Ricky Simon is going to have his biggest fight, and his biggest exposure to date at UFC 234.
The 26-year-old will be fighting on the main card where he is taking on craft veteran Rani Yahya. Simon is currently riding a seven-fight winning streak and will have the chance to fight a ranked fighter for the first time.
For Simon, to be fighting a veteran of the sport in Yahya, who he grew up watching, is surreal.
“He has been in the UFC since before I started my MMA journey,” Simon said to BJPENN.com. “I’ve watched him for years. There is not going to be a surprise where he wants the fight to go. I’m totally prepared for that.”
Even though Yahya is someone Simon started watching before he got into MMA, he is confident he will come out on top. He knows just how good he is, and he can’t wait to show it on the main card of a pay-per-view.
“It is going to put me on the map,” he said. “I set a goal for myself in 2019 to be ranked top-10 in the world. Then towards the end of the year to be in talks to fight for the belt. A win over him puts me in the right direction.”
While Simon believes he will win the fight, many are wondering if this is too much too soon for the 26-year-old. But he doesn’t see it that way at all. He points to his last fight which was against Montel Jackson, who could very well be ranked himself.
“I’ve fought some tough dudes in really my last five fights Just to where he is ranked I have to say yes [he’s the toughest] because he is top-15 in the world. At the same time, I feel like I have been in there with the best.”
Fighting top prospects like Jackson and Merab Dvalishvili has helped Simon continue to get better. And now, with this fight against Yahya, he knows he will be the one putting on the pressure. As well as dictating where the fight goes.
“That is my best attribute being able to dictate where the fight goes,” he said. “I feel like I get better as the fight goes on but I’m also dangerous early. Those aren’t bad traits to have, obviously I want to get those finishes because we aren’t paid by the minute we are in there.
“I feel like I will be able to use my wrestling to dictate where the fight goes. I think he will get desperate and try to take me down. I’m gonna make him stand with me,” Simon continued. “I’m gonna land some big shots, I’ve been visualizing this fight the entire camp and that is how I see it going. I hope I can go out there and execute that.”
After a successful training camp at Gracie Barra Portland, training with the likes of Chael Sonnen, Paige VanZant and others, Simon is prepared for this. This is his biggest fight to date, but he remains confident. He knows after this fight, he will have a number next to his name and can start his run to a title shot.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 2/6/2019.