When David “The Caveman” Rickels got the call to face Michael Chandler for the lightweight—155 lb—title at Bellator 97 in Rio Rancho, he weighed 205 lbs. That was in early June. Faced with a 50 pound weight cut, Rickels had to dig deep into his caveman roots. His training regime is based on the paleo approach. Not just the paleo diet, but he actually has a set of metal clubs that he swings around like the savage he claims to be.
“It’s a great workout swinging those clubs. Hitting tires. You can swing them around, above the head, between the legs, like a kettle bell swing. The way you hold them, because of the way the weight is distributed, if you hold it at the end it makes everything way harder. It’s just a different workout. It totally satisfy’s a man’s need to bash on things.”
I asked Rickels if the paleo diet had anything to do with him blowing up to 205 between fights.
“During training, my diet is 95% paleo. Whatever a caveman could walk out and pick up. I don’t do grains, obviously. It’s mostly fruit, vegetables and meat. I do a lot of juicing, too. The cavemen didn’t really have juicers, but that’s where we’ve one-upped them.”
So you train in the paleo era, but when you’re blowing up to 205 you’re more of a Neolithic man?
“I’m basically a paleo eater during training, and then I’m a scavenger, like a great white shark would be, eating anything that I can find, preferably chocolate stuff and fried cream cheese. I really do enjoy my naughty food as much as my healthy kicks.”
When you’re in scavenger mode, eating whatever you can between fights, are there any paleo foods you can’t give up, even when you’re allowed to eat at the Chinese Buffet?
“I love beef jerky, I find it to be a great snack food. Beef jerky and nuts. I really like almonds. That kind of stuff for me is awesome snackage. Nuts bring in a lot of calories so I can’t eat too many of those when I’m training, but that’s something I enjoy. Peanut butter, holy crap, that is the bees’ knees.”
How did you decide that paleo diet would be good for a caveman fighter?
“A couple of my buddies had fights going up, and they were dropping down to lower weight classes. And the paleo diet really worked for them. I was fighting at 170 lbs at the time [welterweight], and I wasn’t really cutting that much weight, so I didn’t pay much mind to it. But when I started dropping down to 155 lbs, I had to cut a lot more weight. That made things different. I was like ‘hey, let me try out this paleo diet, blah blah blah.’ Those first couple cuts I had were really good. I just stick with what works, and it works really well for me.”
Just after he signed on to fight the Bellator champion, Michael Chandler, Rickels found out his girlfriend was pregnant. I asked him what it was like evolving into a family man.
“I used my money from the Bellator tournament to buy a house. We just closed the deal on a house yesterday. I’m really excited about it. It will be where I raise a family. Man, Caveman the family guy. That’s something strange to think about.”
This unexpected development caused Rickels to cancel plans to move his training camp to American Kickboxing Academy in California, in favor of keeping his new family, and his training, closer to home.
“I train at Combative Sports Center in Manhattan Kansas. We have a lot of tough guys in that room. A lot of good wrestlers from Kansas. It’s a good room.”
How is the fight going to play out, July 31st in Rio Rancho?
“I’m gonna do a backflip and kick him him in the face and knock him out in the first ten seconds.”
“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a back and forth war. He’s a really tenatious guy. He doesn’t hold back. Neither to I. One of the things that I do better than a lot of people is I think I’m really good at rising to the occasion. If someone’s pushing me I’ll push back. This is a really interesting fight and I think it’s going to be great one.”
And how does he thank that Michael Chandler will prepare for the Caveman?
“Man I don’t know. He’s been pitching the first pitch at the Padres game, going to Comic Con, doing the VMA thing, the BET video awards, I don’t know what he’s been doing.”
Are you suggesting Chandler might be looking past you?
“I mean maybe. I don’t know. He doesn’t want to lose. He’s got a lot on the line, being the face of Bellator. I mean, I hope he’s looking past me, because when that first punch lands he’ll know he’s in a fist fight.”