In March of last year, Rickels was knocked out by Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. As a result, he completely changed his outlook towards his preparation and was able to rebound with a win last October against Davi Ramos.
“Looking at that (loss to Freire), I realized I had a big problem,” Rickels told MMAWeekly.com. “I went into that fight not loving training. I started my camp at 205 pounds. Yeah, I worked my ass off and was in great shape for that fight, but mentally I was not where I needed to be.
“Pitbull knocked me out, reset my brain, and put me on a path to greatness. You can see everything unfold in my next fight. I went in there and completely picked apart a world-renowned guy (in Ramos).”
According to Rickels, the changes he’s made have had major impact on his game.
“Instead of just being fat and lazy, just wanting to drink beer all the time, I got right back in the gym and started training to be better,” said Rickels. “I want to be better. I want to be at the highest level.
“I move better, I’m faster, I’m thinking more clearly. I’m putting things together. I’m starting to see things as a professional mixed martial artist, as somebody who wants to be in the top tier and be unbeatable. I’m feeling great in my training.”
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“I very much respect him as an opponent, but I feel I’m just better,” Rickels said of Alessio. “I’ve always known that I have something better to show the world and I’ve started to tap into it and I want to show that in this fight.
“John is a crafty veteran and I want to go out there and pick him apart and I want to show the world that I’m much better than him and heading towards a title shot.”
Should Rickels have his way, the road to a lightweight title shot would go through an opponent he originally lost to in his lone championship match in former beltholder Michael Chandler.
“I want to finish John in great fashion, and I want to redeem my loss to (Chandler) and earn my way toward a title shot,” said Rickels. “That’s how I see this path paving out.
“If we both get a definitive wins, let’s pair up a few months down the road and throw down and decide who can get in there for a title shot. Michael is definitely one of the best in the division and I’m looking to redeem a loss in there.”