It’s a long way from Vancouver, Washington to Long Island, New York, but as Ricky Simon prepares for a Saturday clash with fellow bantamweight contender Jack Shore, he’s feeling superstitious…in a good way.
“Both my bonuses have come from the East Coast,” laughed Simon. “And I'm getting another bonus in this one. It's gonna happen.”
The first time Simon crossed the Mississippi on a business trip in 2018, he scored a Fight of the Night submission over Merab Dvalishvili in his UFC debut. He didn’t get his hand raised in Washington, D.C., when he lost a decision to Rob Font in 2019, but he did get another bonus check, showing that his track record on the opposite side of the country is at least a lucrative one.
And for the record, since that defeat against Font, Simon hasn’t lost, racking up four consecutive wins that have him back in the Top 15 and hungry for more. Three of those victories took place in a breakthrough 2021 campaign last year that saw him submit Gaetano Pirrello, decision Brian Kelleher and knock out Raphael Assuncao.
That’s what we call making a statement.
“2021 was tough with fights still getting canceled because of COVID, and then I jumped through those two fights early on and then had a nine-month layoff before fighting Assuncao, but three wins within that year and back into the rankings, it was perfect.”
Things weren’t too bad outside the ring, either, as Simon and his wife bought a house, achieving the goal he set for himself when he joined the UFC roster. And then he signed his fourth contract the promotion, putting him in good stead to achieve the next goal on his list – a world title. Add in a settled and effective training regimen that has seen him not just stay with his American Top Team squad in Portland but also get in some work with Team Oyama in California, and things couldn’t have been going any better for the 29-year-old.
“Last year treated me really well, and I'm keeping that same recipe,” said Simon, who, despite putting together a quartet of wins in one of the sport’s toughest divisions, still feels like there’s work to be done to get his name out to the masses. But if he can become the first man to pin a loss on Shore’s pro record, it would be hard to ignore Simon, who has already done enough to get eyes on him thanks to a brutal strength of schedule that started even before he made the walk to the Octagon for the first time.
“This has not been an easy route for me,” he said. “I think it was my seventh pro fight, I was fighting a guy (Alex Soto) who had just got cut from the UFC, and even in the regional promotions, I was fighting Chico Camus and guys like that. So I feel like I got introduced to that level of talent earlier on in my career, but it's nothing like the UFC, though. I fought Merab, who's ranked sixth now, in my first UFC fight. But this being my tenth UFC fight now, I've been signed for over four years, I'm settled in, I'm comfortable, and I've been telling everyone the more comfortable I get, the more dangerous I'm gonna get, and I showed that in the last fight, for sure.”
Simon was certainly dangerous in taking out veteran contender Assuncao in less than two rounds, in the process marking it as perhaps the most impressive victory in his UFC career. But now people expect wins like that all the time, and while it won’t be easy stopping those around him in the rankings, Simon is ready to give it a shot, knowing what awaits him if he keeps piling up wins.
“The ultimate goal is the belt, so I want to keep working forward, not backwards, and I think with a good finish on this one, maybe that push will start to happen.”
UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs Rodriguez, took place live from the UBS Arena in Long Island, New York on July 16, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards, and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC FIGHT PASS!