Andre Soukhamthath has absorbed racist comments his whole life, but it’s not the words that bother him as much as the violent attacks against Asians and Asian-Americans.

The first American-Lao fighter in UFC history, Soukhamthath (14-8) now competes for XFC and headlines XFC 44 on Friday against Jose Quinonez in a bantamweight bout.

Soukhamthath is one of the most accomplished Asian-American mixed martial artists competing today, and he hopes to use his platform to speak out against the rise in instances of violence against Asians since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

“Everyone now is just seeing the prejudice and racism that people who look like me experience,” Soukhamthath recently told MMA Junkie. “Now that the coronavirus happened, people are looking at Asians in a totally different way. It’s kind of like (they think) we’re bringing the virus here. There is a lot of violence going on against random Asian people. What’s sad is that it’s Asian people that can’t defend themselves – older people getting robbed, little kids getting injured. That’s making it worse for my kids when they grow up. That’s what I think of, my kids and my nieces and my friends’ kids.”

Soukhamthath, 32, grew up in Woonsocket, R.I.. As the only Asian basketball player in his league, Soukhamthath heard the racial trash talk often. It hurt initially, but he eventually became desensitized.

“When I went into some of these more rural areas, man, all I ever heard was, ‘Ching-chong this, ching-chong, that,’” Soukhamthath said. “People would do the slanted-eye thing to me right in my face. I wanted to cry right then and there, but no. I kept playing the game. That’s what I grew up with. Literally 18 years of my life playing sports, that’s what I had to face. I don’t want my kids to go through that. I don’t want the next generation to go through it. My parents didn’t move here for this sh*t. I didn’t start a family for this sh*t. You know what I mean?”

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After two Asian women were attacked with a hammer in New York City this month, USA TODAY reported that recent studies show a 164 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the first quarter of 2021. Earlier this year, president Joe Biden signed The COVID Hate Crimes Act to combat violence.

While he’s not a politician, Soukhamthath thinks he can still make a difference as a professional athlete who often gets to speak into a microphone in front of an audience. Soukhamthath said it’s always been his goal to inspire those like him. The recent violence has simply catalyzed his passion even more.

“I’m going to keep on using my platform to say, ‘Stop Asian hate.’ Even before that hashtag, the reason I wanted to make it to the UFC and the reason I wanted to be a good fighter, what pushed me, what motivated me, was not just for my people and for my family. I wanted to show that Asians could do it, too,” Soukhamthath said. “I’m the first of my kind. I’m the first America-Lao fighter to be signed to the UFC. That’s not just for my Lao people. That’s for Asian males in general. Like, ‘Yo, you can do it.’ I’ve always stood for that. Now that the Asian people are facing these random attacks, I’ve definitely got to speak up. I want to use my platform – every platform I have.”

If he had to send a message to the general public, it’d be that Asian-Americans just want to fit in with everyone else – and should be treated like everyone else.

“I just want to tell the general public that no, we don’t eat cats or dogs,” Soukhamthath said. “Not every one of us has the coronavirus. We’re just regular hard-working Americans just like you that want to be considered American, too. We pay our taxes. We raise our families here. We’re trying to follow the American dream, man.”

XFC 44 takes place Friday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The main card airs on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Deportes. It will be preceded by XFC YoungGuns 2, which will air on the same channels.

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