With three straight wins—and two of them coming in less than one month in 2021—Ricky Simon has his sights set on a ranked opponent.
After earning a second-round submission win over Gaetano Pirrello at UFC Fight Island 8 in January, Simon turned around 24 days later and earned a unanimous decision against Brian Kelleher at UFC 258.
The win against Kelleher accomplished a couple of things for Simon outside of getting his hand raised. One, the fight with Kelleher finally happened on the third attempt. And two, Simon doubled up his activity from 2020 before Valentine’s Day.
“It does feel good to finally get past that one because we had been jawing for so long,” Simon told MMA Fighting on What the Heck. “It felt like I was doing the same camp over and over getting ready for that fight, so I was definitely ready for a little bit of a switch-up.
“It was a false positive [for COVID-19] both times the fight was cancelled in our opinions. We got retested and there was never two in a row, and no one ever got sick. Part of [turning back around so quickly to fight Kelleher] was to get it done because I felt like I owed it to him and if I could get through this other fight unscathed, I was going to try and take that fight quick because that was a long layoff. I hadn’t fought since May and there was only one fight in 2020 so I wanted to keep the ball rolling.”
Simon won his first three octagon appearances against Merab Dvalishvili, Montel Jackson and Rani Yahya before back-to-back losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font put a halt to his momentum. The 28-year-old would cut his famed mullet and get back in the win column against Ray Borg this past May, which would be his only fight of the year.
With a pair of victories under his belt to kick off 2021, Simon is hoping to get another opportunity against a ranked 135er, and he has two people in mind: a former world champion and a perennial top-10 bantamweight.
“Obviously, there’s several fights that I want [in the top-15],” Simon said. “I’ve only lost to Urijah Faber and Rob Font—who is ranked No. 3 in the world—and that was a close fight. Sometimes I watch that fight and think I won, sometimes I watch that fight and I think he won, so I think that was a super close fight.
“I’m beating everyone outside of the rankings right now that they’ve put up against me, and some of the guys I’ve beat are ranked right now. I think I deserve a ranked opponent, unless they want to keep paying me to beat up these guys that aren’t bringing the attention to the fight.
“I really like the [Raphael] Assuncao fight, maybe beginning of the summer, that makes sense. I don’t know if this fight makes as much sense, but I know Frankie Edgar is going to take some time off and heal up. When he’s ready, early summer right around then, that would be a good one, too.
“I’ve always looked up to Frankie. I’ve always watched him fight, and I even stole some of his setups, some of the stuff he does so. I mean, sh*t, give me another chance at a legend. I blew it the first time. Sh*t, give me a second shot at it.”
One name that was brought up to Simon was fellow Contender Series alum Sean O’Malley, who is scheduled to return to action for the first time since his loss to Marlon Vera at UFC 252 in August. O’Malley will meet Thomas Almeida at UFC 260.
Simon would absolutely, without hesitation fight O’Malley. He just doesn’t believe “Sugar” shares the same enthusiasm.
Either way, should Almeida not be available come March 27, Simon said he’s just a call away.
“You know O’Malley’s not taking that fight [with me],” he said. “I mean, I was surprised he took that ‘Chito’ fight. I’m not a big gambler, but I saw how much a favorite O’Malley was and put some money down on my boy, because I was thinking this was not going to be good for O’Malley.
“I just think I’m the worst style for him – someone who is going to grind him out, wrestle, put him on his back, dropping crazy elbows on top of him. No. He doesn’t want that.
“Ask my manager how long I’ve been asking for that fight. He keeps telling me, ‘Ricky, they’re not going to give it to you. You can try all you want but O’Malley’s not taking that fight.’ That’s just my opinion. He could prove me wrong, and I’m always ready. I’m staying in shape and if anything happens to Almeida, I’ll be ready.”