Bellator 97: David Rickels Welcomes Underdog Role Versus Michael Chandler, It’s Been “The Story of my Career”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Heading into this Wednesday’s Bellator 97 card in New Mexico, much of talk surrounding Michael Chandler is tied to the recent eight fight contract he signed, rather than the fact that he’ll face David Rickels that same night. While the 24 year-old contender has impressed in his Bellator tenure to date, most observers are not expecting Rickels to end Chandler’s reign as lightweight champion. The betting lines have “The Caveman” as a heavy underdog in the +400 to +500 range.
Of course, Chandler is widely regarded to be one of MMA’s best lightweight fighters, so is Rickels upset by the fact people are looking past him? According to the former welterweight, he’s pretty used to it.
“It’s actually been kind of the story of my career,” Rickels said while appearing on Full Contact Fighter Radio recently. “I’ve always kind of been like, ‘oh, he’s there, but, you know, he’s just whatever.’ So, I’ve never really had people being like ‘Oh man, this Rickels guy, holy s–t,’ you know? It’s pretty normal for me.”
It’s somewhat of a surprising revelation, considering that Rickels has gone 14-1 to date, and the only man to defeat him was welterweight contender Karl Amoussou, who did so by split decision.
“So, I feel good, and I always use that as anybody else would I suppose; I use that energy,” added Rickels, who defeated Lloyd Woodard, Jason Fischer and Saad Awad to take Bellator’s last lightweight tourney. “I like that kind of stuff man. Go ahead and look past me man because my punch is going to go right past your f–kin head.”
When asked if Rickels has read or heard anything from Chandler directly, which relays the lightweight champ is looking past him, he said:
“No. I think Michael’s…I really don’t know,” Rickels admitted. “I hope not. I think he’s a smart enough guy, and he’s a talented enough guy that he’s gotta be in shape, he’s gotta be ready to fight just like anybody else would. You can’t slack off when you’re the champion. There’s a lot pressure.”
The 27 year-old Chandler has won eight straight fights now since signing with Bellator, and the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler has scored wins over established vets like Patricky Freire, Rick Hawn and Eddie Alvarez in the process.
“Absolutely, but the greatest part about that is that I feel like I’m a top tier fighter as well,” said Rickels, when asked if agrees with the consensus that Chandler is among the planet’s best at 155. “So, I would never look past a guy like Michael Chandler and just tell you ‘oh, I’m going to smash him, he’s not even a problem for me.’”
“Man, this is going to be a tough fight; this is going to be a scrap for both of us I think,” Rickels furthered. “Once he won that fight against Eddie Alvarez, he’s kind of solidified his name, and Bellator jumped on that huge. They’ve done a great job of promoting him.”
Bellator 97 will take place at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, Nex Mexico and will be broadcast live on SPIKE.