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Mixed Martial Arts

Lightweight Ricci benefits from training with St-Pierre

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The Canadian Press
9/18/2013 5:20:21 PM
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TORONTO -- They say iron sharpens iron, which augurs well for Mike Ricci at UFC 165 this weekend.

The 27-year-old lightweight from Montreal spent much of his 10-week training camp for American Myles (Fury) Jury working with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.

The two have trained before but the busy St-Pierrre was in Montreal for an extended period of time -- "which is rare," according to Ricci -- that dovetailed with Ricci's camp.

"He has been my main sparring partner for this fight," Ricci said. "I've done most of my rounds this training camp with him."

Not surprisingly, Ricci (9-3) lost most of those rounds against the bigger man, and a champion to boot. But the 155-pounder says he began to steal the odd one.

"It feels good when you're working and working and you win small battles here and there against guys like that," he said. "You know you've been improving."

Light-heavyweight title-holder Jon (Bones) Jones takes on Sweden's Alexander (The Mauler) Gustafsson in Saturday's main event at the Air Canada Centre.

Ricci is one of seven Canadians on the undercard. Francis Carmont, a French middleweight who fights out of Montreal, is on the main card.

Ricci also trains with welterweight Rory (Ares) MacDonald, a close friend, at Montreal's Tristar Gym.

Like GSP, MacDonald is preparing for a fight at UFC 167 in November. St-Pierre takes on No. 1 contender Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks in the main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas while No. 3 MacDonald faces No. 8 (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler.

Ricci says St-Pierre is more than generous with his time in the gym.

"It's unreal. If Georges wanted to, he could just do his own thing and then leave," said Ricci. "But he stays and he puts in work with guys. Not only just me because I have a fight coming up, he'll work with everybody.

"You could even see this guy maybe even developing into a great coach one day. He stays, he puts in the work and he puts in the time and he explains things. And he gets to the bottom of them. I'll do a round with him and then after he'll be like 'OK we have to work on this when sparring's over.' It's great to have him as a training partner. And I haven't had him around this much and working with me this much in a while. It was a very good experience."

Fighting as a welterweight, Ricci lost last December to Colton Smith in the final of Season 16 of "The Ultimate Fighter." He bounced back at UFC 158 in March to defeat Colin (The Freakshow) Fletcher, a finalists in the Australia versus U.K. TUF spinoff.

It was a dominant win, albeit one that was less than stirring in terms of entertainment.

But it was a memorable night for Ricci, coming in front of a hometown crowd. He walked out to the Phil Collins song "In the Air Tonight," explaining later that the story said it all.

"I have been waiting for this moment all my life," he said later, quoting the song. "I grew up wanting to win in the Octagon and I've spent six years on a road of blood and sweat to make sure I got here.

"I had some UFC jitters, but I spoke with GSP two days ago and he said 'Listen, get used to them because they never, ever go away' so I was nervous but I expected to be going in. Winning a UFC fight means everything to me."

Ricci walked out to the cage in traditional martial arts garb, complete with a sword.

He says his goal in the Fletcher fight was simply the win.

"I felt like my position (in the UFC) wasn't as secure as I'd like it to be ... I came back down to my weight class and I just felt it was the fight I had to win.

"You get into those fights where you know you can win them if you do as you're supposed to do," he added. "You know you will 100 per cent win and I knew that I would 100 per cent beat Fletcher if I stuck to a game plan.

"But I wasn't 100 per cent sure if I would finish him with that game plan. But the win to me was more important. So I went down that road. ... I hit him plenty of times. Could I have hit him more? Yes. Could I have been more aggressive? Yes. But I did what I had to to win and stay safe. I feel like my position is more solidified now"

That's good because the 24-year-old Jury represents a step up.

Jury (12-0) has won all three of his UFC fights since appearing on Season 15 of "The Ultimate Fighter." He was on Season 13 initially but had to leave through injury.

Ricci says he chose Jury over two other opponents.

"Easier fights, to be honest with you," Ricci said. "This is the fight that I wanted. This is what felt like it was supposed to happen to me."

Jury is not short of confidence, judging from the bio on his website (www.teamfury.com).

"At just 24 years old, Jury is what the experts refer to as 'the new breed of the sport;' a hybrid fighter, well versed in all aspects of the demanding game," the bio reads. "And, when you combine the baby- faced looks of a Hollywood actor with the ferocity and tenacity of a young Mike Tyson, you're left with a dangerous concoction of a modern day warrior with tunnel vision, glaring all the way to the top."

Mike Ricci (Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
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