Rickels: Kimbo-Shamrock exposure drew me sponsors

Charismatic lightweight David Rickels received interest from two sponsors after an interview he did at Bellator 138. Keith Mills/Sherdog.com

Among the record television viewership for Bellator 138 last Friday in St. Louis, at least two individuals liked what they saw in lightweight David Rickels -- enough to invest in his success.

Rickels, 26, didn't fight on last week's card -- Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock did -- but Rickels earned some TV time. During the broadcast, which drew the highest ratings in Bellator history, Rickels (16-3) was featured in a live interview, promoting his fight against John Alessio on Friday at Bellator 139 in Mulvane, Kansas.

Within days, Rickels said he received interest from two new sponsors. In other words, the sponsors came for Slice and Shamrock, but they may stay for Rickels.

"Bellator wanted to hype my fight, which is smart because I'm really good looking and know how to talk," Rickels told ESPN.com. "But actually, the cool thing is I had sponsors contact me after that. It's too close to this next fight to get them on, but now that's two phone numbers I didn't have before that interview."

Rickels, who has 13 Bellator appearances under his belt, is of the firm belief: No press is bad press.

The heavyweight main event at Bellator 138 was not particularly graceful. Slice (5-2) showcased the balance of a baby bird. Shamrock (28-16-2) failed to finish a seemingly "gimme" submission, which Slice basically didn't even defend. The fight was so less than technical that water cooler talk on Monday revolved around whether or not it was fixed.

But man did it draw. Spike TV announced this week the event drew 2.1 million viewers between 11:45 p.m. and midnight ET on Friday, making Slice's eventual first-round knockout over Shamrock the most-viewed Bellator fight in network history.

Regardless of what those millions of viewers thought about the fight, Rickels said the interest alone is a major win. The potential sponsors he could add to his next fight is proof of that.

"You've got these people who want to analyze the Kimbo-Shamrock fight," Rickels said. "'Why did it happen? They're too old.' At the end of the day, if you're getting insane amount of viewers to come in, it's good business.

"And guess what? Those viewers are seeing the Michael Chandler's, the (Patricio Freire's), the young guys in the sport with extreme talent. Any way Bellator can draw attention to its other fighters is good. If that's Kimbo, Ken -- I'm OK with that."

Rickels hasn't fought since October, but not due to injury. The former title challenger was kept on the shelf to ensure he'd be ready to fight in Mulvane, which is just outside his hometown of Wichita, Kansas. It will be his fourth consecutive fight in front of the home crowd.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," Rickels said. "I love to travel. Part of the fight game is traveling all over the place to get into fist fights. But it's also the coolest thing in the world that Bellator, one of the biggest fight promotions ever, is coming to my hometown basically just for me. They come here because they know I'm going to sell the show and my city loves me."

Rickels said he's probably "three fights away" from another shot at the Bellator 155-pound title. Should he defeat Alessio (35-17) this week, Rickels already has his next challenge in mind: A rematch against Chandler, the former champion who knocked him out in 44 seconds in July 2013.

"I've told everybody, I've already seen my path," Rickels said. "I know how this is going to go. I'm going to beat up John Alessio and they're going to have to do Chandler-Rickels II. That's something I'm highly motivated for. It would be a great fight for everyone. I know a lot of people want to see that."