On June 26, Bellator MMA returns to the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, Ks. for Bellator 139. The event will be headlined by a heavyweight showdown between UFC-veteran Cheick Kongo and Russian-born Alexander Volkov. The co-main event features a lightweight bout with local star and former title challenger, David “The Caveman” Rickels, taking on journeyman John Alessio.

This will be Rickel’s third-straight appearance at the Kansas Star Casino, however, The Caveman hasn’t fought since October of last year, despite being injury free. He doesn’t seem too perturbed by it, however, and chocks it up to his drawing power in The Sunflower State.

“I must be badass at selling tickets here and they know a lot of people come to see me and I think they come to see my walkouts.”

While the phone may not be ringing as often as before, Rickels is very pleased with the direction Bellator is going, and having more time between fights, as well as more notice beforehand, is doing great things for his training and weight management.

“They gave me a pretty good heads up (on this fight). That’s something I really respect, since the changing from Bjorn (Rebney) to (Scott) Coker, everything is really more professional. So I don’t have to start training camps at 205 lbs, I’ve got plenty of time to get my weight down and do everything the right way. Do things the enjoyable way instead of starving myself on hemp protein.

“Before the Davi Ramos (fight), I would start my camps at about 210 lbs. I started this last camp at 175-180. How do you do that you might ask? I’m just staying in the gym, not being a fat ass. I’m being in the gym, eating healthy fat, not splurging on biscuits and gravy.”

As one of the fighters who were around for a time under the old guard and have had a couple chances to experience the new leadership, Rickels is nothing but pleased with the direction and progression they have made.

“12-weeks training camp instead of 7, and I’m getting paid a lot more. They brought in Tito Ortiz for Riverfest in Witchita, so we got to sign autographs (together).

“They seem more professional, more of a global, worldwide company that should be successful. They’re just doing things the right way. It’s cool because I’ve never experienced that before, I never fought with the UFC, so this is the first time I’m seeing this.”

While things have been up and down for him the last couple years, he is well aware of the position he is in, and the opportunities before him. Not many fighters are able to work their way into title contention, let alone see those hopes shattered and put forth the work ethic and time to climb their way back to the top. Coming off a one-sided beatdown of Davi Ramos, Rickels sees himself primed for that chance again, and he has a good idea how it will all play out.

“Let me tell you my evil plans. One week before I fight, some pretty boy named Micahel Chandler is scrapping down in St Louis. I think he’s going to win. Well, when I beat John (Alessio) one week later, that will leave us poised for battle 3-4 months later. I would love to turn around from that fight, redeem my loss, and put myself in title contention.”

While it’s not the craziest idea ever, and in some ways very possible, the lightweight title picture in Bellator is murkier than ever before. This reality is not lost on The Caveman, who just focuses on why he’s in this business to begin with and uses that to keep motivated for whatever challenges present themselves.

“(It) is a scary kind of thing. There’re a lot of people getting wins who can be passed up. Here’s my mindset right now. I have the best job in the world. I fight professionally for money. I get to train on my own time. I get to be at home with my kids when I’m not training.”

When he’s not fighting, he can be found fishing, or as the self-proclaimed “master angler” puts it, doing the “greatest sport ever,” with bass his primary victim of choice.

One thing there is always a shortage of wherever you train is training partners, so just like all the top pros, Rickels takes time to get in work at different places, with Colorado being his favorite, not just for the training, but the adventure.

“(I get to) climb mountains and do high altitude training. Done a lot for my mental psyche. I’m really connecting to my inner neanderthal. Climb, be athletic, do cool shit in nature. Karate chopping animals in the throat. And everyone was super fucking nice. They wanted you to be there.”