Ricardo Lamas Welcomes Underdog Role Versus Hatsu Hioki: “I Can Hang With Anybody”
By Kelsey Mowatt
It appeared that following his dominant, unanimous decision win over Bart Palaszewski in February, Hatsu Hioki was in position to challenge UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo next. The unexpected roadblock in that matchmaking scenario, however, was that Hioki reportedly elected to face a different opponent first. As a result, Ricardo Lamas has been given an hands on opportunity to make Hioki second guess that decision, when he faces the former Sengoku and Shooto champ June 22nd.
“It’s a compliment that the UFC is giving me these high profile fights,” Lamas told FCF, while discussing his upcoming UFC on FX bout with Hioki. “If I was in Hatsu’s place, turning down a title shot, that’s kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, to be able to fight for a world title at this level.”
“You never know what’s going to happen from fight to fight,” Lamas added. “You could get an injury that will take you out of the game permanently…I’m kind of a firm believer in when you get those kind of opportunities you have to take him. If I was in Hatsu’s place I don’t know if I would have turned it down, assuming that’s true. I know it’s a rumor that’s been kicking around.”
Lamas (11-2) was tapped for the main card and pivotal bout as a result of going 2-0 in the Octagon, after transitioning over from the WEC last year. Since then, “The Bully” has scored a TKO win over Matt Grice and more recently in November, Lamas choked out Cub Swanson with a second round, arm-triangle-choke.
“As far as what’s going to happen after the fight, I just want to concentrate on the fight itself,” Lamas said, when asked to comment on what’s riding on the upcoming bout rankings wise. “I want to concentrate on how I’m going to perform June 22nd.”
“Obviously I think it’s going to make me a little better well known with the public,” Lamas added. “I’ve been under the Zuffa banner for about three years, but I don’t think a lot of people know me because I’ve been fighting on undercards and stuff like that. Hopefully this will get me a little bit more exposure.”
The 28 year-old Hioki (26-4-2) has gone 9-1 in his last ten fights, which in addition to Palaszewski, includes victories over George Roop, Marlon Sandro, Takeshi “Lion” Inoue and Masanori Kanehara among others.
“He’s taller, probably going to have the reach on me, so I’m going to have to work on that,” Lamas noted, when asked to assess the abilities of the 5’11 tall Hioki. “He’s a well rounded fighter. He’s got good stand-up; he’s got great ground, from what I’ve seen in his fights, but so do I. When you have match-ups like that you’re usually going to have a war and that’s what I’m preparing for.”
And how does Lamas feel about the fact that many fans and observers likely view Hioki as the favorite heading into their bout?
“I know that people are going to view me as the underdog and it’s not the first time,” the former NCAA Division III All-American wrestler stated. “I don’t mind it at all. It takes a little bit of the pressure off, but really, the pressure has always been there to perform in a fight and you want to do well in every single fight.”
“I’m going up against one of the best guys in the weight class so there’s still going to be pressure,” Lamas furthered. “Because I believe in myself, and I believe I can hang with anybody; there’s pressure for me to prove that.”