Just four months into 2018 and bantamweight Ricky Simon is already having the best year of his career.
Coming off a 2017 campaign that saw him win all four of his bouts and claim the LFA 135lb championship, Simon has been able to top it this year with a successful title defense in March over Vinicius Zani at LFA 36, followed by a call up to the UFC.
“I ended up fighting (Zani) with the most amount of confidence I’ve ever had,” Simon told MMAWeekly.com. “I was coming off a win over a UFC vet (in Chico Camus). I was going into that fight very confident.
Simon didn’t have to wait long to find out he was headed to the UFC, as he was told he was making the move while in the cage celebrating his victory over Zani.
“I just defended my LFA title with a pretty devastating knockout, and my manager was in my corner as well, and he was in the cage and told me about it,” said Simon. “It was crazy. I just had an awesome knockout, and then I was told I was going to fight in the UFC. It was a dream come true moment.”
For his promotional debut, Simon (12-1) faces Merab Dvalishvili (7-3) in a preliminary 135-pound bout at UFC Fight Night 128 on Saturday in Atlantic City, NJ.
“I think Merab is a very strong 135er,” Simon said. “He’s well-rounded. He’s a great wrestler and grappler. But I want to say I’m better in every aspect. I’m excited for the match-up. I’m excited for someone that’s strong to try to take me down. I want to show what I can do with my wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu game.”
Though he has just shy of a month turnaround between his last LFA bout and his UFC debut, Simon isn’t worried about being burnt out by the quick turnaround.
“I’ve been in camp since the Contender Series (last August) and the UFC told me to be ready,” said Simon. “I’ve been on the grind for the last seven months or whatever it is.
“I’m not worried about (being burned out). It’s been easy to bounce back and get back into the gym. I’ve taken a few easy days, but then I’ve really just got back at it. This is what I live for.”
Now that he’s in the UFC, the goal for Simon in 2018 is to be as active as he can in the promotion and make his way up the 135lb ranks.
“My goal is to break that Top 10 as fast as possible,” Simon said. “I feel I match up well with anyone in the UFC’s bantamweight division. I feel like I’m right there. This year I want to at least have three fights in the UFC and break into that Top 10.”