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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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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.

McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.

What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.

It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.

Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.

While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.

It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.

While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.

McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.

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Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192

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Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.

The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.

This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.

Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

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