Ricky Simon remembers watching Urijah Faber back when “The California Kid” used to compete for the WEC, where he had a run as the promotion’s featherweight champion.
Faber’s Veteran Presence
Simon spent much of his amateur run and early professional career while Faber continued to make a name for himself in the UFC as a top-ranked bantamweight who had a few title challenge attempts. When Faber retired from MMA in late 2016, Simon was a 7-1 pro looking to reach the UFC. Fast forward more than two-and-a-half years, and Faber, 40, is coming out of retirement to fight Simon, 26, who is now a top-15 bantamweight.
“Faber’s definitely a trailblazer for the guys in the smaller weight classes,” Simon told MMASucka. “He’s always exciting to watch. I found myself rooting for him a lot of times growing up. But it’s a new era, and I feel like the fight game has changed. He’s going to realize that on July 13.”
July 13 is the date of UFC on ESPN+ 13, where Simon will fight Faber in the co-main event.
Simon isn’t approaching the fight any differently than he usually does: “show up to practice and work my ass off.” The only difference is that he’s more excited than usual.
“I’m excited to see Urijah Faber come back, I’m excited to see what he looks like, and I’m also excited to beat him up,” Simon said.
Simon said he wasn’t too surprised to see Faber opt to come out of retirement, as he noticed Faber had been competing in grappling matches. He feels his opponent returned to scratch a competitive itch, as Simon said Faber’s success outside the ring implies he isn’t back for the money.
Simon intends to make the most of the opportunity. He believes a win over Faber won’t just earn him a top-10 opponent, but it will garner him fan recognition.
“It’s gonna boost my name,” he said. “I’m going to become a household name after July 13 after I finish Urijah Faber and put on the performance that I really believe I’m going to. It’s going to turn me from a prospect into a title challenger.”
Simon pointed to his last three fights as signs that he’s the best he’s ever been. Rani Yahya was on a three-fight winning streak, Montel Jackson was undefeated and Merab Dvalishvili is a tough prospect currently riding a two-fight winning streak.
As for his opponent, Simon said Faber is old, but he is still expecting the best version of him.
“I can only go off his last fight, and he looked old against an old Brad Pickett,” Simon said. “He always brings it. He’s a tough guy, he’s well-rounded. But I know how I feel waking in the morning to train at 26. I couldn’t imagine being damn near 41 waking up and doing this. I have to imagine he’s feeling it, but I’m still expecting the best version of him.”
Simon sees the fight playing out as an exciting match-up. He pointed to the similarities of their styles: they’re both active, use pressure and have a penchant for fun fights.
“I keep saying I can’t let Faber back come out of retirement for a boring fight,” Simon said. “It’s going to be back and forth, and it’s going to come down to who can dig deeper. I honestly feel like we’re at two points of our careers. He’s at a stage in his life where he’s comfortable being comfortable. I’m still hungry, up-and-coming, and I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Simon predicts he’ll finish Faber late in the second or early in the third. Though he could see it going the distance, as well.
“I give respect where it’s due: Urijah Faber is a tough guy to put out. I can honestly see myself taking the decision.”
UFC on ESPN+ 13 goes down at the Golden1 Center in Sacramento.
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