From carrying a stuffed shark in interviews to signing fight posters with a fin in her signature, Tabatha Ricci brings “Baby Shark” to life on fight week.
But don’t let the commitment to the bit and her bright smile trick you. The 28-year-old strawweight is all business, and she’ll live up to her nickname in a much more serious manner inside the Octagon this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs Topuria.
Ricci has gone 3-1 since joining the UFC in June of 2021, with her only defeat coming in her debut when she stepped up on short notice up a weight class against No. 2 flyweight contender Manon Fiorot.
After that bout, Ricci went to her natural weight class of strawweight and has blossomed into a rising contender. She’s beaten Maria Oliveira, Polyana Viana, and Jessica Penne on the way to earning a Top 15 ranking, and she’s pleased with her climb thus far.
“I’m very happy with the pace that we are going,” Ricci told UFC.com. “I actually got into the UFC pretty quick and we were not expecting that. Now I’m in my weight class and we are building slowly, and I like the pace.”
“I want my work to speak for me. This will be a good fight to show what I deserve, and I’m not in a rush. I’m going to get more experience when I can get more Octagon time. I’m not that person that is going to be asking for anything.”
On Saturday, Ricci is tasked with fighting Gillian Robertson, the record holder for the most submission wins by a female fighter in UFC history.
Robertson fought at flyweight for nearly all of her UFC career but moved down to 115 pounds in her most recent showing. She felt great at the weight and called for a fight with Ricci after defeating Piera Rodriguez in April.
Ricci was more than happy to oblige her request.
“I just like those challenges that prove for me and to everyone else that I belong,” Ricci said. “People are very excited for this fight. We both have high-level skills on the ground with jiu jitsu, so I think it’s going to be a very entertaining fight.
“I think she is a tough opponent. She’s a UFC record holder for a reason, so I respect her. I’ll let my work in the Octagon speak for me. We’ll see how it goes.”
This fight is similar to the Penne fight for Ricci. She’s facing a veteran like Robertson or Penne as an opportunity to show that she not only belongs in the strawweight shark tank, but that she’s the shark they have to watch out for.
That’s why Ricci is so locked in. Beating Robertson is her ticket to becoming a true contender.
And she’s confident that she’s not going to let that opportunity slip.
“It’s going to be kill time,” Ricci said. “I’m going to be ready to live or die in that Octagon and I hope my opponent is ready for that, too.”
UFC Fight Night: Emmett vs Topuria took place live from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida on June 24, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!