The Bellator lightweight division is one of the most talented in the organization. With names such as champion Michael Chandler, Rick Hawn, Patricky Freire, Marcin Held and Dave Jansen, Bellator has many 155-pound fighters who rank among the best in the world.

Now, you can add David “The Caveman” Rickels to the list.

The 24-year-old Rickels was once a contender in the welterweight division, but at Bellator 82 in November, Rickels made his debut at lightweight against Jason Fischer. Rickels won the fight by unanimous decision. The win earned him a spot in the lightweight tournament to begin 2013.

“I was making 170 without cutting weight. I mean, I was eating cheesecake the week before I fought Karl Amoussou. Weight was never an issue, so I thought hey, why not cut an extra 10 pounds give it a shot at lightweight? One of the things I like about it is that it forces me to train harder,” Rickels told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I have to train harder and more consistently to get the weight off. It’s not an easy thing for me to get down to 155.”

Rickels (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Rickels has kept a bit of a normal routine for his training camp in preparation to fight on Jan. 31 by staying put in his hometown gyms in Kansas, but he also traveled west to a notable gym in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better training camp,” expressed the lightweight. “We’ve got a solid squad at the Combative Sports Center in Manhattan, as well as Janjira Muay Thai. I also went out to Vegas to train at Xtreme Couture for a couple days, and got some good training in with Tim Lane, who is one of the striking coaches out there.”

In the opening round of the tournament, Rickels will take on Lloyd “Cupcake” Woodard, who holds a professional record of 12-2. Woodard last fought Rick Hawn in a lightweight tournament semifinal bout and lost via knockout in round two. Two fights prior, in the semifinals of the previous lightweight tourney, “Cupcake” fought the current champion, Chandler, in a losing effort where he was edged out by decision. He bounced back to defeat Freire via submission in his next fight, a quarterfinal round match-up in the most recent lightweight tourney.

“He’s definitely a tough guy with a kind of ‘don’t give a shit’ fight style. He comes in there and will take your punch and throw one back,” Rickels explained. “Sucks for him that the last punch he took from Rick Hawn he couldn’t quite handle, but he’s not a guy known for having a weak chin or anything. I’m expecting a really grinding fight. I never want to go to a decision, and I think he’s one of those fighters that hates decisions also, so we’re both going to be looking for the finish, and it really pairs up for an exciting fight.”

Other match-ups in the bracket have Thiago Michel facing Alexander Sarnavskiy, Ricardo Tirloni taking on Will Brooks, and Patricky Freire squaring off with Guillaume DeLorenzi. Rickels isn’t one to look ahead to future fights, but he feels that there’s one fighter in the tournament that stands out as the man to beat, other than himself.

Rickels (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

“Definitely ‘Pitbull,’” Rickels stated. “I’ve seen a few of his fights just from being a Bellator fan, and that guy definitely has some spark and is going to be one of those guys that will be hard to put away. He’s going to be looking to put you away real quick.

“I wish I had watched more fights from the other guys, I just haven’t yet. Watching footage isn’t something I’m really big on. If I get paired up with whoever then I will.”

Add to the excitement for Rickels is fighting in front of about a million people on Spike TV. Bellator signed a television deal with Spike beginning in 2013, and it has been a success in gaining viewership.

“I’m an entertainer for sure, and I really like that we get to do our walkouts now and all that jazz. I plan on putting on a show. That’s something I pride myself in. I fight to be exciting,” Rickels admitted.

On Thursday, Rickels will be craving a win over Woodard.

“I’m really leaning towards a second-round finish,” he said.

If his prediction comes true, he will be celebrating afterwards with some treats, including a spot in the semifinals.

David would like to thank Andy Zerger of Janjira Muay Thai Kansas, Joe Wilk of Combative Sports Center, Onnit Labs, Alpha Brain Supplements, Galaxy Supplements, Lecheek Nutrition and Unbreakable Mouthpieces. Follow him on Twitter: @TheCaveman316

Photo: David Rickels (blue gloves) lands a jab on Jason Fischer (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.