‘This kid is just on a different level’

Owner of Washougal’s Champ Camp training facility revels in UFC fighter Ricky Simón’s recent victory

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Professional mixed martial arts fighter Ricky Simon (left) stands next to his longtime strength and conditioning coach, Jess Guthmiller (right), the owner of Champ Camp Training and Fitness in Washougal. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jess Guthmiller)

Jess Guthmiller was confident Ricky Simón could beat Raphael Assuncao, one of the best bantamweight fighters in the world, during an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night 199 event, held Saturday, Dec. 18, at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Guthmiller, owner of Washougal-based Camp Champ Training and Simón’s strength and conditioning coach, knew his fighter was younger and stronger than his opponent, and Guthmiller hoped Simon would prove to be faster, too.

Simón delivered on all of those promises and more, knocking out Assuncao just two minutes and 14 seconds into the second round.

Guthmiller was unable to attend the fight in person due to COVID-19 restrictions, but instead watched with pride from his Washougal home, knowing he had helped his friend record the biggest win of his professional career.

“It was pretty amazing,” Guthmiller said. “Because of COVID, I wasn’t able to go to the fight, but it was still amazing (to watch). I was able to sit in my living room with my girlfriend and 9-month-old baby, and it was a special moment for me to watch my No. 1 guy and share (his win) with my family. He’s a great kid. I’m super proud of the guy. He’s worked his butt off. It’s really cool to see.”

Simón boosted his overall record to 19-3 (7-2 UFC) and ascended to No. 13 in the UFC bantamweight rankings with the win over Assuncao, who was ranked No. 12 at the time of the fight and has since slid to 15th.

“I’ve had some big (wins) so far,” Simón told reporters after the fight, “but I think (considering) the circumstances, who it was, and the rankings, I think this could be the biggest (win of my career), yeah. I’ve said from day one that the more comfortable that I can get, the more confident I’m going to be and the more dangerous I’m going to be, and damn, I’m comfortable. I’m so comfortable now.”

And the 2010 Union High School graduate believes he couldn’t have done it without Guthmiller’s assistance.

“I can’t thank Coach Jess enough for his dedication and the time he’s put into making me the strongest bantamweight in the world,” Simón wrote in a Dec. 8 Instagram post.

Guthmiller, a former pro fighter himself, has trained Simón since 2013 after first meeting him at the Gladiator MMA gymnasium in Vancouver in 2010.

“I was training there and helping a buddy with a ‘fight camp,’ and then Ricky came in, fresh out of high school,” Guthmiller said. “He grew up always fighting with his brothers and stuff like that. Him and his family watched a lot of UFC and he wanted to give it a try, and since day one, even as an amateur, (it was easy to see that) this kid was destined for great things.”

Simón began to work his way up the ranks, posting an amateur record of 3-0 before turning professional in 2014. After winning 12 of his 13 pro events as a member of several lower-level fighting associations, he joined the UFC in 2018.

“I’m very blessed for the opportunity to be able to work with Ricky,” Guthmiller said. “He was a catalyst to get me to where I am today. I got my degree in biology, and I feel like if it wasn’t for that type of opportunity, I never would have realized how much I love what I do. He was a big believer in me, and that caused me to up my game and believe in myself that I could do this.”

“He was a big reason why (I wanted to) open up my own spot,” Guthmiller continued. “Before we got into the UFC, Ricky had a title fight through a company called Legacy Fighting Alliance. (During our training sessions), I was always yelling ‘Champ camp’ at him — like, ‘This is our champ camp, going for that world title.’ And once I went to open up my own establishment, I couldn’t really think of a better name because I think ‘Champ Camp’ applies to everybody, whether you’re fighting for a world title or fighting high blood pressure or fighting life. I think it’s a beautiful thing.”

Preparing Simón for his fight against Assuncao was “one of the easier (camps) to program because he was in such good shape going into it,” Guthmiller said.

“This is honestly the strongest I’ve ever had Ricky,” he said. “The beautiful thing about working with Ricky is that he’s such an elite-level athlete that he stays in shape the whole time. We already knew going into it that he was already cardiovascular-wise in stellar shape. The big thing was to just keep him fast.”

“Coach Jess has added interval sprints to my program over the last few weeks, and I can already feel the benefits in all aspects of my training,” Simón wrote in a Nov. 12, 2021, Instagram post. “I’m faster and stronger than I’ve ever been.”

Guthmiller believes that Simón has the potential to ascend to the top of his profession thanks to his physical abilities, work ethic, “fighting IQ” and structured schedule.

“This kid is just on a different level from some of your elite-level fighters,” Guthmiller said. “I’ve always told people that I feel like the world hasn’t seen 10 percent of what Ricky Simón can. I look at everybody that’s ranked above him, including the(current) champion, and if they would’ve stepped into the cage against Ricky in his last fight, they would have lost. There’s no doubt in my mind that if he keeps on the trajectory that he’s on, he’ll be a UFC champion.”

And Guthmiller has no doubt that he will continue to be right by Simón’s side every step of the way.

“He has to keep me around,” Guthmiller said with a laugh. “I’m an officiant, and I married him and his wife, (Jade, in 2019), so they have to keep me around.”