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Ricardo Lamas talks to us about climbing the featherweight mountain, and he who shall not be named (Conor McGregor)

Ricardo Lamas talks to us about climbing the featherweight mountain, and he who shall not be named (Conor McGregor)

It’s not easy being a featherweight these days. Ireland just invaded the top ten recently, but by the amount of press, you would think he was the reigning champion for the last five years. This flies into the face of everything Ricardo Lamas stands for. He’s the quiet one, taking out top ten fighters one by one. To begin the year, he was defeated by Jose Aldo. There’s no shame in losing to the greatest featherweight ever, but Lamas has gained a chip on his shoulder, and he’s taken that chip and tossed it into the fire as fuel for his next championship run.

On Saturday, he faces Dennis Bermudez and his seven-fight winning streak in Mexico City. Lamas considers it a homecoming of sorts, and wants to put on a show for the fans, so he doesn’t have to talk about that one fighter anymore.  

The last time I spoke to you, you were preparing to fight Jose Aldo. Now here you are preparing for your second fight post-title fight. How do you feel? Did you watch Aldo/Mendes?

Awesome fight. Who wouldn’t enjoy that fight? It was back and forth with both guys showing a lot of heart that was exciting from start to finish.

In recent years, Aldo has started taking a lot more damage in his fights and you saw that towards the end of your fight with him, and you’re seeing how much damage he took against Mendes… So, are his opponents closer to solving the Aldo puzzle?

You know, I think there comes a time in every champion’s career where they lose the belt. Everyone is coming for Aldo and it’s going to happen eventually.

Since Mendes did so well with him his second time against Aldo, do you think it simply will take multiple fights for someone to figure him out or will it be someone like Conor McGregor that will reign atop the featherweight division?

I don’t know. I would love to be the one to take the belt from him. In a perfect world that’s how I would have it. But, in every single fight you just never know what’s going to happen. It could be anybody. That’s what makes this sport so great: anyone can be beaten on any given day. We’ll have to sit back and watch and see what happens.

It seems like I have to bring up Conor McGregor with every featherweight I talk to, does that bug you?

(laughs) A little bit, yeah. It’s just, that’s why he’s so loud, so people talk about him in my interviews because I don’t care about him enough to speak on him but if you ask me questions I’ll answer them.

Compared to where he was 9 months ago when you were fighting for the title, he’s racked up some impressive wins, but he still isn’t fighting that wrestler. As a wrestler, care to comment?

The UFC can keep on matching him up with striker after striker but sooner or later he’s going to have to go up against a good wrestler and everyone will find out in that fight if he’s the truth or not.

So I’m talking to you now as you visit Chicago for a day. Have you spent any time in Mexico a la Mark Hunt to prepare for the elevation?

I haven’t. I’ve been there before, but I leave Friday for Mexico. I feel like if I have a week before the fight to get used to the elevation I should be fine. I also rented a hyperbaric chamber that I was using throughout my camp so I think that will help me acclimate further.

Man, I remember interviewing you as you entered the WEC. Now you’re carting around hyperbaric chambers to Mexico City for PPV appearances. So you’re the guy with the target on your back now. Dennis Bermudez is coming after you. How does it feel to be the person being chased?

I don’t see it that way. Dennis has something to prove. He’s the one if he messes up his title shot is out the window. I’ve been there, I’ve experienced it and I’m patient now. I feel like I wasted a lot of time and energy rallying for that last title shot and I spent a lot of time out when I didn’t want to in order to get that shot, but now I want to have fun with what I’m doing. That’s what this is about. It’s the first time in Mexico and it’s an event I really wanted to be on and I asked for it since I found out they were going there, so I’m excited. I’m almost going to have the home crowd advantage while Bermudez is going to have the pressure on his shoulders.

So are you looking for as many fights as possible?

Yeah, I don’t want to sit out like last time. I want to stay as active as possible because I feel like I’m in my prime now so I want to take advantage of that. I’m taking the fights as they come and rack up the wins and the title shot will find its way back to me.

I’ve followed your career for years at this point, and I feel like you’ve come out of your shell more, but the main problem of most fighters is them not taking their destiny into their own hands. They’re too comfortable saying they’ll take whatever fight is given to them. Do you still fall into that camp or are there fights you want to take immediately after Bermudez?

At the end of the day, a fighter will take any fight presented to him. The reason why I don’t like pitching fights is because the guys who call people out do it because, you know, they call out who they think they can beat. I’m not like that, I like the challenge and I’ll fight whoever the UFC puts in front of me. I think that’s how most fighters think.

And now we have to talk about him again. McGregor doesn’t have your resume, but he’s a star. He’s done that by delivering on what he says but also calls people out. Don’t you think that’s the better career move?

It’s working for McGregor, but it’s not my style. If I did that it would come off as kind of scripted or not genuine. Not organic or natural. He did it since he first got in the UFC so that’s good. I don’t think he was like that before and then he made the change to do that when he got in the UFC so that’s good. I think fighters like me who were quiet before and then now all of a sudden start calling people out are just fake. I can’t do that, I can’t put on a front or change. If it works for Conor I’m sure it can work for other people.

You’ve said before that you’ve fought tougher people than Bermudez. Are you looking past him at all?

Not at all. I take him very seriously, I take EVERY fight very seriously and every camp I train my ass off like I’m fighting for the title. The reason I said I’ve fought better fighters is because I’ve gone against the champ, I’ve beaten the #2 ranked featherweight right now. I just feel like he’s a very tough fighter and very well rounded but there’s nothing in his game I haven’t seen before.

I find this interesting talking to fighters in this division in particular. It’s a deep division, and now there’s talk of Cub Swanson maybe getting passed over for a title shot. Now he’s finally fighting Frankie Edgar after a long time in the making of that match. I feel like there’s a lot of waves being made but not many fights being actually completed in your division. What are your thoughts?

Some of the matchups that happened were weird. I don’t know why we haven’t seen Cub vs Frankie earlier? It took a while for that fight to happen when it should’ve happened a long time ago. I don’t know what the matchmakers think or why stuff happens. Sometimes the politics, or selling tickets becomes a factor and that’s why some people get skipped over but it’s just part of the business. Their job is to entertain people and put together cards and fights people want to see.

You started as primarily a wrestler, and you’ve evolved your game enough to feel good fighting Jose Aldo, standing right in the pocket with him for 20 minutes. How complete of a fighter are you right now?

I consider myself to be very well rounded. Every camp I feel like I improve. I know there is more room for improvement. I’m never really satisfied with where I’m at and I don’t know if I’ll ever be. Every technique that I have I want to get better little by little. I think that’s a good thing and I’ll never stop striving to get better and better.

I’m going to put you on the spot here because I know you don’t want to talk about it but it’s my job: You vs Conor McGregor. Break down how that fight goes.

I think I could beat him using just wrestling alone but that wouldn’t be the case. I would pressure him, take him down and do the same thing I did in my Erich Koch fight.

So what’s the plan for Bermudez, considering you’re both grappling-oriented?

When you throw to wrestlers in there sometimes it comes down to them testing their striking. You know what I mean? The wrestling cancels each other out. So I’m ready for whatever, I just want to mix it up and put on an entertaining fight for Mexico City.
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