John Simón doesn’t have to travel far for a chance to give his professional mixed martial arts career a major boost.
And the 30 year old from Clark County doesn’t have to look far to find a role model for the success he wants to achieve.
Simón will fight in the main event Saturday at Cage Warriors Northwest at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. His 155-pound lightweight fight against Jarel Askew tops a 10-fight MMA card organized by Northwest Fight Promotions.
In Simón’s corner will be his cousin Ricky Simón, the No. 11-ranked contender in the UFC’s bantamweight division. The 30-year-old from Vancouver is considered one of sport’s rising stars, with a 20-3-0 pro record and a five-fight UFC win streak.
Both train out of Portland’s American Top Team, a gym that has sent several fighters to the highest levels of the sport.
Ricky Simón believes his cousin is on the verge of a breakthrough.
“The point where he’s at, every next fight is the most important fight,” he said. “Each gets you that much closer to the ultimate goal, which is getting signed to a big show. He’s killing it right now on the regional scene.”
Since turning professional in 2018, John Simón has a 5-3-0 record and has won three of his last four fights. He’s ranked No. 6 in the Pacific Northwest among professional lightweights.
“Everybody wants me to make that jump and I feel like I’m ready,” John Simón said. “I’ve worked really hard the last few years. I’ve been training constantly and training smarter, focusing a lot of the mental aspect of fighting. Not just technique, but being more patient, more calm.”
John Simón says he has learned a lot from how his cousin handles his craft, both in and out of the gym.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from him is how he approaches the fight game,” John Simón said. “The mental aspect of fighting and how mature he is now as a fighter. His nutrition, his recovery, everything he does I’ve watched over the years. He takes it so seriously.”
Unlike Ricky Simón, who was a wrestling state champion at Union High in 2010, John Simón didn’t specialize in grappling. He played football for four years at Battle Ground High School, only wrestling his freshman year.
But John Simón was always around combat sports. He first dabbled in judo, of which his mother is an enthusiast. Between multiple siblings and cousins who wrestled, Simón was never too far from the mat.
“I was always in the wrestling room with them,” Simón said. “I wasn’t on the team, but I was always in the practice room, doing workouts with them and always around it.”
Ricky Simón began fighting on the Northwest amateur circuit in 2011. That inspired John Simón, who made his amateur debut in 2012.
“I went to one of his fights and I was like I want to do that now,” John Simón said.
Early in his career, John Simón relied mostly on his wrestling skills. But it quickly became apparent that to make it far in MMA, he’d have to become proficient in the sport’s other disciplines — namely jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing and muay Thai.
“You’ve got to be well-rounded everywhere nowadays,” John Simón said. “Ten or 20 years ago you could get away with being a wrestler and just taking everyone down. You could go pretty far with that. Nowadays, the game has changed. It has evolved so much. Fighters are starting earlier with all disciplines. You can’t lack in any area.”
As physically demanding as MMA is, John Simón believes a fighter’s mental game is just as important. He used to enter the cage hyped up on adrenaline. Now he meditates before fights.
“I feel like the biggest difference between an amateur and a pro is controlling themselves and their emotions in a fight,” John Simón said. “You’ve got the fans and they’re yelling. You’re getting punched in the face. But you’ve got to stay calm.”
Waiting for that call
Ricky Simón is trying to stay calm while waiting to see what awaits him in the UFC.
After his last fight, an impressive choke submission over previously unbeaten Jack Shore in July, he publicly called for a fight against fellow rising star Sean O’Malley.
But O’Malley instead fought No. 2-ranked Petr Yan, whom he beat in a split decision to likely set himself up for a title shot.
Ricky Simón said discussions are ongoing to arrange a fight on a UFC main card against a fighter in the top 10, if not top five.
“I’m waiting on that call,” he said. “I think something big is next.”
Eventually, Ricky Simón expects to get his shot against O’Malley.
“I definitely see a fight in the future between the two of us,” Simón said. “We’re about the same age and not going away.”
Until then, Ricky Simón is doing his part to help elevate other fighters, including his cousin.
“MMA can be very unforgiving,” Ricky Simón said. “It’s not very profitable at the beginning for sure. If you see someone grinding and trying to pursue their dream, I’ve been there. There’s plenty of times guys have helped me out. I’m going to try and be a helping hand when I can.”
With his cousin in his corner, John Simón hopes for a decisive win Saturday against Askew, a fighter out of Sacramento, Calif., with a 12-7-0 pro record.
“I just want to put on a show for everybody,” John Simón said. “Hopefully it’s quick, in and out. But if it goes three rounds, I want to put on a show and give everybody their money’s worth.”
If You Go
What: Cage Warriors Northwest, a 10-fight MMA event.
When: Saturday, fights start at 6 p.m.
Where: Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds, 7402 N.E. Delfel Rd., Ridgefield.
Tickets: From $40-105, available online at https://tickets.northwestfightpromotions.com/tickets