Mixed martial artists come from every corner of the globe, bearing a variety of styles. Sometimes, fighters are products of their environment, favoring disciplines prevalent in the country or state from which they hail. Various regions of the United States are considered factories for great fighters, though that certainly is not the case with each state. In this weekly Sherdog.com series, the spotlight will shine on the best mixed martial artist of all-time from each of the 50 states. Fighters do not necessarily need to be born in a given state to represent it; they simply need to be associated with it. For example, reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Robbie Lawler may have been born in San Diego, but few would recognize him as a Californian.
Kansas is known for its open fields, supercell thunderstorms and college basketball, but a number of top-level mixed martial artists call “The Sunflower State” home. Some of them have made their way into the UFC, Bellator MMA and Strikeforce over the years, including David Rickels.
One of Bellator’s most recognizable stars, “The Caveman” brings a sense of showmanship to the cage with him. Rickels has made a name for himself with zany walkouts: He carries a caveman’s club over his shoulder and was escorted to his Bellator 94 bout with Saad Awad by a costumed dinosaur. His entrances, while memorable, are not all that sets him apart. Rickels has taken on some of the best opponents Bellator has to offer and beaten many of them, Awad, J.J. Ambrose, Davi Ramos, Jordan Smith and Lloyd Woodard among them.
A native of Derby, Kansas, Rickels fought for the Bellator lightweight championship in July 2013, losing to Michael Chandler by first-round knockout. In fact, Chandler was the culprit in two of his four career defeats. Rickels, 27, last appeared at Bellator 150 on Feb. 26, when he dispatched Bobby Cooper with a first-round knee and follow-up punches.
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