Reality TV Star and STFC 35 Co-Headliner Ricky Palacios: Adrenaline Junkie with the Heart of a Rooster
By Keith Harmon
Ricky Palacios is aiming for the stars.
A cast member on the first, award-winning season of UFC co-founder Campbell McLaren’s Combate Americas (English translation: The Fighting Americas) reality television series on NBC Universo (formerly mun2), the show, the first in history designed to deliver an authentic U.S. Hispanic MMA product to serve the fastest growing demographic in the country, was essentially a coming out party for the aggressive minded, 28-year-old resident of Mission, Texas.
Eagerly awaiting a new opportunity with McLaren’s latest brainchild that gives him a vehicle to proudly represent his Mexican heritage in the cage, Palacios is staying active, in the meantime, competing as both a professional Mixed Martial Artist and boxer.
On Fri., June 12, he will take on Ricardo Diaz (2-1) from Monterrey, Mexico in a 135 pound limit matchup in the co-main event at STFC 35, which will stream as an iPPV on Full Contact Fighter via GFL.
Keith Harmon: Tell me about your experience on the Combate Americas reality show. Did you struggle, in any way, being in front of a camera 24/7, for the first time in your life?
Ricky Palacios: I don’t feel like I struggled much. I’m just myself, and it’s not hard to be myself. I’m outgoing, I’m a happy guy and I like to do what I do.
KH: How has being in front of the camera helped you in your fights?
RP: It’s the same thing. You get a bit of a rush and a little bit of your nerves. It never goes away. You can never be too calm before a fight. Sometimes you need that adrenaline rush to kick in (and) put you in the moment for the fight. I do have one loss in my career and I (went into the cage) too calm, and that’s where I made a mistake.
KH: How has being on the show improved your fan base?
RP: It improved tremendously. I have fans all over the world now. I have a big Latino fan base. It’s crazy. I live in South Texas, by the border. Last June, I went to Storm Lake, Iowa, a small town with all fields around it. I was there for a month, and I had fans up there. People would come up to me and say ‘You’re El Gallero from the show. I’m a big fan.’ I was like ‘Wow. People all the way up here actually watch the show.’ It’s pretty crazy.
KH: Recently a lot of MMA companies have been trying to gain a foothold in Mexico and South America. Do you think the show helped with that?
RP: The reality show put it out there. The UFC is the number one MMA promotion in the world. There are only so many fighters they can have in their company, and there are a lot of fighters in this world. A lot of them are really talented and, Combate Americas -knowing that it’s coming up, an MMA legend (Royce Gracie) made an appearance on the show and helped create an opportunity for talent in the Latino world.
KH: Before you got into MMA, were there any fighters you enjoyed watching?
RP: I started MMA kind of late; I was 23 or 24 years old. I didn’t do sports in high school. I didn’t have any martial arts training. And that’s when UFC was beginning to pick up. Tim Sylvia and Randy Couture were the main people.
I did do a lot of street fighting. I’m not going to say I didn’t. I love to street fight. I’m an adrenaline junkie. I love the rush. I got in trouble a few times. I decided to focus my energy on MMA, once the UFC was up and coming.
KH: How did you get the nickname ‘El Gallero?’
PR: Where I grew up, the Mexican sport is rooster fighting. Back in the day, when it was legal, we would go to the Bayou in Louisiana and go compete over there. You’d see Roy Jones Jr. in the stands.
The heart of a Rooster – they fight to the death. It doesn’t matter how beat up they are, they’ll fight to the death. I would say that is one of my favorite sports. And when I made it to the MMA world, (I saw that) people had nicknames, so I used ‘El Gallero’ or ‘Rooster Fighter.’ But I take it more as the heart of a rooster. That’s the story behind it.
KH: What’s it like training with Jeff Bonugli? What’s the best advice he’s given you?
RP: He’s a great character and great guy. He has that old school mentality. It doesn’t matter who they put in front of him. You gotta take him out. It doesn’t matter how big they are. Always believe in yourself and, when you train, make sure that you train to your fullest and never cut any corners. He’s constantly pushing you and, when you feel like giving up, he’s motivating you.
KH: I read that you are married with two children. What’s life like balancing your family and fighting life?
RP: I’m actually separated, for about two years. My kids are my everything. They go to every show. They cheer me on. They’re my motivation. I want to make a better life for them. Unfortunately, education is something that’s not in me. MMA and boxing, I’m good at it. But I want to be great. I’m using this to build a future for them and (their) education, and anything they want to do. So I’m putting myself out there, beating my body up, so I can have a better future when the time comes.
KH: Always good to put family first and help them out. Any thoughts on your STFC 35 opponent Ricardo Diaz?
RP: He’s from Monterrey, Mexico, I’ve seen a few videos on him. He won his last fight. I don’t think he’s as technical as I am. I spar with a lot of technical guys. For this fight, I went out to Savannah, Ga. to train at Champion Training Center. I trained with Muhsin Corbbrey, who fights at 145 and who fought Nick Diaz.
KH: I watched a video where you were upset about Adrien Broner making some off color comments about Mexicans after his fight with Carlos Molina. At the same time, there has been ongoing tension, for various reasons, between people from the MMA world and people from the boxing world. As someone who has competed in both at the professional level, how different is the experience from one combat sport to the other?
RP: In MMA, you have to learn a lot of different styles and, what I’ve learned in MMA, is that there is a lot of hesitation in the sport. When it comes to boxing, its blow after blow after blow. If you don’t adjust, you’re going to get killed out there.
With MMA, you can adjust, and change what range you are fighting in. It’s not blow after blow, and it’s not consistent strikes. Boxing, you have learn how to adjust quickly.
If you can’t adjust, you’re going to get hurt pretty bad. So many punches to the head, and you risk brain trauma.
I’ve had three pro boxing fights and I’ve been hit hard. It’s crazy, but I love it. The Adrian Broner thing had nothing to do with sport versus sport. His comments were offending, so I said why not respond. Adrien Broner is a great fighter, though, and I think he’s one of the best next to Floyd Mayweather.
KH: Is there anything you want to add?
RP: Keep an eye on Combate Americas on NBC Universo. Big things are happening with that show. Hopefully a lot more talent comes out of the woodworks and, if it does, I’m going to be there waiting for all comers.
Follow Keith Harmon on twitter @kvharmon