First Lao-American MMA Fighter Enters the Octagon Driven by Memories of Son

Andre Soukhamthath, the Lao-American MMA fighter with a big match in Las Vegas this weekend, stumbled into fighting. He’d dreamed of playing soccer and even had college scholarships based on his potential as a goalkeeper. But his then girlfriend, now his wife Jamie, got pregnant and Soukhamthath decided he needed to work rather than study. A gym down the street from his job beckoned, and a friend suggested he might enjoy boxing. From the first session, “I was addicted to it,” Soukhamthath said. “I didn’t miss a day.” Boxing led to Mixed Martial Arts, and when Jamie gave birth to the couple’s first son, LeAndre, in 2007, training helped Soukhamthath process his son’s diagnosis of epidermolysis bullosa, a rare skin disease that causes extremely fragile skin and blistering. ​When the child died after nine months, Soukhamthath got serious about MMA, which incorporates techniques from boxing, wrestling, judo, jujitsu, karate, Muay...


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