Ricco Rodriguez got his career back on the winning track over the weekend at WEC 17: ‘Halloween Fury 4’ with a win over Jimmy ‘The Titan’ Ambriz. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion holds wins over Gary Goodridge, Paul Buentello, Andrei Arlovski and Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture. Go ahead and call it a comeback. “To walk away from the sport as a champ. That’s my goal. I want to retire a champ. That’s my goal,” Ricco told MMAWeekly.

Ricco Rodriguez was the ‘Sunday Night Conversation’ guest this week on MMAWeekly’s SoundOff Forum where he took questions from the fans about his career, his nagging knee injuries, getting back in the UFC, the state of the UFC heavyweight division, Tito Ortiz, and much more.

Commenting about his training leading up to his most recent bout against Jimmy Ambriz, Rodriguez said, “I didn’t really train because my knee didn’t allow me too. I wanted to be a little more heavier anyway for this fight so my knee didn’t move around too much. I had four knee surgeries in 2003, so I would rather not do it again if I don’t have to.”

Ricco tipped the scales at 288 for his fight with Ambriz. He’s said in the past that his best fighting weight is around 245, but this is just the beginning of Ricco getting back to his previous form. He said,”Once again I couldn’t train that much with my knee. Now with this fight I found out what I can do. I really want the Waterman rematch and I think I can get down to 255-260 for that then get down to 245 for my following fight.”

The former UFC Heavyweight Champ has been working hard on his striking. He commented, “Jimmy Ambriz went to a tie with Ron Waterman. With a bad knee I went to decision with Waterman. My striking has been my weakest point, so that’s all I’ve done with my bad knee. Just striking. I went toe to toe with Pedro Rizzo and didn’t get knocked out. Yeah it was a shitty fight, but I never got knocked out by Pedro Rizzo. It wasn’t a great fight ,but I know I could’ve done better. My stand up is much better. Even with Arlovski I knocked him down with two right hands. People forget about that too. I have worked hard on my striking and it’s coming through.”

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson has said it numerous times, his ability to train properly for fights suffered when ‘Team Punishment’ disbanded. Asked if he felt the same, Ricco commented, “Definitely. It came to our superstar status and everything. We are now very humble. We are very hungry again. It’s totally true. With a good crew we will have success again. You see what happens in all sports when guys break up what happens. The Lions Den guys probably way back when it broke up and they were never the same. Now they are older. It happens all the time and now we are all hungry and ready to go.”

Would Ricco consider leaving his current training partners for another camp? Ricco stated, “No. I’m open to cross train with other camps, but I’m happy with the guys I’m with right now. I’ve cross trained with Mark Laimon, Randleman, Tito, Rampage….those are the guys I’ve been working out with. Those are the guys I’m most consistent with right now. I’m open to anything, but it’s just a good fit group of guys for me that are hungry right now.”

Asked if he feels his association with Tito Ortiz could hurt his chances of getting back in the UFC, Ricco answered, “I would like to think it wouldn’t. I’m sure it doesn’t help though. Sometimes association can hamper things, but I would like to think that Dana wouldn’t hold a grudge against me.” He added, “Not sure what my relationship is [with the UFC]. I would like to think it’s good, but my brother Tito always seems to get me in trouble.”

What if the UFC doesn’t bring Ricco Rodriguez back? What will he do then? Ricco said, “If they don’t pick me up I would go to Pride and see how far WEC goes, Rumble on the Rock etc…I think it’s just a matter of time before the fans demand to see me back. Who knows maybe I will audition for the next ultimate fighter.”

Addressing the current state of the UFC heavyweight division, Rodriguez stated, “It’s there, their dumping more money in their other divisions like 205 and 185 and 170. Especially 205 and 170. They chucked 155 so they are focusing on the other three. They need to step up and spend money to get the heavyweights, that’s the bottom line. The reason why Pride has the top three fighters, it’s because they are spending the money to keep them. They just need to spend the cash to get the best fighters. Now the Japanese are working on the 155 and the heavyweights. You see the success they have from it. The problem with fighting in Japan, no one knows who you are. That may change with the TV shows now in America.”

Ricco was quite candid in his reply to being asked what his thoughts were on season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter. He said, “Matt Hughes is a dick. I’ve been saying that for awhile now. I won 5 grand on BJ Penn beating his ass. That was the biggest gambling thing ever. When you kiss a guy after a fight BJ made Hughes his bitch. He’s a good coach but he’s a dick. Rich Franklin is a real person. He’s a realistic guy and he’s always positive. I respect that. He’s cool and is a good coach.”

Do you have anything to say about the Pride interview where Sakakibara (Pride president) said that the UFC was afraid of matching their fighters against Pride’s, one fan asked. Rodriguez replied, “Sakakibara is promoting his own organization which I understand. UFC has sent so many guys over there like their champions, Carlos Newton, Chuck Liddell and Ricco Rodriguez. Even Murilo Bustamante. I haven’t seen one champ from Pride ever step into a UFC cage. If they have the best Heavys and Light Heavys let’s see it.”

Asked who he’d like to fight if given the opportunity to pick his next few opponents. Rodriguez replied, “My top three would be Tim Sylvia, Ron Waterman and Minotauro Nogueira, and my dream fight would be Nogueira in the UFC. The cage would be a huge advantage for me and the judges in Pride I’m not crazy about after my last fight. Pride hasn’t sent anybody to the UFC. I would love that fight. I don’t know why they don’t want to send one fighter over here.”

What about a rematch with UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski? Rodriguez said, “Basically I would love to fight Arlovski now that I’ve been staying busy. If I have preparation I would definitely be excited.”

During the UFC 47: ‘It’s On’ post fight press conference Ricco and Mike Kyle had an interesting exchange of words. Kyle knocked out Wes Sims with just seconds remaining in round one, but Sims left the octagon with an imprint on his chest that matched Mike Kyle’s dental records. Rodriguez let his opinion of Mike Kyle known that April evening and not much has changed since.

Asked why a fight with Mike Kyle never materialized, Ricco said, “The UFC didn’t put it together. I’m not sure if they didn’t want the fight or what. I’ve never had a grudge against anybody in my life. That would have been one fight that I would wake up every day and say I’m going to f#%k this dude up. I don’t dislike Tim Sylvia or anything like that. He’s just one guy I hate. Anybody that bites somebody, you are a bitch. He bit Sims in the tit. He had teeth marks. That was a bitch move. You bit me I will f#%k you up.”

Questioned about when training partner Tito Ortiz will be competing again and how he’d do in a rematch with current UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell, Rodriguez said, “I guarantee he will be fighting next year soon. Maybe by January or February. Tito will be back. He is back training and working hard and everything. I think Tito gave Chuck way too much respect and that cost him in the fight. I would love to see Rampage and Chuck again, Tito again, etc… It would be great fights.”

Discussing taking future fights, he said, “SHOW ME THE MONEY! I’m a professional fighter. I feel like they pay me to train and I fight for free. When they call me at the last minute its not for the fight, it’s the time and effort that goes into the fight. Giving me time to train is a sign of respect. I need that time to train at this point of my career to get ready for fights. Now that I turned down that fight with Arlovski because there wasn’t enough time, it seems like now more people want to see my fight more than ever.”

How long will Ricco Rodriguez continue fighting? He said, “I really don’t have a backup career. I’m 28 right now, I would probably fight until 35 or 36.”

In closing Ricco Rodriguez stated, “I want to thank MMAWeekly for having me here today. I feel really welcome here and I appreciate it. I want to say thanks for your support. You will see me at 255 when I fight Ron Waterman and I hope that will be in January. I will be in great shape, so in case anybody calls like the UFC I will be ready. I want to say thanks to Fairtex who stepped up and really helped me out. Ken Pavia, my new sports agent, is a great guy who represents many pro athletes who believes in me and he has been great…I told him we don’t make any money and he didn’t care. Once again, I can’t believe you guys didn’t roast me. I thought I was going to get hated on, but everybody here was very respectful and I appreciate that. Thanks again to MMAWeekly and I will be back very soon.”