David Rickels is all about the fight experience.
The Belaltor season eight lightweight tournament finalist has a different mindset when it comes to MMA. He doesn't care about gameplans, he wants to put on a show for the fans watching in the arena and on television. If they're not having a good time, he's not having a good time.
The only strategy he expects to employ is to survive long enough in tonight's (March 28, 2013) fight against Saad Awad on the Bellator 94 main card that he can start to take over in the later rounds. Just like he's done in each and every fight thus far in this tournament.
But until he takes over, he expects an absolute war against Awad, who's cruised through the first two rounds of the tourney with vicious first minute knockouts of top prospects Will Brooks and Guillaume DeLorenzi.
"The Caveman" spoke to MMAmania.com during an appearance on The Verbal Submission about the long grind of the tournament experience, why he wants to fight where his opponent is strongest and the special surprise he has in store for his walkout in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): These Bellator tournaments are so grueling, so competitive. How are you feeling physically after such a grueling pair of decision victories in your first two rounds of this lightweight tournament?
David Rickels: Well I actually fought one month right before this tournament against Fischer so this it was actually three straight months of fighting with all going tough decisions and this is my fourth fight in four months. It's definitely taken a bit of a toll but really I've been super fortunate that it's just been little things, little aches here and there and going into this fight, I've been kinda blessed. I feel pretty good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is a fight that you seemed extremely, extremely excited about when they first announced it and you did the staredown last month. You said you were so excited to fight someone that was going to stand and bang, guaranteed a fight of the night and that it would be a war. How does it feel to go against a guy that you know is going to try to go right at you the entire time on the feet?
David Rickels: The fights that interest me would be the same that I want to watch. Two guys that are gonna throw down, that's the kind of fight I like and that I look forward to getting into and Saad Awad is just that guy. He's not gonna be backing up. Neither one of us is going to be backing up. We're definitely going to be clashing and throwing hands.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How does it work when you're constantly in training camp for four months straight? Do you give yourself a couple days off here and there, take a break, or do you just stay in heavy training mode the entire time?
David Rickels: Basically, I take three days to do whatever the hell I want right after my fights. It usually consists of waking up, drinking a beer, eating breakfast, drinking some more beer and I do that for three days and I do that to unwind, I believe highly that going mentally confident and strong into your fights is so important. I think a little bit of unwind time is absolutely necessary for a fighter to get back on track and recharge his batteries.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What about crab rangoons? I remember that being one of your favorite foods. Do you sneak in opportunities to scarf some of them down in your "unwind time?"
David Rickels: It's become a legendary feat how many crab rangoons I can stuff into my face before the three days are up. There's definitely a lot of that going down man, cream cheese goodness fried, you can't go wrong there. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Saad Awad has been this Cinderella story. He wasn't supposed to even be in the tournament and he steps in on short notice as an injury replacement and knocks both of his first two opponents out in less than a minute. What are your thoughts on the run he's had through this tournament thus far?
David Rickels: Well, that's what happens in MMA. It's a fight. The cool thing about Bellator is anything can happen. I think they're proving that, they're showing that. They put these guys in tournaments with hungry fighters fighting one guy after another and anything is bound to happen. He's done very well with his opportunity and I think Awad is a great fighter. He's earned it just like anybody else and I think that's a great thing about Bellator.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In Awad's original Bellator debut, and this was several years ago, he was crushing his opponent on the feet and then got taken down and submitted. Considering how much tremendous success he's had standing, why it that you want to stand and bang and go crazy with him considering how much of a submission advantage you'll likely have on the ground?
David Rickels: I definitely feel like if we were to go to the ground I definitely would have an edge being on top or bottom. I think I could control the fight there but it goes back to the root of why I got into this. I didn't get into this to strategize and gameplan and this and that. I got into this to fight. He's gonna punch me and I'm gonna want to punch him back. He's a very accurate striker, a powerful striker, he's a little wild but he's accurate. I plan on using my tools and my toolbox as well, hopefully lighting him up with strikes.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I think the average fight time of six of his last seven wins is about 20-30 seconds. He's won fights in 21, 11, 31, 43, 28 and 76 seconds in the last two years or so. Do you think at all that if he's coming at you full force and he can't finish it and this fight gets into the second round or the third round, based on what you've seen so far this tournament, do you think you'll have a big advantage over him there?
David Rickels: Man, I absolutely believe that and it's not just with Awad. I think the longer fights go for me, the better I perform. I'm pretty good at taking damage. No one can take flush shots on the chin from power strikers all the time but I've got a good chin, I can work some defense, bob and weave and taking it into the later rounds is where he's gonna find out what he's got. I think that's where I'm gonna shine.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What is it about you getting stronger as the fight goes on? Is it conditioning, or do you have a more analytical style where you figure out your opponent throughout the bout?
David Rickels: Things just come together as I fight. As I go, I'm just pulling it all together. Things start to make sense the further I go into a fight, I start figuring out my opponent. I think I'm just good enough at everything that I can always find a way to exploit a weakness.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One last thing I wanted to touch on is your club. I love the club you walk to the cage with, it synergizes so well with your "Caveman" nickname. What's the origin story behind the David "Caveman" Rickels club?
David Rickels: It was actually kind of for fun. I decided "what is a caveman without a club?" You can't have a caveman without a club. I'm pulling out all my stunts for this next fight. It's gonna be good man. I think a lot of people are gonna say "holy shit!" during my walkout. I cannot reveal it but I'm amped for it and it's gonna be one hell of a night for the people at the Florida Sun Dome. I always aim to entertain and I think this is gonna do a pretty good job. I did give Bellator a heads up so if they don't show this, I guarantee you ESPN will. We'll see how it goes. It's on another level.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you see your upcoming fight playing out now that it's so close?
David Rickels: Really, I kind of picture this fight having very tough exchanges in the first, both of us letting our hands go. Hopefully I can keep my range, keep my rhythm and hopefully not take too many of those serious blows to the head. After that, in the second and third, you'll see me really pour it on. That's my fortune for the events to occur.