Even though when he looks back on 2013 Bellator lightweight David “Caveman” Rickels feels satisfied with the overall progress he made, his singular loss in five fights is what he feels could very well be the defining moment of his year.
“I think last year was when I really kind of broke through,” Rickels told MMAWeekly.com.
“Winning the (155-pound) tournament definitely got me some respect. And then losing to (Michael) Chandler the way I did really woke me up and kind of pissed me off because I know how good I am and I really wanted to showcase my skills and really didn’t get a chance to.”
While he’s not happy with loss to Chandler, Rickels refuses to live in the past and had moved on to the next bout just as quickly as he could.
“I’m a very realist person, so I’ve seen guys go out there and get knocked out who shouldn’t have been knocked out,” he said. “I’ve watched that happen in high level and low level.
“I kind of chalk it up to getting caught, which sucks, but let’s move on and showcase my skills in my next fight (against J.J. Ambrose) and I did pretty good with that. I want to carry that streak along.”
Starting this Friday against Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (11-5) in Mulvane, Kan., Rickels (15-2) will look to win his second straight Bellator lightweight tournament and once again earn a title shot later this year.
“The grind of the tournament is a different kind of beast, but I like it because it keeps me in the gym and keeps me very focused,” said Rickels.
“I think a lot of people would agree that as I went through the tournament last year, I got better with each fight. I kind of look to do the same thing here and get a good win here Friday and get better for the next one.”
When it comes to facing Freire, whom Rickels has taken to calling “Chihuahua” as a play on the family’s shared nickname, he plans to remain aggressive and push his opponent to the point of exhaustion to get a win.
“I’m thinking the key to victory is keep my chin tucked and don’t take a lot of heavy damage in the first round,” said Rickels of Freire. “I’m a fighter that doesn’t like to back up – and I think I actually fight worse backing up – so I’m going to be coming forward and really want to push the pace on him.
“He’s gassed in other fights, so I want to make him have to fight the full allotted time.”
While Rickels primarily wants people to be entertained by his fights, he does acknowledge that to truly make this year a successful one, he’s going to have to claim the title he was denied in 2013.
“Really, what honestly satisfies me 100 percent is putting on great fights,” he said. “That’s really what got me into this sport was being an entertainer. That’s why I do the crazy, outlandish things I do.
“I want to entertain with each fight in this tournament… But, with that being said, I do want to be a Top 10 fighter and to do that I need to take the Bellator title.”