After Ricky Simón (15-1) won his second-consecutive UFC fight last August, the young bantamweight made a big decision – to propose marriage to his girlfriend. She said yes and the two went about planning their late June wedding.
With just weeks to go before their big day, however, Simón got a call from the UFC offering him another big date – a July 13 co-main event against returning former world champion Urijah Faber (34-10). To be sure, the proposed fight presented some challenges to their schedule given they had a wedding and honeymoon planned and paid for around the same time.
“Luckily, my wife ... ” Simón began, chuckling with joyful incredulity that he is now a newlywed.
“Now, my wife (laughs), luckily my wife did most of the [wedding] planning. When I got the call [to fight Faber two weeks after his planned wedding date], I told my manager, ‘let me make a call to my fiancee. We were supposed to be on our honeymoon July 13. She said this was a big opportunity for me, and it was exciting, so we postponed the honeymoon to take the fight.”
For a rising young fighter and newlywed, losing money already spent on a honeymoon was certainly no easy hit to take, financially, of course. “Oh yeah, we definitely are losing a little bit of money,” he admitted with a laugh.
“But I knew this was the right opportunity. I’m confident in myself and with a good performance I can make that money back.”
By the time Simón fights Faber this Saturday he says it will have been seven weeks since the fight was proposed and quickly accepted. For the 26-year-old, that was plenty of time to prepare to meet his legendary opponent.
“I like to put myself in a position where if I got a call on three weeks’ notice, I could take it,” he explained.
“Three weeks is my limit to make weight, stay in shape. I stay in shape in the off-season because of that. So, seven weeks was plenty. I almost had to ease into training camp so that I would peak at the right time.”
Ensuring that he was focused and ready for Faber on less than two months’ notice and while heading into a wedding also involved more than skipping a honeymoon. It also involved letting others have his bachelor party fun for him.
“We had to make adjustments,” Simón continued.
“We had this whole Las Vegas trip planned for my bachelor party but I had to change that. We still went to Vegas and it turned out great, but I trained. My cousin Vince Morales lives in Vegas and he’s fighting on this same card against Benito Lopez. So, when we went to Vegas we just moved training camp there for a few days. My buddies partied but I trained with Vince and that went really well.”
Simón and his now wife were willing to sacrifice time and money during a unique time in their new life together in order for him to take this fight against Faber because they feel it’s a spectacular opportunity to finally get more deserved attention on his skills and career. It’s such a great opportunity in Simon’s mind, in fact, that he almost couldn’t believe it when it was presented to him.
Faber, now 40 years old, retired in 2016 after a long and illustrious career. The Team Alpha Male chief is returning to action this week in his hometown of Sacramento, California, and hopes to make a statement about his own vitality by beating a top prospect who is nearly 15 years his junior.
“I was definitely surprised,” Simón admitted when discussing when he heard that Faber had accepted him as an opponent.
“He’s a Hall of Famer coming back so I’d assume they’d get someone with a bigger name, or an easier match up for him, not a young, hungry prospect on an eight-fight win-streak. I just beat the No. 15 guy in the world. So, it’s a great opportunity for me, and I definitely have a lot of respect for him for taking the fight.”
Simón says he doesn’t plan on letting the hoopla of being in a UFC co-main event taking place in his famous opponent’s backyard get to him, either. “I don’t like to think about all that or let the craziness get to me,” he said.
“I like to stay cool, calm, collected and just show up and do what I do, which is beat people up.”
Despite his surprise at getting to fight the returning “California Kid,” Simón said he’s certain that Faber wouldn’t be getting back into the cage if he weren’t ready to be a major force once more. “I wouldn’t say it’s a mistake [for Faber to come back in his 40s]. I watched him compete in Jiu-Jitsu recently, and he has a lot of great things going for him outside of the cage,” he continued.
“He’s done everything right and a lot of fighters should try to follow suit. He must see something in himself. He’s always in the gym and he has some of the best guys in the world at his gym so he must feel that he can hang with them.”
Though Simón expects Faber to be an effective fighter, generally, despite his age and time off, he does not believe that the former featherweight champion will do well against him. “Ultimately, it is going to be a mistake to fight me,” he specified.
“This is a new era. I’m 26 and I’m in the gym three to four times a day and when I wake up in the morning I feel it, so I can’t imagine what it feels like for him at 40.”
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