Ricky Simon: Prospect Killer
Back in April, 25 year old Ricky Simon travelled to Atlantic City to compete in his UFC debut as part of the undercard to Kevin Lee vs. Edson Barboza. At the end of 3 rounds, Simon emerged victorious in controversial circumstances, recording the latest submission victory in UFC history. In what should have been the happiest moment of his professional career, the night was blighted by the controversy surrounding the finish and Simon feeling like he didn’t fight to his fullest potential.
‘I’m so ready to put that fight past me, I took that one on short notice, I was dealing with a lot of crap going into that fight with my body and as soon as that fight was over, my body just needed a break. Mentally, I just wanted to get straight back in there, that was a shell of who I am and now that I’ve had some time to recover and rest, I’m the sharpest I’ve ever been and the best I’ve ever been’ Simon said, when reflecting on the victory. In hindsight, things could have been far worse on what he described as one of the worst performances of his career – a $50,000 bonus, a new record and a debut victory mean that all in all, it was a better night at the office than he gives himself credit for.
To get to the UFC, Ricky didn’t have it easy; he recorded a victory against Donavon Frelow on the first season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, but ultimately wasn’t awarded a coveted UFC contract. Looking back at the experience, he said ‘I was disappointed, I was crushed when I didn’t get signed, but it’s all part of the journey and now that I look back on it, it was probably very beneficial for me. I got to fight an 8 fight UFC veteran in Chico Camus (at LFA 29) for a world title and we went all five rounds, I was able to dominate him and show what I can do. I then defended the belt and showed that I have knockout power and beat a fellow prospect in 59 seconds’. Responding to the suggestion that he’d have been better off competing on this season of the contender series, he was in agreement, as he joked ‘You’re right, they’re giving out 3-4 a night this time around’.
Following his victory on the Contender Series, he explained that the UFC advised him to stay ready in case of any short notice opportunities and he did just that. It’s no secret that it’s the dream of all fighters to get to the ‘big show’ as it’s affectionately referred to by fighters and so Simon was prepared to let his body suffer for a shot at the bigtime. ‘I fought six times in just over a year. My body was burned out, but from the contender series, they told me to stay ready, so I stayed in the gym, my weight was low, but you can only redline for so long before your body starts deteriorating’ he said.
This interview was completed at 15.30 Pacific time and by the time we got around to speaking, he had already completed three workouts that day - ‘I had strength and conditioning at 7, pads at 11 and no-gi at 12-2.30. Just getting ready’ he said. He’ll have had 4 months out between his last fight and his next one, and it sounds like he’s benefitted from the time off hugely.
People sometimes forget that it’s not just the fights that these athletes go through, but in fact Simon will have completed 6 training camps for the aforementioned 6 fights that he competed in last year. ‘The training camps are always harder than the fight, I’m working out three times a day, six times a week. Two of those fights in the last year have been five round camps too and those are the worst, I hate them! But that got me to where I’m at, it got me into the UFC and here I am now’ he explained.
Next up for Ricky, he will face Benito Lopez at UFC227; a fight that he says was due to take place several times before, however as to why it didn’t take place, he has no idea – ‘You’d have to ask Lil B, he pulled out, he’s the one that I spent my time and money on training camps preparing for and he’s pulled out a few times’.
As disappointed as he is that the bout hasn’t taken place sooner, Ricky agrees that there is no better place than the UFC to settle the score. ‘This is the perfect opportunity for both of us. We’re both up and coming prospects, we both fought on the contender series and I feel like he’s been sheltered a little bit. He’s had an easier road, I had to take a different path, but I’m not downplaying how good he is, I think he’s a great talent, but I’m excited to show why I’m the top prospect’ he said.
For those that are unfamiliar with the two fighters, this bout could well steal the show; as it stands, the bout looks to be around the middle of the card, so make sure you’re tuned in on the night. ‘We’re both exciting fighters. We both come out strong in the first round, but I feel like the main difference between us is that he can’t keep up that pace in the second and third rounds, and I can, so I think that’s going to be the difference. We’re both explosive fighters’ he said.
Every fighter says that they’d like to face a ranked fighter in their next bout, but if that isn’t available then a fellow prospect is often the best thing. From a fans perspective, it’s very easy to be drawn in and get emotionally involved with two young guys trying to throw a spanner in the works of each others careers - Benito and Ricky both clearly fall into the prospect category at a respective 24 and 25 years old. ‘I know that I’ve gotta work my way up before I start facing ranked fighters, so I’m willing to be the prospect killer at this point. There’s a lot of new blood in the bantamweight division, I’m one of them, so let me start taking them out and climbing the ranks. I feel like I match up well with all of the bantamweights and particularly most of these new prospects, so I’m super excited for August 4th’ he said.
Fighting on a big PPV means more eyes on you, so it really is a huge platform for any up and coming fighter to compete on. For Simon, he explains that this really is a dream come true - ‘I can’t even believe it, I’m fighting on a PPV card at the Staples Centre, that’s one of my dreams. The next best thing for a fighter would probably be Madison Square Garden, but I’m not too fond of the east coast anyway, so I don’t think it gets any better than this. Just to think I was defending my title in March on one of the biggest promotions outside of the UFC, I was still warming up in a tent! The UFC is just a different game, I now feel like I’m where I belong’.
Simon has an unorthodox approach when it comes to his training camps – deciding to split his time between two quite distant destinations. ‘I had a teammate in Tyson Nam and he was my main training partner, he lived here with me and he moved back home to Hawaii, he has a great team out there, I went out there and I really got along with the team so I stuck with it, the recipe has been working. I’ve been doing the first part of my camp there and then finishing back home (Portland)’. ‘The best of both worlds’ is what he calls it, and that sounds accurate when you look at some of the talent he is able to share the mat with while in preparation for a contest – Tyson Nam, Louis Smolka, Paige Van Zant and Chael Sonnen to name but a few.
As for what motivates Ricky to fight, don’t expect a deep and heartfelt answer here – ‘I’m crazy? I don’t know why, I just love it. I love working out, I did great in college but all I could think about was training’ he said. When asked if the nerves were any different now than they were for his first fight, he explained that he wasn’t nervous at all, as he never really saw this becoming his job. ‘My first fight I wasn’t even nervous at all because I thought it was just a hobby. I thought I was just doing it for fun and then all of a sudden I was an undefeated amateur with a couple of titles and I decided I was gonna go pro. Then I’m fighting and I’m cutting weight and I realised, this is more than just a hobby’
On August 4th, Ricky Simon will aim to take yet another stride forward in the bantamweight division and wipe out a fellow prospect in the process. He says he is rested, rejuvenated and ready to show the world ‘The real Ricky Simon on August 4th’. So take his advice and make sure you’re tuned in on the night – you won’t want to miss this one.