When Mike Ricci steps into the Octagon to face Colin Fletcher tonight at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, he will be fulfilling a dream. The dream wasn’t to fight in Canada, but to fight on a card with fellow Tristar teammate George St Pierre.
“I always wanted to fight on a card with him,” Ricci said recently as a guest on Darce Side Radio. “That was a dream of mine for a long time. I’m not just talking like I wanted to, or I would like to— no this was my dream. Some kids dream about playing pro football, or being an astronaut, or what not. This was my dream. To be able to fight on pay per view to top it off, on the main card with Georges I’m super excited.
Ricci was nowhere near this elated before his last fight, a loss via unanimous decision to Colton Smith at The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson Finale. He gave several reasons for his poor performance that night.
“First and foremost was my mental fatigue,” Ricci explained. “I’ve been pretty open about how I didn’t enjoy being at the TUF house. I needed some time off when I got back but I didn’t take any,” Ricci admitted then continued. “I was really mentally fatigued going into that fight. Also, hurting my knee seven weeks before the fight. I tore my LCL, and I was on the bench for four. Really I only trained for three weeks for that fight. I really just remember that week being long, and just wanting to get it over with once I got into the cage.”
It’s shocking, yet refreshing to hear a fighter like Ricci be so blunt and honest about his feelings during that time. Typically a fighter in the TUF Finale won’t be giving an admission that they couldn’t wait for their fight to be over, or that they were just going through the motions and not giving it all they had.
I’m not making any excuses, I’m just saying mentally once I got into the cage I wasn’t really myself,” Ricci admitted. “I found myself kind of just cruising through the fight and just trying to get it over with instead of fighting off his takedowns and trying my hardest to win the fight.”
Ricci was favored to win that night, and looked outstanding in the semi-finals winning with a vicious KO of fellow Carwin teammate Neil Magny.
“I was a favorite going into that fight because everyone saw how I fought in the house, and it was pretty clear that wasn’t the case in the finale,” Ricci said. “But you live and you learn you know? It was a good experience for me regardless which is why I didn’t back out of the fight. I took it regardless of mental state or injuries, and I learned a lot from it.”
“This sport is all about progress and growth.”
Ricci has put that loss, and last year behind him. The quiet, calm, and often seen wearing shades fighter began to prepare at the start of this year.
“I had a feeling I’d be fighting in March so I’ve been preparing since January for this fight,” Ricci explained. “I feel kind of rejuvenated that the house is over with and I’m back in my weight class and I’m at home. Everything seems right. This seems like my fight, it feels like my fight. The last fight didn’t really feel like it was mine and it showed in my performance. I wasn’t able to get into that zone.”
Ricci’s opponent, Fletcher, also lost via unanimous decision in his TUF final, losing to Norman Parke on the UFC on FX: Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson card. Both fighters will be seeking their first win in the UFC. Ricci didn’t hint at any pressure to get the first win, and mentioned no hiccups in training this time around.
“This training camp hasn’t been a problem for me,” Ricci said confidently. “I’ve definitely not been fun to spar with or train with at all this training camp as opposed to my last camp where every workout was just me trying to get it over with and just kind of breeze through it.”
An injury free training camp, back at 155lbs, and back home could very well be Ricci’s recipe for victory at UFC 158.
“Now there’s nothing left to do but show up March 16th and do what I do best and that’s it.”