Number 10 bantamweight contender Ricky Simon is experiencing his first fight week as a UFC main event fighter, and the 30-year-old feels right at home.
Simon takes on Chinese contender Song Yadong in the main event of UFC Vegas 72, which takes place Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. And, chatting to reporters on media day ahead of fight night, the in-form contender said he’s comfortable with the additional attention.
“It feels right. I’m right where I’m supposed to be,” he said.
“I’ve been with the UFC for five years now to get to this point, and it’s kind of funny how it happened (with a) quick switch-up. But it feels right.”
Simon and Song weren’t originally booked to headline the event, but when the planned lightweight main event between Arman Tsarukyan and Renato Moicano fell through due to injury to the Brazilian, the UFC turned to Simon and Song, and the pair agreed to step into the headline slot for the event.
For Simon, it’s the chance to get back into the mix after taking a little time away from the sport to start a family during a spell when fights were hard to come by. Professionally, it was a frustrating time, but now he’s back and ready to make an impact against Song, who sits two places above Simon in the 135-pound list, at number 8. Simon admitted he’s a fan of his opposite number, but said he holds the crucial edge when it comes to linking all of his MMA skills together during bouts.
“I think that he’s a great fighter, (an) explosive fighter” he said.
“But I don’t think he mixes it up as well as I do. I don’t think anyone in the bantamweight division mixes it up as well as I do. So I have plenty of confidence going into this one.”
With the fight being bumped up to the main event spot, the matchup has also been upgraded to a five-round bout. It’s not something that concerns Simon, however, and he admitted that if things go according to plan, those extra rounds won’t be needed anyway.
“I want to get out there as soon as possible,” he said.
“We don’t get paid by the minute in there. I’ve had the experience, I’ve fought five rounds, and I know where I’m headed. I’m gonna have that experience but I’m always thankful for it when the fight goes longer … for that experience. But now I’m trying to get out of there faster.”
The path to the top of the bantamweight division is a crowded one, filled with jeopardy, with the 135-pound class arguably the most talent-stacked in the sport. Simon said he’s excited to embrace the challenge, and said he’s at his athletic peak as he looks to pick up a big win and propel himself toward the division’s top contenders.
“This is the best division in the UFC, in my opinion,” he said.
“So it’s hard to get the finishes. But I think I’m just putting it together better than I ever have before.
“I’m in my prime. I’m 30 years old now. I have the best team around me – I put the best coaches around me and the best training partners around me – so confidence is through the roof right now.”