are forgetting that,” Cherant said.
“In my last fight on two days’ notice, I got my weight down to .5, 206.5. Not 215, 206.5, on a fight that I took on two days’ notice,” Cherant recalled. “I was totally unprepared for it. Yeah, at the end of the day, I’m a professional, and I should have been working out, but people forget, a month before, I fought for a world title and went five rounds while still nursing injuries. Taking a fight on two days’ notice when you are unprepared is a whole different ball game.”
Cherant got another shot at UFC glory in the Vegas octagon a couple of months ago, taking on the now COVID-free William Knight, a fellow New Englander from Connecticut. The 33-year-old UFC veteran, who came into the fight with a record of 9-2, won the fight just four minutes into the fight.
Cageside Press described the fight thusly: “Early in the fight, Knight backed up Cherant and landed a nasty calf kick. Cherant landed a front kick. Knight landed two more nasty calf kicks and went high, but Cherant blocked it. Cherant rushed forward and landed a punch. Knight landed another leg kick and left punch afterward. Cherant landed another straight left that got Knight’s attention. Cherant then landed another punch to the body. Knight answered that with a heavy body kick. Cherant rushed forward, and Knight landed a counter left hook that folded Cherant. Just like that, the fight was over.”
With his pro record still at an impressive 7-3, Cherant is waiting for his next opportunity inside the cage. He is also preparing to move from his current residence in Norwood to Deerfield Beach, Fla., home of one of the sport’s most prolific training facilities, the Sanford MMA Gym. Though he no longer has roots or family in Wrentham, Cherant admits that “I don’t live there, but I’ll rep(resent) Wrentham ’til I die.”
As his 27th birthday approaches in November, he believes that his career is still in its ascendancy.“Definitely; I mean I’ve only been doing this five years, so yeah, I’m in the best shape of my life, I’m definitely not going downhill.”
He also believes that after his fighting career is over, that perhaps handling fighters would be something that he’d be interested in. “Maybe as a manager, but usually when I’m done with something, it’s dead to me. Maybe I’ll walk away for good and not have anything to do with it, but then again, maybe as a manager, teaching the dos and don’t-dos (in the sport).”
In the meantime, between fights, he still oversees his clothing line (available through bonfire.com) and closely monitors his Twitter and Instagram feeds, saying, “I’m very involved (in social media), because in the generation we live in, you have to be involved, that’s how you make fans.”
When asked if he, as a KP high-school student, would have believed that a decade later he would be making his living as a fast-rising MMA fighter, Cherant said, “Yes and no; I don’t think I would have believed that I could have made it this far, no, but then again, I also been through a lot in my life, so it wouldn’t be that crazy to believe.”
One thing that Fabio Cherant is not lacking is confidence in himself or his future. When asked if there are certain MMA or UFC fighters that he admires, he says, “No, I’m my own inspiration; I used to look up to other people growing up, but now I’m in the position of admiring myself.”