The Greek philosopher Epictetus once said,”It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it.” This quote is often used in sports, and certainly in mixed martial arts. When a fighter suffers a loss, it forces them to get their head straight for another upcoming bout. It may take weeks or even months to recover from a loss, but once a fighter does, it’s back to the grind of training.

David Rickels faced this situation following a loss to Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler on July 31. Rickels was knocked out just 44 seconds into the first round of the biggest fight of his life. The 24-year-old earned a title bout after being crowned the season-eight 155-pound tournament champion, but he couldn’t get past Chandler. To Rickels, it was brutal to soak in such a devastating defeat. It was a feeling he had never felt before.

Rickels (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“That was the first time I’ve ever been beat. The feeling where I was like, ‘Damn, that motherfucker got me,’” Rickels told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “It was an entirely different feeling to not go out there and put on a show or showcase my skills. It sucked, and I had to go back and fix things and get my mind right.”

He knew how talented Chandler was coming into the fight, admitting in his pre-fight interview that he feels Chandler is a top-10 lightweight. Rickels attributes the defeat in part to being a bit too relaxed going into the fight. He would like nothing more than to have another chance at Chandler.

“I just wish I could do it all over again right now,” Rickels stated. “The thing is, I felt great going into that fight. I think if anything, I would have told myself not to be too confident, because I was extremely confident. I really thought I was going to bring it to him, but it didn’t work out my way. I feel like I still have the same skill set that would allow me to do so, but it just didn’t work out that night.”

Before the possibility of another opportunity to fight the champion, Rickels is faced with veteran J.J. Ambrose this Friday, Oct. 11, at Bellator 103 from the Kansas Star Casino in Wichita, Kan.

This will be the first time Rickels has fought in his home state since 2011, and the first time he’s done so inside the Bellator cage. “Caveman” is always smiling, so you can imagine what his reaction was when he found out Bellator was coming to a venue just miles from where he grew up and had chosen to feature him in the main event of the evening.

“When I found out that Bellator was coming to Kansas, it really lit a fire under my ass,” he said. “This is literally 15 minutes from where I grew up, so it’s not only in Kansas, but my hometown.”

Don’t ask Rickels for tickets to the fight, it’s already too late for that. They went fast as soon as Rickels was announced as the headliner.

Rickels (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“I’ve sold over 300 [tickets],” Rickels revealed. “I know a lot of people bought them online using my ticket voucher. It was pretty stressful with people calling me up wanting me to give them tickets, but it’s going to be loud in that place. I’m going to set it off.”

Bellator didn’t give Rickels an easy fight or a guaranteed chance to bounce back. Ambrose, who is 19-4 with two no-contests, has been competing since 2005, five years before Rickels made his professional debut. Since 2009, “Superman” has just one loss, which came at the hands of Brent Weedman at Bellator 62. Ambrose picked up his first win under the Bellator banner in January over Brian Warren and is coming off a no-contest in his February bout in Kuwait.

Eleven of Ambrose’s 19 wins have come by submission, and Rickels is aware of the grappling game that his opponent will likely utilize. However, Rickels is quick to point out that six of his 14 victories have been subs.

“One of my things is I match up pretty well against a lot of guys because I’m well-rounded and it gives me the ability to put fights where I want them to be,” Rickels explained. “His biggest skill set is probably his grappling, but I think you see a hole in his striking game. I know he went to Thailand to try and work on it. But I never look past an opponent. J.J. is a tough dude, and I’m looking forward to it.”

In his Bellator run throughout the lightweight and welterweight divisions, Rickels has faced many strikers, including Karl Amoussou, Lloyd Woodard, Saad Awad and Chandler. Now faced with a grappler, Rickels admits that he has to adjust.

“Knowing that he mainly wants to grapple, it changes my game plan a little bit,” he admitted. “A lot of what I’ve been working on is my grappling itself. You can tell from looking at my record that I have pretty good grappling too. I’ve fought a lot of grapplers and wrestlers coming out of Kansas going through the ranks. Having the strikers recently was something new, so fighting grapplers is something I’m used to.”

Rickels (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Not only does winning a tournament in Bellator guarantee a title shot, but it also delivers a big check for $100,000. “Caveman” cashed his check in and was able to purchase a home in Wichita with his girlfriend. He also found out that he is going to be a father to a baby boy.

With a mini “Caveman” on the way, Rickels has some pressure on his shoulders to get back on track Friday. After not being placed in the season-nine lightweight tournament, Rickels will need to put together another string of wins to get back in title contention, no matter who is on the opposite side of the cage when the door closes.

“I will fight whoever the fuck they put in front of me. That is just the truth,” Rickels declared. “I got into this game because I like to test myself, I really do. And I push things to the limit sometimes. Fighting is a great way to do that, both mentally and physically. Getting a win and proving to myself what I’m capable of is the biggest thing to me. Getting right back in that ‘W’ column, where I believe I belong, is huge to me.”

In his hometown, Rickels will fight in front of fans and family, with “Caveman” heads surrounding the venue. On Friday night, Rickels wants more than anything to live up to his reputation as an entertainer.

“The way I see the fight going, I don’t see a decision going down,” Rickels predicted. “The style of fights I put on, I’m going out on a stretcher or I’m going to knock you out. I’m always trying to do that [for] the entire fight. Obviously, it doesn’t work out every single time, and although it sometimes make me vulnerable, it makes me a dangerous opponent as well. I see this fight going down by TKO.”

David would like to thank his sponsor, Onnit Nutritional Supplements. Follow Rickels on Twitter: @TheCaveman316

Photo: David Rickels (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.