David “The Caveman” Rickels is on a mission.
The 31-year-old Kansas native is making his transition to bare knuckle fighting following a nine year professional mixed martial arts career that included 23 fights under the Bellator MMA banner.
On October 10, Rickels will compete in his first bare knuckle bout when he meets Cliff Wright at BKFC 13 at the Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina, Kansas.
“I’m almost a year off from fighting and that in itself has been pissing me off,” Rickels said in anticipation of his debut with BKFC.
“The Caveman” was slated to compete earlier in the year but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic put the event to half just hours before it was intended to start.
Now, less than a week and a half away from fight night, Rickels is looking to put on a show.
“I’m ready to compete again. I love competition. It is something I thrive on, something I’ve always really enjoyed. The nitty gritty of the one-on-one aspect of fighting, there’s no more competition than you vs. you, than the guy in front of you. This will be my first time getting in the ring, first time throwing down bare knuckle and I want to see what it is all about.”
Because of his tenure with Bellator, Rickels’ name, is in a way, synonymous with the promotion. Many mixed martial arts fans who know him, know him from his eight years of competition over there. While Rickels doesn’t want to take anything away from what he has accomplished, he is looking to make a name for himself in bare buckle but realizes it won’t be easy.
“That’s kind of the important thing for me,” Rickels said of making an impact in the new sport. “It’s such a pain in the ass to get this first fight out of the way, to make my first impression as a bare knuckle fighter. I’ve really been looking forward to that moment. I’ve been training very hard for that moment, and I can’t call out the big dogs until I get my first fight down.”
Aside from fighting, fans have come to know and love Rickels for his famed walkout. The short walk from the dressing room to the cage or (now ring) has become exciting and fans eagerly wait to see what Rickels will do next.
“I’ve got something pretty cool planned,” Rickels said of his first trip to the squared circle next week. “If I didn’t enjoy fighting, I would stop fighting. If I didn’t enjoy the entertaining aspect or the competition aspect, I wouldn’t fight anymore, but this is a driving force for me. Competition, and something new and exciting like bare knuckle definitely has its grips on me.
“I love getting the crowed riled up. That’s one of the reasons I started doing wild walk-outs in the first place. When I first started walking out, nobody knew who the f*ck I was. Nobody knew who Dave Rickels was. I wanted to have something for them to remember me by. ‘Oh the guy who did the crazy walkout, and the dance, he had the lion on his head.’ It was an easy way to stand out, early in the game. I just enjoy it, so I keep doing it.”
While fans can rest assured that Rickels will continue his walkout tradition next week in Salina, they can also expect to see a great fight.
“I literally don’t know anything about him,” Rickels said of his upcoming opponent in Wright. I looked at his record, he looks tough. He has a lot of fights. I don’t expect an easy bout by any means. I’m confident in myself. I’m the better fighter, and I’m gonna do the damn thing!”
Rickels’ enthusiasm and love to compete continues as fight day approaches. Day after day, his confidence and the anticipation of throwing that first punch advances to the next level.
“Fans can expect violence on fight night,” Rickels said of the matchup. I’ve always been an in the pocket fighter. Throwing down bare knuckle….. I don’t see things changing much. My old coaches used to call it the ‘technical bum rush.’ I try to stay technical, use my hands to protect myself, but I’m not afraid to throw down. This is my first (bare knuckle) fight, but I expect to do more. I expect to have a shiny belt around my waist at some point.”
BKFC 13 is headlined by a heavyweight title bout between current champion Joey Beltran and challenger, Marcel Stamps.