David Rickels is one of the best fighters Bellator have at their disposal, and holds an impressive 9-2 record under the BMMA banner (14-2 overall). Rickels bounced back from an unsuccessful title shot against then-undefeated Michael Chandler by destroying a tough challenge in JJ Ambrose en route to a third round TKO victory. The Caveman is best known for his great sense of humour, solid wrestling and entertainment value, and remains a top contender coming into 2014.
Rickels holds notable wins over Saad Awad and Lloyd Woodard and is currently ranked #29 in the world at 155 by Fight Matrix. He won Bellator’s Lightweight Season 8 tournament in very impressive fashion with wins over the aforementioned Woodard, as well as a decision win over Jason Fischer en route to the final against Awad, in which he scored a second round TKO victory. Despite being unsuccessful in his title shot, he remains in the mix at 155 and will likely be a part of the next Lightweight tournament in the hopes of receiving another shot at the belt.
I caught up with Rickels to discuss his hopes for the future, how the loss to Chandler effected him and his thoughts on Bellator.
JC: You recently received a shot at the Bellator lightweight belt but were unsuccessful, but you rebounded from that emphatically. Did the loss motivate you to perform well against Ambrose?
DR: I’ve always wondered how a loss and, more-so, a KO would effect me. I believe it’s all in how you mentally perceive yourself. I train hard and believe that I’m a top tier fighter and so I carried that into my next fight after Chandler.
JC: And how did you score the recent Alvarez vs. Chandler II fight?
DR: It was an amazing fight but I had Chandler winning it, I thought his takedowns sealed the deal in a couple of the rounds. Saying that, the fight was extremely close so I was not surprised in the least by the judges’ decision.
JC: Are you hoping to enter Bellator’s next 155lbs tournament?
DR: Yes, I am indeed hoping to be part of the next tournament.
JC: Have you recieved any offers from the likes of UFC, WSOF or the defunct WEC during your career?
DR: I was a replacement for TUF 13 as a welterweight, but Bellator picked me up at a pivotal point in my career and they earned a great fighter such as myself *laughs*.
JC: After dominating Ambrose in impressive fashion and showing you need a step-up in competition as a result, do you have any future opponent in mind?
DR: CHANDLER, THAT IS ALL *laughs*. But no, really, I want to hold the belt and redeem my loss to Chandler in the process.
JC: What are your thoughts on Bellator signing ex-UFC fighters such as Kongo, Rampage and Beltran amongst others?
DR: I think it just shows the growth in the company. However, I do believe that Bellator needs to make a branded name out of the fighters with talent that they already possess. It’s very cool though, and pretty crazy seeing as I used to watch Rampage fight when I was 14 years old.
JC: Since dropping down to 155, you’ve gone 5-1. Have you ruin into any weight cut problems?
DR: Making weight will probably always be a tough one for me *laughs*. It’s no secret, I
like to eat dirty, dirty food – basically anything fried. This is a result of my training camps because I eat very clean food going into my fights and I have to do so in order to make weight.
JC: Would you consider moving back up to 170 in order to avenge your split decision loss to Amoussou?
DR: Yes, I would love that! Karl is a good guy and we talk once in a while, but I wouldn’t mind getting that one back. I do believe eventually, as I get older, I’ll move back up to 170.
JC: What was it like to be fighting in front of your home crowd in your last fight?
DR: I use the nerves nowadays as motivation and I really thrived off the crowd. That’s why you see me doing the crazy entrances and what-not. Fighting there in my hometown for Bellator was an awesome deal as I really love to represent the area that I’m from.
JC: With impressive wins over Awad and Woodard, where would you put yourself in the 155 rankings?
DR: I’d definitely say I’m in the top 20 worldwide right now. In my own head, I’m top 10 and where I want to be is top 5.
JC: Is there any particular area you have been working on diligently in the gym?
DR: I’m always looking to better myself in every area – boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and muay-thai.
JC: You have had your fair share of KO victories lately after grabbing a number of submission victories in the early stages of your career, does this show your transformation?
DR: No, I’ve always just looked to hurt and finish my opponents whichever way is possible.
JC: Do you believe that Bellator should bring in ‘Of the Night’ bonuses?
DR: YES! It would help motivate us fighters and I’d certainly make more money!
JC: Fighters like Dantas and Woodard have fought elsewhere whilst under BMMA, have you considered this?
DR: They have kept me very busy and right now that works for me!
JC: Where are you hoping to be in a year’s time?
DR: I hope to be on a beach in Brazil, sipping a Corona, wearing the lightweight belt and looking at gorgeous women.
Many thanks to David Rickels for taking the time out to answer some questions, and we wish him luck in 2014 and hope to see him fighting for the belt very soon.