(This story appears in today’s print edition of USA TODAY.)
Ricardo Lamas was none too happy in June.
A few weeks before a major fight against a major opponent, Lamas had it yanked out from under him. What was even worse for the UFC featherweight was his opponent was given a title shot instead of him.
Lamas (13-2 MMA, 4-0 UFC) was supposed to meet “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung (13-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC), with the winner expected to be next in line to fight for the title after champion Jose Aldo‘s fight against Anthony Pettis at UFC 163.
Lamas thought he’d get the next shot after a decisive TKO win against Erik Koch in January, but it went to Pettis. And when Pettis was forced out with an injury, Lamas was again passed up in favor of Jung. But with Aldo’s win against Jung in the rearview mirror, Lamas can get back to the business of what he’s been doing – playing the waiting game.
Lamas told USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com he has yet to talk to the UFC about what likely comes next for him. With a four-fight win streak since dropping to 145 pounds from lightweight, many thought he should be next in line all along. The other fighter that has risen lately, Cub Swanson, has a loss to Lamas less than two years ago.
But a foot injury suffered by Aldo in his win over Jung, which took place this past Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, could keep him sidelined for a while. And then there’s the possibility Aldo will be asked to move up to lightweight to make a run there. Either way, Lamas might be back in that familiar position of having to wait.
“If they can promise me a title shot, I’ll wait for it,” Lamas said. “I’ve got to talk to (the UFC) and see what’s going on. I heard (Aldo’s) going to be out till the end of the year, and we don’t know if he’s going to move to lightweight or not. If he’s going to move up or be out for a long time, I should be in there against whoever they want to put me against for the interim title.
“We’ll probably try to get in contact with them later in the week, when things settle a little more, and we’ll figure out what’s going on.”
That’s been the biggest problem for Lamas this year. Just when he thinks things might be figured out, just when he thinks things are settled, they aren’t, and he’s once again on the outside looking in.
The Chicago-based fighter was watching the Aldo-Jung fight carefully, no doubt hoping he’d be next to face the winner. And he said he did his best to pay attention while trying to not think about what might have been had he gotten the call to go to Rio instead of Jung.
“Seeing the guy I was going to fight up there fighting the champ, it sucks,” he said. “I thought it should’ve been me up there. I was sitting in my chair at the bar doing head movements, fighting some invisible opponent.”
But that dilemma won’t be nearly as bad as if he is passed over for a third time for a title shot. That, he acknowledged, is part of the fight game, and as the cliche goes, he’ll fight whoever the UFC puts in front of him.
But he won’t be happy, and that, he said, will motivate him even more.
“I’d be steamed, but it’s happened twice already,” Lamas said. “If it happens again, it’s not going to be a huge shock. If they make me fight someone else, I feel bad for whoever they put in front of me.”
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