MMA fighter who battled cancer, lands fight on UFC card Tuesday

WEST HARTFORD --  Matt Bessette makes his living on the mat, inside the rugged confines of the octagon.

Bessette, 32 and known as "The Mangler",  is a rising star in the world of MMA. and he knows about the fight. Bessette battled cancer for the better part of a decade as a child growing up in Stafford Springs.

"It's not a fight I signed up for," Bessette said. "Lucky for me I had a really strong family and my mother was very positive, always pointing me in the right direction."

Bessette, the current CES MMA champion, trains at the aptly named Underdog MMA in West Hartford where posters of his former fights adorn the walls. Russ Leak, the owner of Underdog, and a coach and confidant to Bessette said, "Matt can compete against the highest level."

Leak pointed out that Bessette's battles with Leukemia as a child have made him a more determined and gritty competitor.

Bessette, who is 22-7 as a pro and has won his last seven fights in a row, got the call to the big leagues last month. On July 11th he will fight in Las Vegas in a new UFC off-shoot called "Dana White's Contenders Series".

"It's been ten years of grinding and grinding," Bessette said while working out at the Underdog Gym. "It's a dream come true and I could not be happier to have the opportunity."