Given Rickels is a relatively new addition to Bellator’s 170lb class, might Brennan Ward be taking him lightly? “Yeah, Probably, I hope. Man I hope. I hope so much he’s taking this lightly, because then it’s going to be that much sweeter when I smack him in the face.”
So how do they match up, in the end?
“I feel real good about this fight. I think Dave Rickels goes out there, kickboxes Brennan Ward. You’ve got to fight him smart” the Caveman explained. So not just a caveman clubbing then. “You don’t want to bumrush a guy like Brennan Ward. If I go out there and fight a good technical fight, show off my kickboxing skills, because I do got some skills, I got some skills, you all gonna see ’em. I’m going to put things together, and come out with the win.”
“I know it’s not going to be easy,” he finished, “but I don’t sign up for easy fights.”
It’s worth noting that, win or lose, every single one of Ward’s fights has ended in a finish. Twelve of Rickels’ own wins have come via stoppage, while he’s been finished in three of his four losses. Is there any chance this one goes the distance?
“It’s possible, it is possible, but it’s very unlikely” Rickels suggested. “Here’s the truth, if I was sitting on the outskirts, as a matchmaker, or gambling on this fight: Ward wins in round one, or I fucking smash him in rounds two and three and finish him. It’s just one of those kind of fights. He’s going to come out hot and heavy. If I can get through that, two and three is gonna be easy pickings. He just kind of fades away, and that’s where I shine.”
Caveman will be heading into enemy territory for this particular battle, mind you. It’s not, however, something that has him phased, despite the popular fighter having the crowd behind him more often than not. For him, it’s “one of two things: I walk out, I get some cheers, I embrace the crowd, ‘thank you, hell yeah, I’m Caveman, what’s up?’ Or two, I f***ing flip them off and tell them to f*** off and knock out Ward anyway. It doesn’t matter to me, I’ll react one way or the other.”
Speaking of walkouts, Rickels has become quite famous for his creative entrances. From walking out with a pet T-Rex, to a Flintstone-mobile of his own, to taking the Mannequin challenge (with the Bellator crew and fans taking part), Caveman walkouts are as entertaining as they get. So, does he have anything up his sleeve for Bellator 185?
“I’m not bringing any pterodactyls or anything like that, but I’ve always got something special planned” he said. “I’m always fun, I always want you to be entertained as soon as the cameras are on. That is my goal. Why waste that moment? Why waste that time? I want the eyes on me, I want everybody to go ‘who is this dude, why is he so f***ing confident?'”
And admittedly, “at this point, it would be weird not doing one. Could you imagine if I just walked out like one of those normal-a** fighters looking all mean and shit?” Really, though, there are endless possibilities for Caveman entrances. One that came up during our discussion? “We send out a lookalike that looks like me, then I knock him out. Club his a** down.”
It’s a bit of a lost art in MMA, as the sport has lost some of the showmanship it was known for during the Pride years. Is there still room for that to come back?
“I hope so” said Rickels, and then pointed out that it’s not a dead art just yet. “Look at Conor McGregor. You don’t think that’s showmanship? It’s a little different than what I do, but that’s showmanship. He’s literally becoming a character and entertaining the crowd. I think we need more of it, man.”
“If everybody did it, it wouldn’t be great” he conceded, “but you definitely have to find a way to make yourself stand out. We need more of it.”
Rickels has learned that lesson well. “Self-branding is one of the most important things you can do in this sport, to set you apart from everybody else.” And it can’t be forced. “One thing is it has to be genuine, too. You can’t try to be this bad guy image like Nick Diaz if that’s not you.”
When it works, the fans will let you know. “One of the things I always heard, through fans, is that ‘you can really tell you want to be out there doing this. You look like you’re having so much fun'” the fighter told us, “and I’m like ‘I f***ing am, this is f***ing great, this is the best ever.'”
How exactly did this modern day Caveman decide to start doing these crazy entrances? Caveman school — of a sort. “I had a mentor, his name’s Joe Wilk, he’s a black belt in the area, he was like the best fighter around” Rickels explained. “I ended up training with him, learning stuff like grappling from him, and what I also learned was the art of the walkout.”
“He did things a little differently, he was like this little ’45lb white guy, but he’d put bandanas on and rap and be gangster as hell.” According to Rickels, it got an instant reaction. “People were like ‘who is this guy?!? Look at this white dude being gangster as hell.’ I’ve known him for a long time, that kind of his personality. It was fun to watch, you gravitated instantly to him.”
“He grabs your attention.” Just like Rickels does in Bellator. “When we started fighting for Bellator, going to different places, it was like ‘people don’t know who David Rickels is yet, lets let them know, lets show them who David Rickels is.'”
“That’s when I started doing the goofy s*** I wanted to do.
Watch the Caveman go to war Friday, as David Rickels meets Brennan Ward in the co-main event of Bellator 185. The fight airs free on Spike TV with the main card starting at 9PM.