David Rickels will return to the octagon for the first time in nearly a year on Friday at Bellator 189 in Thatcherville, Okla.
The Derby native will fight Adam Piccolotti (9-1) in a 161-pound catchweight fight after the “Caveman” took the fight on two weeks’ notice after Piccolotti’s original opponent dropped out. It will be Rickels’ 19th fight for Bellator, the most in the company’s history.
The event will be broadcast live on Spike with coverage beginning at 8 p.m. with Rickels’ fight being one of the first. The official watch party in Wichita will be at Bourbon Street Sports Bar & Grill, located at 3863 S. Seneca.
“I’m going to finish this guy,” Rickels said. “He looks like a little boy. He’s got a little boy body. I’m a grown man now. I’ve got two kids. I’m a cave man, not a cave boy. I’m about to dad this guy.”
It will be the first fight for Rickels since stopping Aaron Derrow in the third round of the co-main event of Bellator 171 in January at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane. It will be the first time Rickels has fought outside his home venue since challenging Michael Chandler for a title shot in November 2015.
Rickels was initially scheduled to fight Brennan Ward in a welterweight fight at Bellator 185 until Ward backed out after suffering an injury in training camp. When the opportunity arose to fight Piccolotti, Rickels was ecstatic — even if it meant cutting 10 extra pounds.
“The easy part is getting in the cage and fighting another grown man,” Rickels said. “The hardest part is making weight on two weeks’ notice. You don’t have a diet plan because you didn’t know you were fighting. So you got to cut weight, then the fun starts.”
Piccolotti offers a change of pace from the typical striker Rickels has been matched with in the recent past. Piccolotti, a 29-year-old from the San Francisco area, won his first nine fights and has carved out a reputation as a dynamic jiu-jitsu fighter.
“He’s used to running over guys and his goal is going to get me to the mat,” Rickels said. “I want to make him pay everywhere with elbows, knees, whatever. I’ve got to hit him with big shots and I’ve got to stop his take downs because you can’t grapple if you can’t take me down. Then the goal is always to pummel his face until he stops moving.”
It’s a fight that could ignite Rickels’ comeback after his second Chandler fight. Piccolotti is considered one of the top lightweight fighters in Bellator, so a victory on Friday would give Rickels three wins in his last four fights (the other being a no contest).
Climbing the rankings and chasing another shot at a title is appealing to Rickels, but is not the only reason why he still fights.
“The belt could still be something that could happen, but really I just want to put on exciting fights,” Rickels said. “I’m having fun and there’s not a lot of pressure anymore. Getting in there and beating somebody up, taking punches, showing how tough you are...it’s the best thing in the world.
“The walkout alone is one of my favorite things in the world to do on this planet.”
Ah yes, the walkout.
If MMA fans don’t know Rickels for his violent knockouts, then they likely know him for his creative, Caveman-themed walkouts before his fights. He’s walked out with dinosaurs, rode in a Flintstones-inspired car, and even pulled off a live Mannequin Challenge.
So what does he have planned for Friday? He says you’ll have to tune in to find out.
“It’s very caveman-ish and maybe cavegirl-ish,” Rickels hinted.
DAVID RICKELS VS. AARON PICCOLOTTI
Records: Rickels 18-4; Piccolotti 9-1
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: WinStar World Casino, Thackersville, Okla.
Watch party: Bourbon Street Sports Bar & Grill (3863 S Seneca St)