There’s no denying that 2018 was bantamweight Ricky Simon’s biggest year to date.
After starting off the year with his fifth straight win, Simon fulfilled a career-long goal of making it to the UFC. Not only did Simon step up to the top level of MMA, but he managed to pick up two wins in the UFC and finish out the year undefeated in his last seven total bouts.
“I feel like I was at a point in my career where my next step was the UFC,” Simon told MMAWeekly.com. “I had done a lot on the regional scene, won an LFA title, and felt like it was time.
“I had everyone, my family and my team, telling me that 2018 was my year. It was hard to believe it, but it ended up happening, and it was a great thing.”
Though Simon was able to pick up victories in his two UFC bouts in 2018, he is still not 100 percent satisfied with how he’s been fighting.
“I’m always my toughest critic,” said Simon. “I feel like I haven’t performed to the best of my abilities. I was able to get the job done in both cases, but I feel like I haven’t shown who the real Ricky Simon is.
“I feel like I’m getting more experienced, and that cage time has really added up and I feel like I’m able to start performing techniques and moves that I’m doing in the practice room into the cage. That’s when things are really going to start getting exciting.”
On Saturday in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Simon (14-1) will look to keep his winning streak going when he faces Rani Yahya (26-9) in a 135-pound main card bout at UFC 234.
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“I don’t think it’s any secret where he wants the fight to go,” Simon said of Yahya. “I think it’s obvious that I have to not let him get that top position and not let him get those early takedowns. I’m going to sprawl ‘n’ brawl, make things exciting and go for that knockout.”
When it comes to his goal for 2019, Simon wants to continue to work his way up the bantamweight ranks and firmly establish himself as one of the premier fighters in the weight class.
“The competition is already very stiff at 135lbs, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, which is bust my ass in the gym and take people out,” said Simon. “I’m excited to go out on February 9 and take that #15 spot from Rani Yahya.
“It’s always ultimately up to the UFC, but I’m going to do what I can after every fight and pick someone I think is an interesting match-up and bump me up in the rankings.”