Bellator Signs Canada’s ‘Next Big Thing’

By Brian Knapp Jan 18, 2010
Bellator Fighting Championships on Monday announced the signing of undefeated Canadian prospect Mike Ricci to an exclusive contract.

Ricci, 23, trains alongside UFC welterweight king Georges St. Pierre and middleweight contender Patrick Cote at the Tristar Gym in Montreal. A protégé of Firas Zahabi, he will compete in Bellator’s lightweight tournament as part of the fledgling promotion’s second season, which begins in April. The winner of the eight-man draw will earn a shot at reigning Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez.

Zahabi thinks Ricci has all the tools he needs to make an impact.

“It’s a long road to become the next GSP, but Ricci is the farthest along that road of anyone we’ve got,” he said in a release. “He’s still earning his stripes, so to speak, but if he continues to progress, I think he’ll be right up there with St. Pierre. He’s up for a much bigger challenge on an international stage, and Bellator gives him that chance.”

Perfect through five professional bouts, Ricci finished his first four opponents inside the TKO, XMMA and Ringside MMA promotions. He last appeared in November when he outpointed Jordan Mein en route to a unanimous decision.

“It’s very exciting for Bellator to acquire a fighter with Mike Ricci’s pedigree,” Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “This announcement should give everyone an idea of the kind of talent they’re going to be seeing in our lightweight tournament this spring.”

Ricci admits training alongside accomplished fighters like St. Pierre and Cote accelerated his ascent up the mixed martial arts ladder.

“What’s made me improve so much in a short period of time is helping guys like Cote and GSP in their training camps,” Ricci said. “It’s also helped my confidence. When you set a goal of being a world champion, it may seem far-fetched -- but not when you train alongside guys who’ve already achieved that.”
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