A loss inside the cage can either be the beginning of a long stretch of trouble or provide the spark to set off a motivated run. Bellator lightweight, David Rickels, is confident the latter is the matter at hand and is determined to provide the proof on Friday night at Bellator 103.
It was a setback against Karl Amassou at Bellator 69 in 2012 that prompted the Kansas native to seek reinvention at a lower weight class. While "The Caveman" had found success in the welterweight fold, he set his sights on building another winning streak and establishing himself in Bellator's increasingly competitive lightweight division.
The results were impressive as Rickels collected four consecutive victories en route to winning the promotion's Season 8 lightweight tournament. In doing so, the Wichita resident also earned the opportunity to face highly touted champion Michael Chandler for the 155-pound strap at Bellator 97 in July.
While the moment was everything Rickels had been working to reach, it wasn't something he could capitalize upon as he suffered a first round knockout at the hands of the young champion. Down but never out, Rickels set his sights on making his way back to the top of the division, and will take the first step on that journey Friday night against J.J. Ambrose.
In addition to the fight being Rickels' return to action, it will also mark the first time in two years he will get the opportunity to fight in his home state, and he's fired up to put on a show.
"I'm a proud Kansas man and I'm really excited," Rickels told Bleacher Report. "I haven't been able to fight here in a couple of years, and the last time they saw me, sadly enough was me getting knocked out. I'm on a redemption mode. I want to show my crowd what I'm really capable of."
"You see guys get a complacency with winning but I don't believe that happened to me," Rickels added. "Michael just struck my chord that night. A loss puts a really bitter taste in your mouth and redemption is the best word I can come to because I feel like I'm much better than what I got to show that night. I believe in my heart that I'm a top 10 fighter. The road to redemption is long and it starts with J.J. Ambrose."
Where Ambrose will be the more experienced fighter coming into the tilt, Rickels is the one who is established under the Bellator banner. The Californian has previously competed on two occasions inside the Bellator cage, but mixed results have prevented him from finding his footing with the promotion.
While he will undoubtedly be looking to change that dynamic on Friday night, Rickels is prepared to make sure that doesn't happen at this turn, and is ready for anything Ambrose brings to the table.
"I think we match up really well, but I see it in my favor," Rickels said. "I think he's like a seven all around. He's one of those guys who is pretty good at everything. I believe his grappling is pretty good and it's more of his strength, but he's been focusing on his striking.
"I'm looking to see what he pulls out there but I'll be prepared. I train for everything in my training camps. If he wants to fight with me on the feet, I'll be ready to go there. If he wants to take it to the ground and work jiu-jitsu, I'm going to be looking to defend. Whatever happens in the fight I feel I'm prepared for."
With his fight against Ambrose taking place outside of the brackets of this season's lightweight tournament, his championship hopes have been cooled for the time being. That being said, every fight on the big stage is an opportunity to raise his profile, and Rickels has quickly developed a reputation for being as game as they come when the cage door closes.
MMA is a highly competitive game—especially at the highest levels—and some fighters are willing to sacrifice entertainment value for strict game plans in the pursuit of victory. While winning is undoubtedly what ultimately matters, the situation also breaks down to some fighters having or lacking the ability to put on a show for the fans.
Rickels knows he has the type of style fans love to see, and giving them something to talk about provides plenty of motivation as he heads into the fight.
"Not everyone has the ability nor do they even look to put on exciting fights," Rickels said. "That's the big difference with me. I look to put on exciting fights every single time. There is no wishy-washy game plan to skate by. I either go in and put on an exciting fight where I smash the dude's face in or I get carried out like a soldier on his shield. I really like my style of fighting because I like to entertain. That's why I got into this. The entertainment aspect is the funnest aspect of fighting for me."
"The great thing about me is that fans can expect to see the same damn thing from me every single time. I'm going to put everything I have into this fight and will be looking to tear the guy in half. I always look to really beat on guys with every appendage I have available. I'm not going out there looking to have a pitter-patter fight. I'm coming in there to get after it."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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