The way things have unfolded for Ricky Simon lately, you’d think he has UFC President Dana White on speed dial.
This past summer, Simon landed a high-profile fight with Urijah Faber, the former WEC champion, multiple-time UFC title contender, and UFC Hall of Fame inductee who was returning from a two-and-a-half-year break from competition. The matchup did not go Simon’s way, with Faber stopping him with strikes in just 46 seconds, but the loss apparently did little to hurt Simon’s standing in the rankings.
Rather than be bumped back down to the middle of the pack, Simon instead finds himself matched up with No. 10-ranked bantamweight Rob Font at UFC on ESPN 7 on Saturday in Washington, D.C. Font is actually two spots above Faber on the official contenders’ list.
Simon had been calling for a bout with Font for sometime. So how exactly did he land a matchup that could get him right back in the title mix at 135 pounds despite coming off of a quick loss?
“I like to say that I have some pull, but I don’t,” Simon recently told MMA Fighting. “It just worked out, honestly. I actually called for this fight with Rob after I beat Rani Yahya last February in Australia, and he agreed online. I was really hoping to get that fight, but he ended up scheduling something and then the Faber fight came around.
“It’s just kind of a fight that’s been a long time in the making, and it’s going to be an exciting fight for the fans.”
Simon jokes that he likes to tell his wife he’s able to call the shots with Sean Shelby. But in reality, he’s simply stayed in the ear of the UFC matchmaker and let him know that he’s always available, even when his career interferes with his personal life. The Faber booking actually caused Simon to postpone his honeymoon, though he was able to head to Cabo San Lucas for a break shortly after the Faber fight at UFC Sacramento.
Shelby has had to deal with Simon’s campaigning ever since Simon defeated Donavon Frelow by split decision on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series two years ago, but failed to secure a contract.
“I feel like Sean and I have a good relationship,” Simon said. “I’m kind of one of those guys that even after the Contender Series fight and I didn’t get the contract. I walked right out of that room and I was heartbroken and I walked right up to Sean Shelby and I said, ‘Hey man, I understand I didn’t get a finish, but what do you want me to do now? I’ll do whatever.’ He told me to be ready, stay ready, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing and what I’ve done throughout my career.
“So I never shy away from a fight, I’ve never said no.”
With Faber, Simon learned that he had to be careful what he wished for, as the end result of that callout was his first loss in the Octagon after winning his first three UFC bouts. But he has no regrets about taking that fight, nor any ill will towards Faber, who offered words of encouragement to Simon after their fight and when the two briefly chatted at UFC 241 in Anaheim, Calif.
Simon insists that the atmosphere surrounding that fight didn’t distract him and the result can be attributed to his aggressive approach.
“It was definitely a different experience when you’re fighting a Hall of Famer in his hometown,” Simon said. “I’ve never felt a crowd like that; I think I was a little in my feelings. I was a little excited. Especially I felt like I tagged him early on. My game plan was to be in Urijah Faber’s face from beginning to end, and I really thought I could do that. Sometimes you get caught, I obviously have some stuff to work on, but that’s why I love MMA because you can get caught and that can happen.
“It was a great experience. I know where I belong and I’m excited to prove it with this next win over the No. 10 guy in the world on Dec. 7.”
His upcoming fight with Font has major stakes for Simon, who is not only looking to re-establish himself in the rankings but also restore his own confidence. Without question, losing to Faber was a significant setback, one that the 27-year-old plans to learn from as he looks to both stay busy in 2020 and possibly use whatever influence he does have with the matchmakers to line himself up with more contenders.
“I set a goal at the beginning of this year to make that top-10, so all it’s going to do is validate my confidence,” Simon said in regards to what a win over Font would mean to him. “I’ve been growing up and I’ve always struggled a little bit with confidence. Just over the last two years, where I’ve taken myself and my career, and what I’ve had to overcome, my confidence is growing and I would say the more confident I get in my life, the more dangerous I’m becoming.”