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Ricky Turcious training at the UFC Performance Institute, August 2021 (Photo by Gavin Porter/Zuffa LLC)
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Ricky Turcios Fighting From The Heart

Enigmatic Bantamweight Finalist From Season 29 Of The Ultimate Fighter Knows What He Has To Do

Throughout our conversation, Ricky Turcios often pauses to ask, “You feeling me?”

The answer is yes, with the disclaimer that perhaps nobody feels with as much enthusiasm as Turcios, one of two 135-pound finalists from Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter appearing Saturday at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs. Chikadze.

Despite having spent more time in the UFC APEX this summer than his Houston, TX home, Turcios is thrilled to be back in the building.

“This became my home. We were living here, training here, every single day, twice a day for the last five weeks coming to this APEX. The UFC APEX became my home. It became way more comfortable inside that Octagon,” he says, pointing to the cage where he’ll battle Brady Hiestand for the right to be the UFC’s newest bantamweight.

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If TUF had been a personality contest instead of a mixed martial arts tournament, “Pretty Ricky” might well have already won. Endearing himself to fans, media and fellow cast members alike, Turcios exudes an inescapable and infectious positivity.

“As a young boy, I’ve always dreamed of this,” he says, glancing around the facility as if he were seeing it for the first time. “Everything I see [points to signs and posters] UFC! UFC! All around me…right here [points to t-shirt] UFC!”

If he has a performance on Saturday similar to the two he produced on the show, the Team Volkanovski standout can have ‘UFC’ printed on his business card.

UFC: You did it! You made it to the finale. Tell us about your journey these last couple months.

Ricky Turcios: It feels good, bro. The first vision of making it out of the isolation portion—the first round and the second round—that was tough, having to be in isolation like that and being away from everybody, fighting in this tournament with those boys. Now I’m here in the finale of the tournament, the gold medal match.

Get To Know Ricky Turcios | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter
Get To Know Ricky Turcios | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter
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UFC: Have you had a chance to watch the show back yet?

RT: I definitely got a chance to watch it back. Usually, you fight and then it’s done. This is the only time where the fight is taking place on a reality television series.

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It was awesome to have won in round one and round two of the reality show portion of it and then to go and watch it with my family and friends again was so great. It was a blessing, too. Obviously, I just wanted to win so bad in those first rounds. Then when I went back home to watch it with everybody, I got to enjoy those victories and that moment with my team. We had watch parties…so many watch parties. I would go do a watch party with my team at Gracie Barra The Woodlands, then I would go to my grandma’s house and watch it with them, too, when it would premiere on Tuesdays. So I’d do an 8:00 and a 9:30 [watch party], so I watched them a lot. It was great watching with the family. It was a blessing for sure. A lot of love in the house.

Brady Hiestand and Ricky Turcios face off during the filming of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on May 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Brady Hiestand and Ricky Turcios face off during the filming of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on May 20, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC: You obviously knew some of the outcomes before the rest of us. Was it hard to keep those secrets while you were watching?

RT: I wouldn’t say it was hard. It was more funny, I guess. When people would ask me, I would literally just say the same line over and over and over again. I would look at them and be like:

“You’ll have to watch it. You’ve just got to watch it.”

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They’d be like “Come on! Tell us the information!” But I never spilled the beans. I stayed disciplined. It was very fun, honestly.

Ricky Turcios reacts after his bantamweight bout against Dan Argueta during the filming of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on May 6, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Ricky Turcios reacts after his bantamweight bout against Dan Argueta during the filming of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC APEX on May 6, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC: When we asked you at the beginning of the season why you were going to win, you said “because I’m a different animal.” Do you feel like that’s what you showed on The Ultimate Fighter?

RT: It’s been a long process, right? I remember doing those first interviews and in those moments are a first time for everything. In the moment I was speaking from my heart, from my emotions. They come from all the training that I’ve done in the gym, as well as the belief I have within myself. It’s the courage. Thank God that it all worked like this in my favor. God gives me strength. My friends and my family, their love gives me strength. When I think of that, I just go in there with everything I’ve got. I’m thankful it all worked out like this. When I go back in there again? Fearless inside the Octagon. I’m throwing everything at him with my feet, my hands and my spirit. You feel me? From the heart.

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UFC: You had two really standout fights on the show. Do you feel like you expanded your fanbase with those performances?

RT: I definitely got a lot of positive feedback from the fights on the show. I was thankful it all worked out like that. All the training paid off. When I stepped into the fire of the Octagon, I went hard in the paint. I always got to go hard in the paint. My opponents were so tough. Shoutout to Dan Dan [Argueta] and [Liudvik] Sholinian, I hope they get some shine, too. Everyone on the show…it was a star-studded cast. It takes two to tango. They brought the best out of me. You need those people who are going to push you. It created very epic battles inside the Octagon. I had to dig deep in my heart, and I learned about myself. With every fight, it’s a whole different experience and you continue growing.

UFC: Talk about this Saturday's fight with Brady Hiestand. You know him well and probably have a good relationship with him. How do you flip the switch?

RT: The shift for me…it comes literally from the danger of a fight. I know Brady is going to try to punch me in the head, kick me and stuff; he’s going to try to choke me and grapple and all these things. He’s going to give me everything he’s got. I respect Brady. I’m going to give him everything that I’ve got with my fists and my feet and my grappling and everything.

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That’s all you’ve got to do is hit him with everything. Hit him with every single thing, go all out inside the Octagon every single time. That’s what makes me make the switch.

Yes, we were great friends on the show and everything. All respect. All respect between me and my opponents. Obviously, me and Brady is a different type of scenario. We were buddies on the show. I was buddies with everybody on blue team. We all became the brotherhood of Team Volkanovski. We all knew on The Ultimate Fighter sometimes that happens in the finale that if everybody does good on your team, you’re going to have to fight a teammate in the finale. We have a strong team on blue team. I have a strong opponent in Brady coming up on Saturday. He’s going to throw everything at me but I’m ready for this fight. I come here to this Octagon and I’m ready for another epic battle, another epic war. I’m prepared. I’m ready to win.

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UFC: The UFC is going back to your hometown of Houston for several pay-per-views in the coming years. How would it be for you to make that walk in front of your people?

RT: I take it one fight at a time. Saturday, I’m thankful that I’m stepping into the Octagon to do battle right here in this Octagon behind me here in Vegas. This is the fight capital.

Whenever I’ll be driving to the beach, to Galveston, going to the south side of Houston I always pass by the Toyota Center on the freeway. And I look at the Toyota Center as I’m driving by. I just look at it, I see it. And I’m thankful the UFC will be coming to Houston all the time. It brings a little tear to my eye thinking, ‘That’s me now.’

One day, at home in Houston. Shout out to H-Town. I’m excited to be swangin’ and bangin’ at the Toyota Center with a sold-out crowd. One day.