Ricci Ready for Stiff Test Against Healy at PFC 2
Ontario born Alex Ricci had five years of Muay Thai training and three years of professional fighting under his belt by the age of 19. His priorities were focused on kicking faces as opposed to kissing them, and unlike so many of us, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
“I want to be considered the best fighter that ever lived,” proclaimed Ricci. “This has been my passion since I was a really young kid. This is what I do. This is what I’m all about it. I’m striving and working every day to achieve those goals.”
Just shy of his 20th birthday, Ricci decided he needed to relocate. He knew he wanted to fight professionally and would need a world class training regimen to make it happen. With few possessions in hand and his desire to be great, Ricci left his friends and family behind and boarded an airplane to Thailand. He spent three years in the land where their love for Muay Thai can only be compared with the Canadian craving for hockey, perfecting his craft and working himself ragged.
“The culture was so rich. It really humbled me to see the people and how the fighters lived, and the reasons why they competed,” explained Ricci. “For them, it was a way of life, a way to feed their families. These kids started with Thai fighting professionally at the age of 10. By the age of 20, they’ve had 300 pro fights. To fight against people that need to win to feed their families, it was a very humbling experience. Now that I look back, I’m so grateful for those experiences. It was a great time.”
It was those experiences that helped Ricci excel as a martial artist. He competed in 35 bouts while in Thailand before the constant repetition and training took its toll and he was burned out. When he came back to Canada, his friend and manager Robin Black took him to visit an MMA gym for the first time and, as they say, the rest is history.
Now 7-1 as an MMA fighter, Ricci will co-main event this weekend’s Provincial Fighting Championship (PFC) card in London, Ontario. His opponent will be well-travelled wrestler Ryan Healy.
It’s the kind of fight that, on paper, does not favour Ricci. Ricci is an accomplished striker who prefers to keep things standing, slicing opponents with slick elbows and pummeling them to the body and head. As we have seen so many times over the past 12 years, Healy has a smothering presence that has suffocated many young fighters’ dreams of grandeur. Ricci’s only loss was to the well-rounded Jesse Ronson, who used a game plan not that different from what would be expected from Healy.
Then again, maybe it’s the perfect fight for Ricci. Healy appears to be on the downswing of his career and it could present the perfect opportunity for Ricci to show off his improved wrestling and grappling against the preeminent Lightweight gatekeeper outside of the UFC. Healy has lost three of his last four and five of his last eight bouts and may be right where Ricci wants him.
It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Ricci inside the cage and he has not squandered that time. A disappointing tryout for The Ultimate Fighter (one he says he “passed with flying colours,” but his “mind went blank” during the interview phase) has only motivated the 31-year-old fighter to continue training and getting better.
If the motivation of a possible big league debut later this year (Ricci laughingly said he “maybe, probably” will be fighting Jason Saggo on April 19 at World Series of Fighting Canada) is not enough to keep him motivated, perhaps Healy’s trash talk is. In a recent interview, Healy went out of his way to say that “He (Ricci) has had an easy ride in the fight game and been brought up slowly.” Ricci, never much of a trash talker, adamantly disagrees.
“I don’t think that’s true,” he explained. “I’ve fought a lot of tough guys. I don’t pick any of my fights. My manager (Robin Black) does that. I will fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. This is a business. Not a lot of opponents want to fight me either.”
On Saturday night, Healy and Ricci will both have the opportunity to do their talking in the cage. Whether or not Ricci has been on an ‘easy ride’ will be put to the test at PFC 2. With a win over a dominate wrestler, Ricci can legitimize his transition from Muay-Thai to mixed martial arts and put himself near the top of the list of non-UFC lightweights.
“After winning this fight this weekend, I might be getting the call,” Ricci said excitedly. “There are not too many top Canadians out there other than (Jason) Saggo. I’m just being patient. I don’t get involved in politics, I just do my thing.”