When it comes to fighting friends, Canadian Mike Ricci says he doesn’t want to go there.
Ricci, 26, trains with close friend Rory (Ares) MacDonald at Montreal’s Tristar Gym, which is also home to UFC champion Georges St-Pierre.
GSP and MacDonald are welterweights while Ricci is a lightweight, although he is fighting Saturday as a welterweight in the finale to Season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Don’t expect Ricci’s path to cross MacDonald’s in the cage.
“I can sit down and give you a million reasons why I wouldn’t fight Rory but none of those things matter,” Ricci said in an interview. “What really matters is that I don’t want to go there with him, to that place.
“It has nothing to do with the physical battle, because we’re both programmed and trained to fight. We can fight blindfolded, like it’s just our bodies reacting once we’re in the cage. But it’s mentally, to go to that place with somebody who I care about so much, to look across at them and to just disconnect everything that I have built with them so that way I can hurt that person.
“That’s why I wouldn’t fight with any of my friends. I would not want to go to that place with them.”
MacDonald, 23, said after spending seven weeks with Neil Magny, a fellow member of Shane Carwin’s team on the reality TV show, it was hard fighting him in the semi-final of The Ultimate Fighter.
The emotional bond of living, eating and training with Magny took its toll.
MacDonald, in the wake of his lopsided victory over former champion B.J. Penn last weekend in Seattle, was asked if he would ever fight St-Pierre.
“I don’t know. I’m not there yet so I’ll cross that bridge when I get there,” he replied. “But I don’t feel that I need to fight Georges. I don’t think it’s going to happen, it won’t happen. Me and him are friends. He’s done a lot for me and I’m very grateful for it, I’m not going to stab him in the back.
“And I don’t want to wreck my opportunity training at Tristar, they’ve done a lot of things for me. So I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. There’s lots of fights for me.”
St-Pierre shares that view.
“I don’t want to fight him. We fight every day in the gym ... there’s a lot of opponents, there are different weight classes,” St-Pierre said prior to the Seattle fight.
The 31-year-old champion has always made it clear that he draws the line at fighting training partners. Otherwise he would be signing up to hurt a friend.
“So let’s say I’m mounted, on top of my friend, and it’s time to land this last big elbow that will probably make a scar in the middle of his forehead and knock him out cold and cause him brain damage,” St-Pierre said by way of explanation, drawing laughs during a fan question-and-answer session before UFC 105 in November 2009 in Manchester, England.
“No I’m telling it like it is, if he’s my friend, I’m going to think twice before I do it. I won’t be able to do that to a friend. So that’s the reason why I will never fight a friend. I know a lot of fighters who will disagree with me, but me that’s my personal belief.”
Backstage, St-Pierre acknowledged he may have carried the analogy too far. But he did not back down, saying the stakes are too high in such instances.
All three will be in Las Vegas for the UFC card Saturday: MacDonald cheering Ricci on and St-Pierre making an appearance for a sponsor.
“Friendships born on the field of athletic strife are the real gold of competition. Awards become corroded, friends gather no dust,” St-Pierre tweeted Friday, quoting Jesse Owens.