Heading into 2016, Bellator lightweight David Rickels believed he was on track to find himself in the title picture. Unfortunately for Rickels, what was initially a loss to Melvin Guillard at Bellator 159 in July was a big setback to his plans.
“The way that I felt and the way I was training, I really felt like I was going to make another run for the belt, so to fall short against Melvin just hurts so much,” Rickels told MMAWeekly.com. “I really felt in tune. It was one of my best training camps.
“That’s just how crazy this game is. It really is a game where if you make one small mistake, you’ll definitely pay for it.”
Rickels’ loss was later ruled a no contest when Guillard tested positive for drugs. Even though the loss was expunged from his record, Rickels is not pleased.
“That just hurts because how can a guy who doesn’t take this seriously beat me,” questioned Rickels. “I take this very seriously. I want to be one the best in the world and always want to be known as a contender. That just hurt mentally. Now we’re on the road to recovery.”
Rickels (17-4) will look to make things right for himself when he takes on Aaron Derrow (14-8) in a main card 155-pound bout at Bellator 171 on Friday in Mulvane, Kan.
“I feel like this is a fight where I need to go out there and implement what I’m good at – pressure and good stand-up,” Rickels said. “I’ve got a really good gas tank, and (Derrow’s) got good durability, so that’s going to come into the play.
“His best chance is getting this to the ground and using some kind of grappling, but to be honest; in my head I believe I’m better than Aaron in a lot of places. It’s just about implementing my game plan and making him fight my fight.”
In addition to getting back to his roots as a fighter, Rickels has changed his outlook on fighting, and now feels ready to make his push up the ranks in 2017.
“I don’t even like losing for 30 seconds in a grappling match or sparring – I don’t like losing at all,” he said. “That’s unrealistic expectations. When fighting some of the best I the world, you’re going to have ups and downs. I’m starting to relax a little more and really just find the enjoyment in the game again.
“Whatever Bellator calls and has me do next, that’s what I want. I definitely have eyes on some fights. But I want to get these wins and earn them the right way: whether that’s three (fights) this year or two (fights) next year, whatever it takes to get to top contendership.”