Bellator MMA’s David “The Caveman” Rickels earned a lightweight title fight with champion Michael Chandler by winning the Bellator Season 8 Lightweight Tournament. He defeated Lloyd Woodard, Jason Fischer and Saad Awad to get to the title fight, but an Independence Day firework accident nearly caused his championship aspirations to go up in flames.
“I nearly blew up my hand on the Fourth of July. It didn’t affect my training at all. Everything is great, but I had a big open wound on my hand, and I had to be really careful as far as not getting infected,” Rickels told MMAWeekly.com. “I’ve done a really good job, surprisingly. I’ve got a resilient body and I’m feeling great going into this fight.”
“I was lighting another one and the spark jumped over into the one in my hand and blew up. It was a really weird deal. It was a freak accident that could have cost me my damn hand let alone my title fight,” he explained.
At first, Rickels didn’t know how much damage the firework caused, but his first thoughts were that it wasn’t good.
“I said holy (expletive). I was like, how am I going to explain this? I didn’t know how bad it was because it was really dark and I couldn’t see anything. I could feel my finger, so I was like, okay, that’s there at least,” he said. “I had a really nasty blister, open wound for about a week and a half or two weeks. It healed up great and maybe I won’t be playing with fireworks this close to a fight next time.”
With the near disaster avoided, Rickels focused on Michael Chandler and winning the lightweight belt.
“I look at Michael, I see his skill strengths and I respect all of my opponents, what they’re good at. But really, I think I’m just the kind of fighter that I kind of match-up well with almost anybody because I feel like I’m well-rounded to find an opening, find a way,” he said.
“That’s what I aim to do to Michael Chandler in this fight, hopefully land that right hand, hopefully land that elbow, set up that triangle, hit a sweep. I just feel good. I feel like I’m tough enough everywhere that I can give him a great fight, give the fans a great fight and pull off the victory, pull off the upset,” added the 24-year-old fighter.
Rickels has been with Bellator MMA since 2011. He’s competed in two Bellator tournaments and has nine fights with the organization. He’ll compete for his first Bellator title at Bellator 97 on July 31 against Chandler and winning the title would mean a great deal, but most of all it would give Rickels the recognition he believes he deserves.
“It would mean absolutely the world to me. It would put me on that stage that I really believe I belong to. I believe I’m an upper-tier fighter, top 25 in the world type of fighter, so I’d really like to be able to feel that too. I think the Bellator Lightweight Championship shows that caliber of fighter,” he said.