Most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans probably would be unable to recognize Ricardo Lamas, save for the mohawk he usually sports. That, of course, made it easier to spot him at Flatiron Hall recently when in New York, N.Y., for UFC 169 press tour. He was sitting quietly sipping on an orange juice, while Dominick Cruz received the lion's share of attention from MMA media.
Unsurprising, considering Lamas has been nearly invisible during his four-fight Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) tenure. He has competed on a main card only once, and his UFC 169 Featherweight title fight against dominant division champion, Jose Aldo, at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Feb. 1, 2014, will be his first venture on pay-per-view (PPV).
While the Chicago, Ill.,-based fighter hasn't been getting much air time, he's been taking care of business in the Octagon, winning all four of his UFC fights and finishing three of them within the distance. Lamas has been outspoken about having to watch Anthony Pettis and Chang Sung Jung jump ahead of him for a crack at Aldo's 145-pound strap.
Now that he has the title shot, he doesn't carry any of the frustration of being passed over with him.
"Nah, no chip on my shoulder," Lamas told MMAmania. "I think the way things worked out, I couldn't have asked for it to play out any better -- now I'm fighting on the Super Bowl card. This is stuff that fighters dream of. The Super Bowl card is one of the most coveted cards of the year. I get to be a co-main event for that and I'm loving it. I think it was worth it. It all worked out ... and right now it's just time to get ready and train my ass off."
Lamas last fought at UFC on FOX 6 in Jan. 2013, stopping Erik Koch via technical knockout. He was scheduled to fight at UFC 163 in August; however, "Korean Zombie" was pulled from that match up to face Aldo because of a knee injury of Pettis.
The Team Top Notch MMA member may not have competed in almost a year, but he vows that ring rust will not be an issue on fight night in the "Garden State."
"It's not like I was injured, and I was sitting out on the side and not doing anything," Lamas explained. "I've been training this whole time and I've actually taken this time and instead of training for a person, I've been training to improve as a fighter as a whole. So now I think that when people see me on Feb. 1, they are going to see a much more improved Ricardo Lamas. I think I've improved in all areas."
As Lamas has been making steady improvements on his overall game, Aldo has defended his belt another two times, making it five straight title defenses (the Brazilian has won his last 16 fights overall). In fact, one would have to go back more than eight years for Aldo's last -- and only -- professional loss. Indeed, no one has been able to find a way to stop him.
Lamas was asked about the match up and what holes he sees in the champion's game.
"There aren't too many," Lamas acknowledged. "He is the champ for a reason. He is very technical when he fights. He doesn't do anything stupid, doesn't make very many mistakes. But, there are mistakes there. I'm going to review tape with my coaches and trainers, and we are going to find those mistakes, and work on ways to capitalize on them.
"I think just pushing the pace is the key in this fight. I've seen in some of his last fights, it's almost been like he does just enough to win the rounds, especially in the later rounds. So I think the later the fight goes, the more I'm going to have to push."
Aldo did show signs of slowing down against Frankie Edgar at UFC 156, and was on his back the entire fifth round against Mark Hominick at UFC 129, however, he won both fights via unanimous decision. Lamas isn't necessarily convinced that's the way to win against Aldo.
"It's always tricky going to a decision," Lamas said. "You never know what the judges are looking at, what they are judging on. I can't think about that when I'm fighting -- I have to be in the moment. It's really up to us. It's up to the fighters. If we work hard enough and finish that fight ... that's what you gotta do. You can't leave it in the hands of the judges. I think that every fighter goes in looking to finish. If it goes to the judges, you just got to make sure that you did enough in that fight to win their vote."
On Feb. 1, 2014, his title shot will finally arrive, and Lamas admits because his words that he has added some weight on his shoulders to perform, too. He has talked the talk, very soon he will need to walk the walk.
"It's kind of one of those things where, like, I've been talking about how I deserve this shot, and now I better back it up," he said. "I welcome the added pressure. I think I work best when my back is against the wall. It makes me work harder. It makes me hungrier. It's fine, give me all the pressure you want, I'll handle it."