David Rickels knows where the rubber meets the road.
While some fighters psyche themselves up before fights by talking trash, Rickels is concerned only with what takes place inside the chain-link fence after the referee says, “Go.”
“The Caveman” will put his skills to the test in the Bellator 69 welterweight tournament semifinals in a matter of hours. With just one victory separating Rickels from a finals berth, he must now contend with Karl Amoussou, a man who spouted some choice words at Thursday’s weigh-ins.
“[Rickels] is ugly as hell, and I’m going to destroy him,” said Amoussou.
Despite his opponent’s candid prediction, Rickels is staying grounded ahead of his pivotal bout at L’Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, La. Rickels believes that when the cage door is locked tonight, Amoussou will be singing a different tune.
“Amoussou’s mind games aren’t going to affect me one bit,” Rickels recently told Sherdog.com. “Hell no. I don’t play into those games. If anything, I think it’s funny. If I see people act that way, I think they are f---ing scared. There is a reason why they act that way. I don't play into that s---. He can stare at me and mug me all he wants, and he can talk s--- on Twitter all he wants, but the bottom line is I am going in there to kick his ass.”
According to Rickels, all the pre-fight banter will soon become obsolete, as the unbeaten 23-year-old plans to let his fists do his talking when he faces the Frenchman tonight.
“Whether I like him or not, me and Amoussou are going to fight. That’s inevitable. I’ve got to fight him to get paid, and that is what I am going to do,” said Rickels. “If he thinks I am a stepping stone, then I think he is in for a rude awakening. I am going to lay him out. We’ll see what he has to say then.”
Rickels enters the cage on the heels of a dominant performance in the tournament quarterfinals, having dispatched former “Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 contestant Jordan Smith in just 22 seconds at Bellator 63.
“The win over Smith was definitely a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders,” Rickels admitted. “That was a career defining moment for me. In my own head, it set me on a path where I know I can compete with these guys. I know I can fight the top-level guys and beat them. I’ve always known I would be here eventually, but I feel like I am here now. I feel like I can go with anybody.”
The Kansas native will take that confidence with him when he clashes with Amoussou, who battered Chris Lozano before choking him out just over two minutes into their quarterfinal bout. In spite of that destructive finish, Rickels says he will expose the weaknesses in Amoussou’s approach when the bell rings.
“I see some holes in Amoussou’s game. I feel like he is a little predictable. He floats his chin around a lot, and I feel like I can find a good spot for my right hand on his chin,” said Rickels. “I feel like this is a great fight for me. He likes to throw down, and I like to throw down. I think the fans are going to see a war. I think there is a really good chance that someone is going to get knocked out.”
Though Amoussou possesses twice the professional experience of Rickels, the American believes that the “Psycho” may be underestimating him -- an attitude that could produce unpleasant consequences for the 6-year pro.
“If Amoussou is looking past me, he is [making a] grave mistake,” said Rickels. “I am definitely a threat, and he has a hell of a fight on his hands. If he doesn’t know that, he is obviously not training hard enough for me.”