Imagine being so driven that you lose sight of everything around you. Benchmarks along the way simply become a flyover because you’re so dead-set on your end goal. That’s Ricky Bandejas in a nutshell. The bantamweight fighting out of Nick Catone MMA in Brick, NJ will serve as the Co-Main Event on December 16th defending his title against Nick Mamalis.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Bandejas said when speaking of being in the Co-Main Event. “It’s cool to see that when I started I was one of the first three fights. Now I’m defending my title. So, it shows I must be doing something right. I must be going in the right direction. It doesn’t make me fight any harder or push less though.”
While interviewing the 9-1 Bandejas, he never strikes you as a guy who’s taken stock of his lot in life. He’s never reveled in his achievements and how can he? On this Saturday after Thanksgiving he’s training with a who’s who from the UFC roster including but certainly not limited to Eddie Alvarez, Katlyn Chookagian, Frankie Edgar, Marlon Moraes and Edson Barboza.
“You just look at them guys and you see their career and you see how tough they are,” Bandejas marveled. “So to see that I’m in the same boat with these guys I must be doing something right. When you first start and you hear people say you’re talented you’re like, “Yeah, yeah.” But now that I’m 9-1 and I’m the main event, maybe I have a little bit of talent.”
It’s that last line that got me laughing. Maybe have a little bit of talent? This whirling dervish of a fighter last and only loss was two years ago against former UFC fighter Nick Pace. But the lack of acknowledgement was rather humorous.
“I would always say it’s luck,” Bandejas countered speaking to his talent. “I’m still getting lucky. But I’m starting to think there’s a little bit of skill to it now.”
What you see from Ricky though is a laser focus to go along with his one track mindset that doesn’t deviate from the norm. When asked about any moments of doubt since starting his career almost six years ago he said, “never on fight night” and also attributing his tenacity to the UFC fighters at his gym. All this while also saying he leaves training once every two weeks actually happy with the work he put in.
As for his opponent the 16th, he takes on Bellator MMA veteran Nick Mamalis. Similar to his bout against Nick Pace, Mamalis comes to the table with plenty of big fight experience under his belt having fought for Bellator MMA. While Bandejas acknowledges the opportunity, he’s also not specifically focused on his counterpart.
“Every fight is my biggest fight. My biggest moment whether I’m main event or co-main or on the prelims because I need to win that fight impressively to get to where I want to go.”
With the discussion of any regional fighter comes opportunities in the UFC. When is the right time to make the jump? As you could imagine with Bandejas it required very little thought when the question saying, “I put a lot of time in. If they offered I’m coming. I’d never turn it down. It doesn’t really matter whom it’s against.”
Over the course of what turned out to be a ten minute interview, Bandejas was never more verbose than when asked about a potential UFC opportunity.
“I look at it like this. The sport is only growing every year. Talent is only getting tougher. You pass up on your opportunity there are plenty of other fish out there ya know? So I feel like a lot of 35ers out there are really good. They match my record or are better. So if I get my opportunity, no doubt I’m taking it.”
Lutfi Sariahmed has been covering Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in some capacity since 2008, primarily with Sherdog. He's covered local NJ MMA promotions including Ring of Combat and Cage Fury Fighting Championships.
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