Mike Ricci isn't necessarily surprised he was cut following his most recent loss to Myles Jury at UFC 165. It was a close fight, sure, but a dreadful one. Knowing that all of his fights in the UFC, win or lose, had been lackluster affairs, the Tri-Star lightweight can't say he's overly surprised the organization let him go.
"I don't disagree with the UFC and their decision," Ricci told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "I understand the circumstances and they have to make decisions, tough decisions. I feel like coming out of TUF (The Ultimate Fighter) they had some expectations for me. They gave me some big fights and they didn't really work out the way they wanted it to, so that was the decision they made."
Ricci's short-lived UFC run wasn't bad, exactly. He lost to Colton Smith in the TUF 15 season finale, but that was at welterweight, an unnatural weight class. The Canadian then rebounded with a win over Colin Fletcher at UFC 158 in March. But then the loss to Jury happened. And while that bout was close, the familiar trend over Ricci's fights is that they were unremarkable and often tedious. Win or lose, he wasn't showing much to inspire confidence.
That assessment doesn't just come from UFC brass, who informed Ricci's manager last week the prospect had been let go. Ricci himself acknowledges as much. In his mind, the change from fighting larger opponents at welterweight and moving back down to lightweight altered his tactical approach to fighting for the worse.
"In all honesty, the fans are getting more educated. Hopefully this can further educate them," Ricci explains. "The fight really takes place months before it actually happens. Me and Myles, our training happened months prior to that, and the fight happened over a thousand times in the gym. I think the way he trained for the fight and the way I trained for the fight, he really wanted to counter a lot of the things I did. They knew what I was going to do. I knew what they were going to do and I was trying to counter him. I think it just created a stalemate.
"That's what happens. Guys train a certain way. On fight night, it's going to show in the fight and the fight is a direct product of training. I think me and Myles just kind of canceled each other out."
Ricci admits he heard the crowd boo in Toronto when he Jury were engaged in their lackluster non-battle. It almost enticed him to abandon what he was doing and attack aggressively, but ultimately Ricci realized that, too, was a bridge to nowhere. If you don't fight the way you train, don't fight at all.
"I could've done that and gotten knocked out or finished and really been in a bad spot," he says. "Regardless, the fights are a direct product of the training and coming out of the TUF house, that was the issue. I think we fought with a sense of urgency considering everyone was a lot larger than me were. And when I got out of that house, I felt all the advantages I gave up physically - reach and size and all this stuff - I gained back at lightweight. So, I felt like there wasn't enough urgency. I can play my game and try to pick guys apart and take my time. I felt like I wasn't in as much danger as I was at welterweight."
As Ricci sees it, he had to fight harder and more proactively at welterweight because of all the disadvantages he was facing. When he returned to lightweight and realized those disadvantages were no longer there, he admits he wrongly believed he could work slowly and methodically en route to victory. Looking back, however, Ricci says this isn't the way he normally fights. Yes, he fought aggressively at welterweight, but he believes he wins fights - no matter the weight class - when he's moving forward and pushing the pace.
"No one's ever tried to scrap with me and beat me up. You watch all seven of those fights and everyone backs up fighting me. So, I think I should've taken advantage of that coming to lightweight. I should've imposed myself a little more, but instead I tried to play not necessarily safe, but I tried to play the game a little more.
"Everyone saw me on TUF. Everyone has seen the way I fight. I come to fight," Ricci declares. "I have fun fighting like that regardless of weight: welterweight or lightweight. I like to move forward, I like to fight. I'm not scared of anybody. I'm not intimidated by anybody. That's what I'm here to do: go back to the gym and work on the things that I need to work on as a fighter there to improve."
Ricci says he and his coaches are going to 'revamp everything'. He's not moving back to welterweight, however, but is going to mimic the way he competed at welterweight against the 155-pound opposition.
He also's not necessarily worried about returning to the UFC. The money was nice and so were the opportunities, but Ricci is adamant he needs to fix what's wrong with him first. He's quick to note his issues aren't mental, but tactical. In the process of reshaping his offense, he's confident he can return to the UFC when he's ready to fight like a version of himself he recognizes.
"I'm here to become a world champion. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to say 'I'm here to have a few fights in the UFC and chill out and retire.' I'm here for a title. I'm here for a belt. The only way to do that is to figure out what works for me.
"I'm not worried," he continues. "The UFC isn't going anywhere, in my opinion. This is my opportunity to fix my problems. Would I have liked to fix them and put on these performances for the UFC? Of course. But that's not the case, so I'm going to go out there and take as many fights as I'd ike to take - two, three, four - whatever it takes for me to figure out my system."
The Canadian claims he's ready to get to work. There's no fight lined up just yet, but that day is likely soon coming. What he's also seemingly certain about - and ready to declare - isn't just his intention to eventually win a world title some day down the road. He wants to make it known his path back to the UFC will be one no one can discount. That's not simply because he plans on winning, but fighting the way he likes to fight and doing what he believes he's been capable of all along.
"I do know that every fight that takes place here on in until I get back to the UFC is going to be a finish. I'm going to go on the record and say it," he contends. "I'm going to beat everyone and I'm going to finish everyone as well."