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Ricky Simón Is Here To Stay

As Ricky Simón Gears Up For Another Test Against A Tried And True Veteran, He's Become More Comfortable In His Spot Among Some Of The Division's Best

As winter turned to spring, Ricky Simón assumed he was in for a big year.

“I fought January on Fight Island and I did that really quick turnaround (in February),” he said. “In my head, I was like, 'If I do that, I'll get four or five fights in this year.'”

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That’s the fighter in the 29-year-old, but after kicking off 2021 with wins over Gaetano Pirrello and Brian Kelleher, silence, as Simon saw ranked opponents avoid meeting the Pacific Northwest battler.

Ricky Simón: 'I'm Definitely Overlooked' | UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Daukaus
Ricky Simón: 'I'm Definitely Overlooked' | UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Daukaus

“I've been ready to go out there and put on another show, but I've been spending time just getting better.”

On Saturday, Simón gets his ranked opponent, No. 12 Raphael Assunção, a fighter who has been on his radar for years.

“I've been a fan of Assunção since I started fighting,” said Simón. “He was at the top of the division, and I remember when he was supposed to fight for the belt, but he had an injury. I feel like he was one of the best bantamweights in the world at the time, but he's 39 now and on a three-fight losing streak. But even the fights he lost, he's competing with these guys who are the best in the world, and he's just coming up short.”

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Simón is spot on when it comes to all those points. Assunção is one of the best bantamweights of his era and one of the best to never fight for a UFC title. As for his three-fight losing streak, those defeats came at the hands of Marlon Moraes, Cory Sandhagen and Cody Garbrandt. In other words, even at 39, Assunção is a threat to Simon’s three-fight winning streak. But he’s also Simón's ticket back into the Top 15.

“After that Brian Kelleher fight last February, I actually asked for Assunção,” said Simón. “I'm always looking at the rankings and who doesn't have a fight and what would be a good matchup, and this is the fight I wanted. He ended up getting matched up with somebody else (Kyler Phillips), but then ends up getting injured and so this matchup ended up happening, so I was pretty pumped about that because it's the fight we wanted.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 10: (L-R) Ricky Simon punches Rani Yahya of Brazil in their bantamweight bout during the UFC 234 at the Rod Laver Arena on February 10, 2019 in the Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty)
Ricky Simón punches Rani Yahya of Brazil in their bantamweight bout during the UFC 234 at the Rod Laver Arena on February 10, 2019 in the Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty)

"I'm excited to fight him, and I'm also excited because I feel like this is another legend of the weight class. He's been there since the beginning, and he's an old guy and I'm trying to get my revenge on an old guy who's been around the weight class for a while. (Laughs) But he may be looking at it like, hey, this guy loses to old guys, so maybe I have a chance.”

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Simón laughs again, referring to his losses to “old” guys like Urijah Faber, who beat him at the ripe old age of 40. Could he see himself doing this as long as Assunção or “The California Kid”?

“It's pretty crazy that he's fighting at 39,” Simón said of his upcoming opponent. “I think of these older guys, and I'm like, how do you guys do this for 20 years? I've been doing it for maybe 11 years now and nobody's called me the young buck for a while now. (Laughs) But I don't want to have to be fighting at 39. If I'm still passionate about it and I'm still killing it, maybe, but I always told myself I'd revisit it in my mid-30s and have a plan and everything like that. But it's definitely impressive to see these older guys competing.”

Maybe those “young buck” days are over, but as far as where he’s at now, after three straight wins, Simón may be in his fighting prime and ready to make his run at the belt. All he needs are the contenders at 135 pounds that are willing to meet him in the Octagon.

“I was ranked two years ago, starting my UFC career off 3-0 and beating a ranked guy,” he said. “Then I suffered some losses, but now I'm on a three-fight win streak again, and they gave me a ranked opponent. I feel like I can compete with anybody in the world, I feel like I can beat anybody in the world at this point. I'm 18-3 and I've been doing this for a long time. Maybe a lot of people don't realize it yet, but I do feel like I'm right there in the mix with the best of the best in my division.”

And duck if you must, but be aware that Simon isn’t going anywhere.

“I'm just not gonna go away,” he said. “I think I realized a goal and a mindset at a young age and I've lost, more than just in this sport. So I just stay in tunnel vision on those days when you're beat up and you have to go to your second and third practice, but I love this. I get to wake up and do what I love everyday. I'm a pest. I'm not gonna go away. Even after a couple losses, I'm gonna build myself back up. I know I'm one of the best in the world, so I just stay focused mentally. That keeps me going every day.”

Don't miss a moment of the final fight night of the year at UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs Daukaus, live from the UFC APEX on ESPN+. Prelims begin at 4pm ET/1pm PT. Main card begins at 7pm ET/4pm PT.