For Rickels, not only was the fight about getting back on track, but it was about making a statement of the kind of fighter he’s become since joining Team Elevation fulltime.
“A lot of my style and stuff has been changing out there, kind of developing, though I didn’t get to show that off in the Bobby fight.” Rickels told MMAWeekly.com. “But I went out there and did exactly what I said I was going to do, and that was finish Bobby, who has never been finished.
“I really wanted to prove that I’m making the small steps and improvements in my game and hopefully head on a title run. Getting the belt is always going to be on my mind. I’ve accomplished just about everything I can do in Bellator except get the belt.”
Not only does his new group of training partners and coaches influence his development, but Rickels has studied tape on himself to make sure he doesn’t get away from the things that have worked for him in the past.
“I’ve tried to look at myself from the outside,” he said. “I’ve also gone back and watched a lot of my old fights to see where I was excelling, and focusing on that.
“A lot of people get so focused on fixing things that are wrong, they forget to hone in on what got them there in the first place – their best attributes. So it’s been a little bit of both; polishing up some old tricks and then creating some new ones.”
Rickels (17-4) will look to pick up his second straight victory when he takes on Melvin Guillard (32-16-2) in a lightweight co-main event at Bellator 159 in Mulvane, Kansas, on July 22.
“I think Melvin is best at just trying to KO me in the first two minutes,” said Rickels. “That’s his best bet in the fight.
“I really believe I’m a more developed striker. I believe I have better wrestling. And I think I have better jiu-jitsu. So wherever the fight goes I feel super-confident. You’re going to see me working a lot of different fields on this one.”
While in the past Rickels might have pushed hard for title contention, right now he’s enjoying the strides he’s made in his game and will let opportunities come when they can.
“Team Elevation really pushes me and makes me better,” he said. “I trained with a lot of the same guys for such a long time that I got used their habits and this and that. I’ve got a group of 40 new fighters that I train with right now. I’m learning new things from them.
“I’m in no rush because I’m getting better. Each fight will just push me a little bit closer.”