RFA featherweight Mark Dickman (9-2) didn’t see the outcome he had hoped for when he challenged Justin Lawrence for the promotion’s championship belt in his last outing, but plans to right his ship come Jan. 9 at RFA 22.
Taking place at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs, “Tricky” takes on a seasoned fighter in Donald Sanchez (30-14) in the featured co-main event. Likely the most experienced athlete Dickman’s faced in his career, the Las Vegas-based competitor comes into the scrap with a bright outlook.
“I would compare him to a poor man’s version of Leonard Garcia. He wants to stand, he doesn’t like to wrestle,” Dickman told Fight Corner. “I think he’s decent off his back defensive-wise, but like I said a poor man’s version of Leonard Garcia.”
“It’s a good fight for me to try and impress people and try to get that rematch with Lawrence,” Dickman added.
After going the full 5 rounds with Lawrence at RFA 17, Dickman fell short of capturing gold. Once Dickman reflected on his shortcomings, he turned his attention to what needed to change.
“There was some things that I did in my training, more of it was just an attitude. I need to have an attitude about how I strike and my mindset was just wrong in that fight. My mindset was, ‘if I get it to the ground, it’s over.’ And I never got it to the ground.
“Whenever you’re trying to look for just wrestling, you’re missing out on the striking,” Dickman continued. “Now that I’m in this camp, I’m walking forward and trying to strike and score points there, which in turn is going to open up my wrestling.”
Additionally, he decided to pour more time into his strength and conditioning. Prior to fighting Lawrence, Dickman got away from lifting heavy weights, which backfired on him.
“I realized in that fight, after I tried to pick him up a couple times that I just didn’t have that strength and that energy system to lift up somebody my weight 15 to 20 times,” said Dickman. “And that changed the way I fought for the rest of the fight because I didn’t want to just throw myself off the cliff trying to get one takedown.
“I was almost just surviving because I was afraid to get tired. So those are two mental things, little things, just attitude in striking and my strength and conditioning.”
Training out of One Kick’s Gym and Sergio Penha’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, the Missouri native has found new inspiration from one of the top welterweights in MMA, Jon Fitch.
Fitch recently assumed the role of wrestling coach at One Kick’s and has opened Dickman’s eyes to new approaches in his ground game. He’s also working with Dickman’s teammate and RFA 22 headliner, Chidi Njokuani, to improve his grappling and wrestling skills as well. Njokuani will meet TUF 17 alum Gilbert Smith in the main event for the vacant welterweight title.
Already a gifted jiu-jitsu practitioner and a decorated wrestler, Dickman has realized how much more potential he has from working with Fitch.
“I’m really blessed for him to be in our camp,” Dickman said. “Just the way he approaches fighting, it kind of completed my ground game. My ground game kind of really depended on passing guard on the way down and his game is really just like what he calls smashing. And he likes to smash and just punish people. He doesn’t care to pass guard. He would rather just hold you in butterfly guard and just punch you, which is great, which opens up to passing.”
“He’s a great leader,” Dickman added. “He sets a good example and he’s a positive person, and he knows how to train for championship fights. That’s been great for Chidi. It’s been great for me and I think he kind of brings the team together.”
The stakes are high in both the main and co-main showdowns at RFA 22. If Dickman wins, he’s set his sights on getting another shot at the featherweight title. While his long-term goal is to one day fight in the famed, UFC Octagon, he won’t make that his only focus heading into his tilt with Sanchez. If there’s been anything the 30-year-old took away from his title loss, it’s to never again look past an opponent.
Fighting in the RFA since the organization held its first event, Dickman knows he could be on the verge of cracking into the next level. In his opinion, going through ups and downs he’s had in the RFA have been worth every second to achieve that.
“It’s a good place to season yourself. I think it’s better for me to lose here than to go get in the big show when I’m not ready. I think I need this experience and I’m embracing it and using it to get better,” Dickman stated.
Raising the bar and placing lofty expectations on himself, keeps Dickman pressing forward. Suffice to say, he has every intention of coming out guns blazing on Jan. 9.
“I want people to be tuning and in be like, ‘I want to watch Tricky. I want to watch him fight.’ And I want to go for finishes, and if I do that, everything’s going to fall into place.”
“I’m going to be looking for the finish more and not just looking to not lose,” Tricky continued. “I don’t want to just squeak by and win. I want to finish.”
Mark Dickman will trade leather with Donald Sanchez in the co-main event of RFA 22. The main card, featuring Gilbert Smith vs. Chidi Njokuani in the main event, will be televised on AXS TV on Jan. 9 beginning at 10:00pm EST.