In just a matter of 30 days, David Rickels' fight was completely turned on its head.
"The Caveman" had won the Bellator season eight lightweight tournament, but with Dave Jansen getting a title fight before him, he wasn't expecting to fight again until the end of the year. \
In the midst of his victory tour through fast food restaurants and bars, he got a phone call telling him that Jansen had injured his knee and he had the title fight against champion Michael Chandler should he accept it.
He was 205 pounds at the time.
Not missing a beat, Rickels took the fight and started training camp the next day, knowing he'd have less than eight weeks to drop down to the contracted 155 pound weight limit.
His opportunity at the belt will take place next Wednesday night (July 31, 2013) in the main event of Bellator 97. Rickels spoke to MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission talking about his shortened training camp, maturing overnight and what intangibles he brings to the fight against Michael Chandler in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It must have been so weird for you. You were probably bracing yourself to fight for the title at the end of the year with Dave Jansen being first in line. But instead he goes down with a knee injury. What were your first thoughts when you found out you'd be fighting for the belt so much sooner?
David Rickels: It was definitely like an "oh shit" moment. (laughs) because I was thinking just that. I was looking towards the end of the year and then I found out he was hurt and I was stepping in. I don't mind stepping up like that. What I think a good fighter does is fight for his company and I did it. I was pretty fat and enjoying my time off. I knew I had a hard training camp in front of me starting that next day. I like staying busy and having a goal so it refocused me. It was cool.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've read that you were about 205 pounds when you got the call, right?
David Rickels: Yeah, I was mid crab Rangoon or perhaps mid-beer when I got that call. There wasn't a day that went by where I wasn't trying to enjoy my time off. I was in the midst of fried salty foods. It was my calling and I got the call and now I have a fight. That's what I chose to do and I'm in there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much of this upcoming training camp has been spent getting yourself into fight shape compared to actually getting yourself in fight shape against the champ?
David Rickels: I really believe that being in shape and especially five fives kind of shape is a huge part of a title fight. Sure I would have liked some more time. Sure I would have liked this and that to be different but I got the call and I really thought it was something I could do. I wouldn't have jumped into this fight if I didn't think I had enough time to get prepared. I had about eight weeks or so. I would have liked more but I figured if I couldn't get myself into fight shape in that amount of time, I needed to find myself a new career path. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you concerned at all about having the conditioning to go five five minute rounds potentially considering your shortened training camp?
David Rickels: It was shorter but it was very intense and I think I carried over a little bit. Even though I was off, I wasn't off that long between winning the tournament and getting the call for this one. I had just enough time to let my body rest after that tournament. I had some bumps and bruises, this and that. My conditioning feels great. Everyone's been pushing me in camp and one thing I am certain of is I'm in shape to fight. I hope I get to show that off on July 31st.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had a terrific finish in your last fight against Saad Awad to win the tournament. Do you think that was just the type of performance you needed to boost your confidence after two grueling decisions in the first two rounds of the tournament?
David Rickels: Yeah, absolutely. I really believe those are the types of finishes I can have and I expect from myself. To have those two tough fights and the hard work I put into them and not finish those two tough guys, Lloyd Woodard and Jason Fischer, I was looking to get finishes in those fight. To seal the deal with the tournament, to get to put my hands on Saad Awad when he was supposed to be the more powerful striker, this and that, it felt really good. It did build my confidence a little bit and I'm extremely confident going into this fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Considering your well-rounded skills, did you almost want to go after Saad Awad on the feet just to beat someone at their own game? Is that something you really like to do?
David Rickels: Yeah, well that and I come from a kickboxing background. I did muay thai before I ever did any grappling so I looked at that as a slap in the face, people saying I wasn't any good on the feet. I figured we'd throw down. I like to stand and bang. That's how I prefer to fight. That was especially an instance of yeah, prove it to me. I've been hit hard before and I wanted to test myself.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Perhaps the thing most talked about for that fight was your entrance. It was so cool. Where is the dinosaur now?
David Rickels: He's hibernating (laughs). We had to rent him from a company called KHA. They were really cool. I saw them on the internet doing pranks with the dinosaurs and I called them up saying I wanted to do something with my entrance. Cojo the dinosaur got to come out, they came to my fight and that was one of the coolest things ever. I love entertaining people and the response from that was awesome.
The response was hilarious. The negative ones were the best. Some people told me I wasn't taking mixed martial arts seriously. Some nerd even sent me this long message about the historical inaccuracies of cavemen hanging out with dinosaurs. I could not believe someone took it that serious. Kids loved it though. Everyone was telling me their kids were all about it. I got into this sport to be an entertainer so to get this kind of feedback, it was great.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you under any pressure to try and go and top it considering the stakes are raised with this next title fight compared to a tournament final before?
David Rickels: That is the number one question I get, even my family. I've got some ideas and stuff, but I don't know if we're gonna be able to make it happen for this fight. We'll see. I'm sure I'll be the goofy caveman nonetheless with my club, but I don't know if I'll be able to fly in riding a Pteradactyl or whatever this time around. We'll see. We'll see.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're about to b ea dad. How has that changed things for you?
David Rickels: Yeah, basically I'm gonna be DDP the 4th. Me and my girl have been together for a long time. Her family, me, everyone's excited and I've got this big title fight going on. I think it's a little extra motivation, this and that, it's crazy. I'm just not gonna be ready as soon as I'm gonna be ready. I still feel like I'm a little bit of a kid myself, at heart. I'm walking out with dinosaurs to the cage. It better be a boy (laughs)
I'm responsible for someone else now. I've gotta think past myself. A lot of how I live is in the moment day by day. Now I've got to think about the future. I'm slowly adapting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Michael Chandler is a very talented lightweight. Where do you think you can threaten him the most?
David Rickels: I think it's on the feet. He's not shy about standing and trading with people. I'm glad to do that with him. Also, I think I've got a bit of an edge in the jiu-jitsu department. He's got great wrestling and good submission, but it's all set up by his wrestling. I'm sure he's training hard. He's talented, but I think my biggest edge is my ability to adapt during the fight. I'm so good at just finding a way to do shit,, finding a way to hurt you. If I end up on my back, I'll be smacking him on the ears, throwing elbows, submissions and standing up. My heart and adaptations will be key.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What intangibles do you think could play into your advantage against Chandler were perhaps other people have failed?
David Rickels: I think one of the things people do going into fights against Chandler is they get intimidated. The guy who gave Chandler one of his toughest fights was Lloyd Woodard and he's just like me, he never gets intimidated. I've never been scared of a fist-fight in my whole life. I'm facing a tough opponent but I know that. I think that's what it's gonna boil down to. Not being afraid and going after him, letting him know that I'm here to fight to right off the bat. I think the first round's gonna be crazy.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been thinking about this fight ever since you won the tournament. When you picture success, what do you see?
David Rickels: I picture myself with two Miller Lites, punching two holes in them and pouring them down my throat Stone Cold Steve Austin style in the middle of the ring. When I win, that's what's gonna happen.