The Ultimate Fighter
Brad Riddell is chomping at the bit. After fighting six times in less than 18 months, including three fights in his first year on the UFC roster, the New Zealander hasn’t competed in eight months. He was scheduled to fight Gregor Gillespie in March, which would’ve been his first crack at a Top 15 opponent, but due to COVID-19 protocols, the bout was pulled at the last moment.
Now, days out from climbing back into the Octagon and facing Drew Dober at UFC 263, Riddell admits he is still a little weary about any last-second hang-ups that might come before fight night.
“Once I’m at the arena and gloved up, shorts on, about to walk out, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah. Cool. We made it,’” Riddell told UFC.com.
Riddell, whose City Kickboxing teammates affectionately call “Angry” for his serious (and at times, grumpy) demeanor, doesn’t have any nerves when it comes to the actual fight.
His extensive kickboxing career and a 3-0 UFC record prove as much, and this crack at the 13th-ranked Dober feels like a long time coming in the talent-saturated lightweight division.
“I don’t really have any nerves,” Riddell said. “I know a lot of people probably say that and fans don’t really believe it, but I’m more excited to fight. I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I’m very used to this feeling. Now, it’s just sort of eagerness to prove myself and entertain the people. I just get excited to fight. I really like this stuff.”
An additional appeal to Riddell’s liking is Dober’s style. Through three UFC bouts, Riddell has mostly faced grappling-heavy attacks or fighters who choose to mix things up once Riddell turns the tide on the feet.
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Against Dober, Riddell expects to “stand and bang,” and Dober holds the track record to back those expectations. Ten of Dober’s 23 professional wins have come via knockout, and he scored three straight knockouts on a winning streak that put him into the Top 15.
It’s a style Riddell enjoys, and as he prepared for Dober, “Quake” also spotted a few intangible traits he respects as well.
“(Dober) doesn’t give up,” Riddell said. “He seems to keep the same pace and keep fighting no matter what. Even if it’s going bad for him, he stays in the fight. He does keep trying to win. He doesn’t wilt, so that’s cool. Props to him for that because, a lot of fighters, when it starts to go bad, they may have lost two rounds or something, the third, they sort of go, ‘Eh,’ start swinging and giving in. He seems to stay pretty composed.”
Even so, Riddell believes he should “outclass (Dober) everywhere.” If he succeeds in that, Riddell could very well find a number next to his name come next week. Although he is excited to fight in general, his focus hasn’t left his goal of climbing the division’s ladder quickly.
“Getting to the top is always the number one priority,” he said. “Going through Drew – Drew has been in the rankings…beating him shows that I belong in there.”
A potential statement victory could not only set the tone for Riddell in terms of his own future, but also for his team’s. His City Kickboxing teammate Israel Adesanya will defend his middleweight title against Marvin Vettori later in the night, and the two have been able to push each other a bit as their crew made the long trip from New Zealand to Arizona.
Riddell says he gets “pretty serious” when it comes time to train but having “The Last Stylebender” helps him get into a more relaxed flow. The opposite is true as well, and it’s just another window into the cohesive unit that is City Kickboxing.
“I think both of our personalities sort of get each other going,” Riddell said. “Sometimes, I might be a bit too serious, so I feed off his relaxed energy. Sometimes, he might be too chill, so he might feed off the seriousness that I have. I think we complement each other pretty well when we train together and fight together.”
Beyond the obvious stakes of the fight, Riddell also has a two-week quarantine ahead when he returns to New Zealand. A win definitely makes those 14 days more manageable, but even just getting a fight is better than not.
On the whole, Riddell is eager to throw his hands and show off his skills once again. At 32 years old, there’s a sense that he’s finally getting to the level of fights he believes he deserves, and on June 12, he gets to make the most of the opportunity.
“I really missed this,” Riddell said. “Eight months is a huge layoff for me, so I’m really looking forward to just fighting in general. This is my job, and this is what I love, and it’s been a long time not doing it.”