Q&A: David Rickels explains ‘Suburban Kimbo’ and ‘Caveman’ nicknames

David Rickels is the Bellator season eight lightweight tournament winner and a former Bellator lightweight title challenger. Now 28, the Kansas native has wins over the likes of Saad Awad, David Ramos, J.J. Ambrose, Bobby Cooper and Aaron Derrow, who was stopped inside 44 seconds back in January.

On Saturday, October 20, at Bellator 185, he faces Brennan Ward. Before that, though, Rickels, 18-4 (2 NC), took the time to answer the questions of Fighters Only contributor Tony Reid.


Question: You were called ‘The Suburban Kimbo’ because of the boxing matches you used to have in your back yard. Can you share a story from that time?

David Rickels: The back yard boxing really took on a life of its own. At the time, I actually got my girlfriend by beating up her boyfriend in my backyard. So I alpha maled her – a little Kimbo alpha male action. The cars used to line up around the block and we were always worried the cops were going to come. We never got in any trouble; we would just throw down. That one particular time I got lucky and got a girl out of it.

Q: You are known as ‘The Caveman’. Can you explain your caveman style?

DR: The caveman style is basically doing what I need to do, as if I were trying to survive in the time of the caveman. I would have to smash a caveman’s head and take his girl – like I did in my back yard all those years ago.

Q: We also have to talk about your amazing beard…

DR: I started growing the beard in sixth grade and I just haven’t shaved yet. I was this overgrown man-child. By the time I learned to shave, it was too late. Everyone was used to it, so I have just been rocking it ever since. Plus, I’m ugly underneath it, so it hides some of my worst features.

Q: You have an interesting take on seeing an opponent’s blood. (“It takes something from the opponent and moves things in your favor.”) Can you walk us through that thought?

DR: There are a couple of different reactions to seeing blood in a fight. When I see it, I go after it and I want to see more of it. Even when I was younger, it was like that. A lot of guys see their blood and start to worry. That’s going to give me momentum, and I like fighting downhill.

Q: You have spent the majority of your career in Bellator. What’s it like growing within the second largest organization in the sport?

DR: I tell people that I should have been a quarterback in a previous life. I always seem to come through in the clutch and in big situations in my life and pretty much everything. Big fights, big opportunities and big shows… that’s what really pushes me and drives me. I feel like I have an edge in that sense. I don’t let it bother me; I use it to drive me.

Q: You like entertaining the fans – whether that refers to your walkouts or your willingness to stand and trade in the cage. What does it mean to be entertain for the fans?

DR: Our whole team is like that. The fans pay to see the fights and I look at it as sports entertainment and not just a sport. It’s a big deal to us. We encourage our younger guys to come along with us for interviews and media stuff to help them get used to it. When it comes to entrances, we have been doing that since way back and the crowd always got a kick out of it. We aren’t going to stop just because we are on a big show.

Q: Where do you keep the club between fights? Does it have a special place in the cave?

DR: It actually got stolen after one of the fights, and then somebody said they saw some dude running away with the club. We got it mailed back to us but it’s all over the place. Sometimes it’s by the bed, sometimes it’s in the backseat of the car and sometimes random people steal it and run around with it.

Q: If you could pick a fight with someone outside the world of MMA, who would you choose and why?

DR: It would be somebody with really nice hair – probably Conan O’Brien or someone like that. Or maybe someone else with a really good beard – someone like Abe Lincoln.

Q: How would a fight between you and Abe Lincoln play out?

DR: Four score and many years ago I would have punched him in his teeth.

Q: What would you be doing right now if you weren’t involved in MMA?

DR: Oh, dude, I would probably be making license plates in a penitentiary. I would be working for 10 cents a day in a sweatshop in a major prison somewhere. If not, I would be a fishing bum – do deep sea fishing tours but just rip people off and fish all day.

Q: Who do you like to watch fight?

DR: I can break that down very easily. I like to watch anybody that is actively trying to finish the fight. People that look for decisions or look to keep it close, I don’t like any of that. On our team and where we come from, we are going to let it all hang out.

Q: Being an interesting and colorful guy, do you have any strange superstitions or odd habits you can share?

DR: I do. We were driving to Oklahoma for one of my first fights with Bellator and I get a call wondering why we missed weigh-ins by two hours. I was told weigh-ins were later than they were. Next thing I know they were getting ready to scratch the fight. Well, we had to get gas and we are cutting weight in the car. The windows are up, the heat is on and I have to two pounds to cut. My buddy goes in to pay for the gas and comes out and says he thinks we are going to be okay because he hadn’t seen a fifty cent piece in a long time and he got one as change at the gas station. He said it was going to be lucky for us. Well, I went on to win the fight that night and we always carried it with us at fights from then on. The one time we forgot the fifty cent piece was for the Karl Amoussou fight. So we joked that if we would have had it we would have won the fight. I made a deal with one of training partners that if I won the whole tournament he would get the fifty cent piece tattooed on him and I would get a big medallion made so that we would always have them with us and be able to rock it. When we agreed to it he probably didn’t think far enough ahead to realize that it could actually happen. Now he has a fifty cent piece tattooed on his back and I have a big medallion.