In the weird world of fightland, unforeseen circumstances often dictate unexpected decisions. In those cases, promises are sometimes broken, careers sometimes sidetracked. It's a cost of business, and often, the hope is that karma will come back around and reward the justly deserving.
Ricardo Lamas is still waiting for his boomerang. A winner of four straight -- including three by finish -- the surging featherweight has wins over top contenders and agreements to fight for gold in his recent history, yet none of it has added up to what he has ultimately targeted. When it comes to a championship match, he is still on the outside looking in.
As Lamas sees it, he's been passed over three times.
Last October, he was offered a title match against Jose Aldo. The discussions got so deep that he had time to accept a fight and renegotiate a new contract. But a few hours later, as he waited for the bout agreement to arrive, he got some unwanted news. The UFC had changed course, opting to leapfrog Frankie Edgar over the top of him.
That was hard to swallow, he said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, but then, he was passed over again after he beat Erik Koch. At the time, the UFC elected to let Anthony Pettis drop down to featherweight and offer him an automatic title shot. It didn't end there. When Pettis was injured, Lamas figured his time had come. Nope, instead "the Korean Zombie," Chan Sung Jung was vaulted past him despite over a year on the sidelines due to injury.
To make things worse, the Zombie was supposed to be his opponent, so he suddenly had nothing to prepare for.
"I went into a little depression for a few days," he admitted. "I was going through all this training and everything, and it's out the window, all for nothing. It just kind of left me wondering why I’m getting passed over so much. It’s a little disheartening, you know?"
Lamas (13-2) later received a call from UFC president Dana White apologizing for the manner in which the announcement was made, and telling him to remain ready for his chance. (He also promised him his purse even he did not fight.) Taken aback by the surprise phone call, Lamas didn't take the opportunity to plead his own case, but he later asked matchmaker Sean Shelby for the winner of the Aldo-Jung match.
The UFC couldn't promise him that, leading him to wonder what might be next. To him, the title shot makes the most sense, far more than a possible rematch with Cub Swanson, who he defeated via arm triangle in Nov. 2011. There has been a recent groundswell of support for Swanson, who's won five straight, but Lamas doesn't see any reason for a fight between them.
"I could see if maybe I lost since I fought him, but since fighting him I beat two guys who were promised title fights," he said. "I don't know any other 145-pound contender who has done that. Cub hasn’t done it, Frankie hasn't done it, Chad [Mendes] hasn’t done it. So, really, in my mind, I’m the No. 1 contender and I think I deserve a shot at the title."
It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. He knows what he wants, but he's willing to fight again to prove once and for all that he's the legitimate top contender.
Until then, he'll see how Aldo-Jung plays out, and he'll be in the gym working hard. He expects Aldo to emerge with the win at UFC 163, but believes Jung could pose some problems if he continues walking Aldo down, as he's done to most of his opponents.
Honestly, he wants to be the man to end Aldo's lengthy reign at the top. In his mind, he says, Aldo is "the king," and Lamas can be at peace with taking the long, hard road as long as it leads to a chance to claim his ultimate prize.
"I just want to say, a lot of people don't know about me as a fighter, a lot of people have counted me out of pretty much all of my fights, against Cub, against Hatsu, against Erik, and I've surprised everyone," he said. "And if they give me the shot against Jose Aldo I’ll surprise everybody again."