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David Rickels: The Caveman King of Kansas

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“Caveman” David Rickels (17-4) can also be known as the “King of Kansas” and with a pro record of 7-1-1 in fights that take place in his home state, it’s hard to argue with the moniker. The Bellator Lightweight is certainly a fan favorite, combining eccentric walk-outs with entertaining fights to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats. I got the chance to speak to the Kansas native ahead of his upcoming fight with Melvin Guillard at Bellator 159.

When we spoke before your last fight, you were coming off a loss to Michael Chandler, with a no-contest in the fight prior and were looking to “get back to form”. How does getting a 1st round finish in your last fight feel after all of that?

David Rickels: “Bobby Cooper is kind of a known guy out here, in the Midwest at least. And what he’s really known for is being tough and he’s never been finished. I really wanted to show where I was at skill wise and finish him. Getting a 1st rounder wasn’t even expected but I’m glad that it happened and it really shows that I’m doing some of the right things to get better.”

Now you’re set to fight Melvin Guillard, a long-time veteran who’s been through a rough patch lately. How are you preparing for this fight and do you have a particular gameplan?

DR: “I’ve just been really focusing on the small things, the basics and improving on those basics like footwork and defense and striking long and using my range. Using my clinch appropriately, those kinds of things, the very small things; it’s the fine details that make you a great fighter. I feel like I’m much more detailed and have more skills at hand than Melvin Guillard but he’s still got that one thing and it makes him very dangerous. I mean, sh*t I don’t know, I wanna say he’s got like 50 fights or so. He’s not gonna come in timid, he knows what he wants to do which is gonna be to knock my freaking head off. What you see is what you get with him a lot of times and I think he’s gonna come forward and try and knock my head off and I’ve gotta be ready for that.”

Where do you think a win puts you as far as the Lightweight division and the title are concerned?

DR: “Where oh where indeed. We’re on the yellow brick road my friend, and that road of yellow is painted in gold son. And it doesn’t matter if it takes 2 steps, 3 steps, 4 steps, that’s the goal is get to the end of the yellow brick road. And I mean, Josh Thomson, Ben Henderson, Campos, those are some of the guys that I think are in the mix as well and I don’t mind taking those guys on and taking the slow path back to gold and greatness.”

As far as fight prep goes, cutting weight is always a big part of the process. I’ve seen some things about a “lock box of food”, what exactly is that about and how is the weight cut going?

DR: “So I basically do a low carb, very low sugars, mostly fats and lean protein and stuff like that. But I got this problem where I wake up in the middle of the night and you know you’re in that groggy, not quite thinking straight and maybe you’re rationalizing like ‘oh I can eat a little bit’ but then that little bit turns into an entire jar of peanut butter and you done f****d everything up. So, the only logical thing to do is to lock all the goodies away at night. Keep the Caveman away from those things. My girl hides the key in a new place every night because I will look for it. But, yeah, the weight is doing good.”

You’re very involved in the community and the fans certainly seem to reciprocate the love. How does it feel to essentially have “home field advantage” in a lot of your fights?

DR: “That’s one of the best ways you can possibly describe it. I really feel comfortable in that setting. You know I love to come out and do some crazy wacky sh*t right, have a good time? Well, there’s no other fans that are gonna reciprocate the same other than the fans here that love me. Those are the things I thrive on, those things make me fight a little bit harder. When I feel tired and I hear the roar of the crowd, I’m no longer tired, I’m coming after your ass. I wanna give that crowd what they came to see and what they came to see is the King of Kansas crowned and hopefully, one of these days wearing a beautiful ass belt with it.”

On the same lines of giving back to the community, you’re very involved with a promotion known as Evolution Fighting Championship out there in Kansas. Can you give a little more details on that promotion?

DR: “I’m 1 of 3 owners in EFC. I’ve noticed that since Bellator started to come here, and I owe a lot of this to Bellator, there’s been a huge increase in MMA fans. There’s been a lot of people falling in love with MMA. And it’s other factors too like the UFC and the sport going more mainstream. People in Wichita love MMA and they don’t just love Bellator MMA, they want to see the local guys fight too and we wanted to give those guys a good, quality platform to perform on. We didn’t have anything like that at the time so we started EFC. We do it right there at the Kansas Star, the same place where Bellator goes on at. We had a really good turnout at our last show and we pull in really good talent here in the area. I’m just really happy that Bellator has come here and allowed us to create something that’s a little bit smaller, quite a bit smaller, but none the less it’s something that’s good for the community and the fighters. For a lot of my pro fights I had to travel outside of Kansas just to get fights and I’m happy to say that a lot of our fighters don’t have to do that anymore. We’re bringing in guys from Oklahoma, Texas and all over.”

Finally, your walkouts are always a must see part of your fights, whether you’re Periscoping it or walking out with a dinosaur. Do you have anything special planned this time around?

DR: “There’s another thing that comes with the home field, which is expectations. The crowd thirsts for Caveman shenanigans. And you know I have to, well I don’t have to but I want to, I love to. I’ve got something planned for the event but you’re gonna have to tune in to check it out.”

Be sure to tune into Bellator 159 on Friday, July 22nd to see just what he has in store for the fans.

And if you’re in the Wichita, Kansas area, check out Evolution Fighting Championship IV at the Kansas Star on October 1st.

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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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