Is Mike Ricci TUF enough for UFC?

Mike Ricci grapples with Daron Cruickshank at Ringside 12 in Montreal last year. Ricci lost the...

Mike Ricci grapples with Daron Cruickshank at Ringside 12 in Montreal last year. Ricci lost the fight but rebounded quickly, winning a unanimous decision over Tony Hervey in his next bout. (QMI Agency)

NEIL SPRINGER, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:35 AM ET

For Mike (The Martian) Ricci, 2012 didn’t exactly start out the way he had hoped.

After dropping a unanimous decision to Daron (The International Superstar) Cruickshank in October 2011, the Tristar Gym standout was paired up with Tony (Lionheart) Hervey at Ringside MMA 13 in Montreal five months later. The bout did little to excite him.

“Tony Hervey was the first time I fought somebody and completely didn’t try,” Ricci said over the phone. “I just wanted to get out of there before it even started, just for a bunch of different factors. Just it being such a sh---y show, so low quality. I felt like I was worth a lot more than what was happening. I was getting paid absolutely nothing to fight. The whole situation was just a turnoff for me.”

As per his coach’s instructions, Ricci put on a workmanlike effort, out-grappling Hervey en route to a unanimous decision. But before he could reach the final bell and get his hand raised, the bout had to be temporarily halted after a light bulb fell off the rigging above and shattered glass all over the mat.

Ricci and Hervey then had to stand around as a clean-up crew busted out the vacuums.

“I went into that fight not even fighting the way I wanted to,” Ricci said. “So right off the bat I was kind of discouraged.

“If you watch that fight, I don’t think I even took it out of first gear. I just kind of took him down a bunch of times and played with him a bit. Then the light fell, which discouraged me even more.”

Thankfully for Ricci, the biggest opportunity of his career wasn’t far away. After being selected as one of 32 potential competitors for the 16th season of The Ultimate Fighter, the Montreal-based mixed martial artist picked up a first-round TKO victory over Jason South to secure his spot on the show.

Over the past few weeks, Ricci has been one of this season’s focal points, filling the role of straight man as some of the lunatics attempt to run the asylum. His prelim fight with Dominic (Sho Nuff) Waters is set to air Friday on FX. The winner will join the other seven fighters to advance and quarter-final bouts will be established at the end of the episode.

Ricci feels he is finally getting the exposure he deserves.

“I feel way more motivated, that’s for sure,” Ricci said. “There’s way more on the line now. That seems to be a good thing for me. The higher the stakes, the more into it I am, the more motivated I am and the more aroused and stimulated I am by this whole sport.

“It’s kind of like that whole concept: If a tree falls in the woods and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? It sounds kind of stupid, but that’s how I’ve felt about my career. I fought for myself, of course, but I fought to build my name, my reputation and my career. So if nobody was watching, what’s the point of me beating someone up in a laneway? No one’s going to see it. I train hard and I build myself up. The more I’m in the public eye, the more I feed off of it.”

Of course, camera time on TUF isn’t always allocated based on fighting ability. Some of Ricci’s appearances have revolved around his encounters with prankster Nic (Naptime) Herron-Webb, who placed Ricci’s mattress on top of a gazebo.

Though it infuriated him at the time, Ricci admitted he has since cooled down.

“At the time ... I wasn’t thinking about anything that was going to be happening after that show,” Ricci said. “I was just so caught up in what I was dealing with, that I wasn’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to be on T.V.’ But now that it is, I got some airtime for it. Obviously I’m happy about it now, but at the time I was not.”


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