BRICK – Hometown Mixed Martial Arts Champion Ricky Bandejas, 28, is on a roll. With a pro MMA record of 13-3-0 (Win-Loss-Draw), he is set to make his second appearance of the 2020 campaign against newcomer Sergio Pettis in a bantamweight fight on Friday, July 24 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
The fight will be televised live on Paramount TV, and it’s Bandejas’ first time as the main event. He has had eight victories in 10 fights over the last four years, with three of those being first round knockouts.
MMA, also known as cage fighting, is a “terrible sport,” joked Bandejas in a recent FaceTime call. “It’s kicking, wrestling, punching, the elbow, you can choke the guy out,” he said. “Everything goes but scratching and biting.”
Blood is spilled in nearly every fight, Bandejas said, resulting from injuries like cuts and broken noses.
Bandejas said MMA fights are called “cage fighting” because they fight in an actual cage, and the fighters can tackle and take each other down without a chance of falling through the ropes like in a regular boxing match. “And it looks more intimidating,” he joked.
Due to the coronavirus health crisis, there will be no audience at the event, which will be broadcast live.
“It’ll be my first fight without an audience, I hope it works out in a good way – you’ll be able to hear all the shots,” said Bandejas, who has 22,000 Instagram followers.
“Before a fight I just sit down and keep my mind calm, but once you get in there and start fighting, it’s all instinct and training, but up until that point, I’m super nervous and scared,” he said.
For each MMA match, there are three, five-minute rounds with a one-minute break between rounds. After the first round, Bandejas said he gets a feel for “where the fight’s gonna go, if you’re gonna dominate or it’s gonna be a close one.”
He said he tends to be a little more relaxed in the second round, and less anxious and “you accept that you’re in the fight.”
Bandejas’ opponent in the July 25 fight was number two in the world in his weight class. “He’s very well known…he’s a tough one,” he said.
As a lifelong resident of Brick, Bandejas attended Lake Riviera Middle School and Brick High School and lived here until he moved to Coconut Creek Florida in September to be near the “best gym in the country” – American Top Team – for his sport, he said.
“I wanted to be near more guys to mix it up with, and they have more elite fighters at American Top Team, so I did it for my career,” he said.
Asked why he was drawn to such a demanding sport, Bandejas recalled joining the high school wrestling team when “a guy opened up a gym around the corner” – Nick Catone Fitness – “and I ended up going there and started training, and the rest is history,” he said. “I fought and I kept fighting.”
He said he enjoys working out and staying in shape, and “the fight just came,” he said. “I want to make money, and I can’t sing or dance,” he joked.
Bandejas has been fighting professionally for about seven years, most recently defeating Frans Mlambo via a second-round knockout at Bellator 240 on February 22. He said he averages about four fights a year.
Bandejas trains about three hours a day and mixes it up with running, bike riding, wrestling, kick-boxing, jiu jitsu, and more. He said he takes Sundays off to spend with his family.
As the married father of three young daughters, Bandejas said he is very fortunate and has been able to make a good living doing what he loves.
Asked how long he plans to fight professionally, Bandejas said it’s hard to tell.
“It depends on how much damage you take,” he said. “But if I keep winning and everything goes good, I might just stop by 33,” he said. “I feel good, I feel sharp,” Bandejas said.