Visions of Tristar: Meet Mike Ricci

Fightland Blog

By Jesse Bell

I've spent the last year immersing myself in the lifestyle at the world-renowned Tristar Gym in Montreal. When I was asked to move into the Tristar Dorms last summer, I didn't know what to expect. The only way I can describe my new home to everyone is to show them. 

I have gathered a large collection of images taken during my stay here. Each photo tells the story of my journey as a welcome member of Canada's top MMA gym. 

Mike Ricci has that young Italian clean-cut look tinged with a certain Montreal supper-club style. Aside from the possible threat of charming your girlfriend at the bar, he appears harmless. But underneath the fitted suits and slicked-back hair lies the soul of a fighter. His invisibility cloak of designer men’s wear is only one of the many layers of his personality. He saves his barbarous side for the appropriate times and venues.

In the small inner city of Montreal, Quebec, where we both grew up, the Ricci family is a familiar clan. Stories of Mike’s schoolyard “scraps” are the earliest memories I have from our childhood. 

After The Ultimate Fighter 16 season was over, Ricci often talked about the feeling of being “institutionalized” during the shoot. Being the smallest competitor in the house, it was an uphill battle for him from the very beginning, and you can include him in that growing list of former contestants who would not sign up for a second go-round. After two losses and one win, Mike was released by the UFC this past September.

To describe Mike Ricci’s mentality as a fighter, I quote what he said to Aiemann Zahabi before walking out to his first professional MMA fight: “You put him down where he belongs.”

He is currently fighting his way back into the UFC’s lightweight division.

Ricci at Saturday sparring.

Resting after several “rolls” in Brazilian jiu-jitsu class.

Kajan Johnson, Mike Ricci, and James Polodna watch teammate, and BJJ prodigy, Ryan Hall roll for the first time.

Teammate Alex Garcia laughs at Ricci after pulling on his hair.

Halloween night 2012 at the Tristar dorms. Ricci found my baseball bat and low-rider bicycle then proceeded to go on a smashing spree. When he left, my room looked like the aftermath of a bar fight.

 Waiting his turn in the rotation to take down Rory MacDonald during wrestling practice.

 Ricci with coach Jonathan Chaimberg as he lines up for an agility drill.

Ricci’s latest old-boxer tattoo.

Check out these earlier visions of Tristar:

"Ragin" Kajan

The Dominican Nightmare

Ryan Hall, the Deadpan Killer