Ricardo Lamas is one of the very best featherweights in the world and holds a 17-5 professional MMA record. Last time out, in November, he submitted Brazilian Charles Oliveira in the second round, and this Saturday (July 29), at UFC 214, the 35-year-old takes on rising star Jason Knight in a fascinating crossroads clash at 145 pounds.
Ahead of UFC bout number twelve, Lamas took some time out to chat to Fighters Only’s Tony Reid, who asked him all about his nickname, ‘The Bully’, the battle to get respect and recognition, and also his favourite fights and fighters.
And Robert DeNiro.
Q: You are known as ‘The Bully’. Do you think the UFC might secretly have an Anti-Bullying campaign going on to keep you from a title shot?
Ricardo Lamas: (Laughs). No, I don’t think so. I don’t use the nickname for that reason. I do it to represent my dogs. I have two English bulldog terriers, so that’s where the nickname comes from.
I don’t think it’s anything personal to me. It just sucks that it keeps happening to me. It comes down to the business side of it; the crappy business side of things. They are trying to put these big fights together, not necessarily for the people that deserve the fight but for the people they think will sell more pay-per-views or tickets. It’s a shame. If you are going to do it that way, that’s fine but promote the guys who deserve the fight and get their names out there and get them recognized by people. Then they will sell more pay-per-views and tickets. I haven’t been properly promoted by the UFC for them to give me a title shot.
Q: You have had fights in the past that you found out were cancelled via social media. I have talked to other fighters who found out about fight cancellations or changes on Facebook. Do you think there should be some type of protocol to get information like this out to the people involved first as opposed to them finding out via social media?
RL: You would think they would do that. I find more stuff out from MMA websites than anywhere else. When I want to find out who I’m fighting next, I jump online.
When it (the Chan Sung Jung cancellation) happened, I just got done training and I got a Twitter notification from a fan on my phone and it showed part of the message: “Oh, man, Ricardo Lamas, what are you going to do now?” My first thought was that The Korean Zombie got injured. Literally seconds after that my phone started blowing up with more messages and tweets and then I found out what was really going on. I was left speechless.
Q: Do you still feel you are very much under the radar?
RL: Little by little I am getting more notoriety and fans. I think it’s something that will come in time. I get tons of support on social media. People understand that the decision was wrong. Even The Korean Zombie admitted he was surprised that they gave him the title shot over me. He thought I was more deserving than he was. When you have the guy they gave the shot to saying how surprised he was then that’s a huge red flag. Something has to be fixed.
Q: The average or casual fan may not truly understand how much is lost when a fight is cancelled like that at the last minute. Can you give us some insight?
RL: For all of my camps I split it and do half in Chicago and half in in Miami. I’m leaving my family, my friends and my girlfriend behind. I seclude myself and put myself through hell for four to six weeks. It costs money to come down here and train. I’m missing out on sponsorship money and money I would have received if I won the fight. I’m missing out on being on a main pay-per-view card headlined by Anderson Silva. This was a huge opportunity for me and an opportunity to get noticed.
Q: Early on you were inspired by watching the first UFC events. You told a friend that you would be in that cage some day. Can you put into words what it means to have made this promise come true?
RL: Sometimes I think I’m going to wake up from a dream and really be a waiter somewhere. I remember being that little kid and I remember when my brother bought that first pay-per-view. I grew up in a house with six boys, so being a tough guy was what my whole life was about. Getting beat up by my brothers every single day, I had to prove I was tougher than they were.
I was drawn to the UFC immediately. I had a buddy I always hung out with – we would be lifting weights in the basement, not knowing what they hell we were doing – and we would watch the UFC and I would say, “One day you are going to see me in the UFC.” I remember my first UFC fight. To put those gloves on, it was bone-chilling. I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. It has changed me forever.
Q: Have you seen this guy since you made it to the UFC?
RL: Oh yeah. He is still a good friend of mine. We talk all the time. He watches all my fights. He has the viewing parties. That’s my buddy, Kevin. He is a huge supporter.
Q: If you could choose one fight from your career that every fan should see which one are you choosing and why?
RL: One of my toughest fights was in the WEC against Dave Hansen. That was just a tough fight. It went three rounds. We were all over the place. We were scrambling, he took me down a few times. He took my back and had me in a rear-naked choke. Somehow I fought out of it. I got on top, dropped an elbow on his head that busted him open and had blood everywhere.
By the end of the fight I was so exhausted that I could barely lift my arm. It shows the kind of fighter I am. I have a lot of heart. If you put me in bad positions I will find a way to fight back and beat you. That might be one that I would tell people to watch.
Q: You talk about heart a lot. Whether its heart or a mindset, can you talk about having that belief in yourself knowing that you aren’t going to give up? We all know how much a part of the sport the mental aspect is, can you talk about how it was landed you at top of the division and in title contention?
RL: It comes from my upbringing. My dad has more heart than anyone I know. He is a fearless man. I’m not half as fearless as he is. I am really stubborn. When I want something, I am going to get it, whether it kills me or not. When I go into a fight and I want a win, I am going to keep going until I get it. The only way you are going to beat me is if you put me out. I will keep going to the end.
Q: If you could fight anyone in any weight class, who would you choose to fight and why?
RL: I am a firm believer in going up against the best. It would be awesome to step into the cage with the greatest. If I could magically grow another foot and put on 60 pounds of muscle I would love to go up against Anderson Silva. It’s just one of those things. If you are going to do this (fight), then do it! If you want to be a fighter then go fight the best. When I’m 80 years old I want to tell my grandkids about all the bloody, nasty fights I was in. They will think I’m full of shit. I’ll show them the scars and photos and videos to prove it. That’s what the sport is all about.
Q: As a fan of the sport, who are your favorite fighters to watch?
RL: Vitor Belfort has been one of my favorite fighters ever since I was a kid. When he first came on the scene as a 19-year-old, as ‘The Phenom’, and he was just beating guys up… his hands were so quick. Uriah Faber, when he first came on the scene. Even before the WEC, he was on a special on MSNBC called ‘Warrior Nation’. It was about him and that’s where I first saw him. I was just getting into fighting then and we had a similar background in wrestling. He always put on exciting fights.
Q: Being a guy still trying to get your name out there, what is the one thing you would want fans to know about you?
RL: My real personality doesn’t always come through. I’m two different people. When I’m fighting and doing interviews, I take it very seriously. If people were to see how I act around my friends, though, I am two completely different people. I am really silly, goofy and outgoing. Most of the fans see me during fight night or fight week and it’s a whole different person. If people got to really know me, I would have a lot more fans. I do a lot of impressions, voices and imitations. I do a really good Robert DeNiro face. You can put that as the picture in the article. Check it out on my Instagram and Twitter pages.