With Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, and Israel Adesanya leading this weekend’s UFC 234 pay-per-view showdown in Melbourne, Australia, it seems like the rest of the fights on the card aren’t getting the usual gloss.
While he’s flying under the radar right now, UFC bantamweight Ricky Simón is hoping his main-card bout against Rani Yahya will be the talk of the MMA world come Sunday morning.
“This is the perfect situation for me as a fighter to show what I can do,” Simon told FloCombat. “Being on the pay-per-view portion of the card, right before Anderson Silva — it’s crazy to think I’ll be making that walk right before him.”
Originally scheduled to fight Ricardo Ramos at UFC Denver in November, Simón was pulled from the card weeks prior. While Ramos was the one to pull out of the matchup, Simón was suffering from injuries of his own and deferred the UFC’s proposition for a replacement.
“Ricardo [Ramos] pulled out, but it might have been a blessing in disguise because I was actually fighting a number of injuries as well,” Simón said. “Once Ricardo [withdrew], I sat back with my coaches and thought that maybe we should recover for a little bit and then come back. So I took about six weeks to get over some injuries and then I was right back at it.”
Defeating a veteran like Yahya will be no easy task. The crafty Brazilian has cemented his spot as one of the UFC’s most threatening ground fighters, submitting his last three opponents.
No one recognizes the potent danger more than Simón, who promises he’ll come prepared Saturday night.
“We’re at a level and a point of my career where I have to spend extra time preparing for certain aspects of the fight,” Simón said. “We’ve been definitely preparing the right way. My head coach Fabiano Scherner is a multiple-time world jiu-jitsu champion, so we’ve been definitely getting in some good work.
“I feel like with my wrestling, I’m going to be able to dictate where the fight goes. I know Rani is going to come out and try to take me down. I get excited to know that because I don’t get that too often in fights. It’s going to be a lot of fun to deal with that. We’re definitely ready.”
With a win over Yahya, Simón believes his name will have a number beside it the next time the UFC updates its official rankings.
"He’s fought tons of times in the UFC,” Simón said. “I’m pretty sure he was fighting in the UFC before I even started fighting. I’ve been watching him for a while and it’s going to be pretty cool to go in there and take his No. 15 spot.”
I feel like it has to put me in the rankings. I feel like I’ve been flying under the radar. My last two opponents came back and put on dominant performances. They’re getting a lot of respect and a push. After this win, there’s no more denying me.”
When the dust settles in Melbourne, Simón envisions the fight ending inside the distance and his hand being raised by the referee.
“Rani and I are going to put on a really exciting fight,” said Simón. “I’m going to put on the takedown defense, make him stand with me, and get the knockout. It’s going to open a lot of eyes.”