Family first, fighters second: Cousins Vince Morales, Ricky Simon living out dream at UFC Sacramento

Vince Morales and Ricky Simon don’t just share the same job title. Yes, they’re competing with the same goals and dreams in mind. And, yeah, they do train with each other from time to time. But putting their MMA relationship aside, they are first and foremost family.

While it may not be obvious because they don’t share the same last name, Simon and Morales are first cousins. The roots run deep for both fighters. As far back as they can remember, Simon and Morales have always been involved in each other’s lives.

Growing up, Simon lived in Washington, and Morales, right over the border in Oregon. Morales’s brother was the same age as Simon. Coincidentally, Simon’s brother was the same age as Morales. The close proximity in age of all four boys made hanging out a heck of a lot of fun.

“We’d always be fighting,” Simon told MMA Junkie. “We’d always be beating each other up. I like to think we were pretty close. Our moms were very close. So, we grew up together and spent a lot of time in the summers together. He was like that cool older cousin that was trying to beat us up all the time.”

When he spoke to MMA Junkie, Morales offered a similar perspective, though his recollection differed on who conjured up most of the trouble.

“My mom and his mom were really close, so that’s just how my brother, myself, Ricky, and his brother all became really close,” Morales said. “We were all just doing stuff together when we were really young. So, it was mostly Ricky and my brother getting me and his brother in trouble.”

Who was really the pot-stirrer? The world may never know. One thing is for certain, however, both Simon and Morales harnessed a competitive drive starting at a young age. Though Simon picked up wrestling early on in elementary school, Morales didn’t delve into the sport until high school – where he became a state champion.

“Once (Vince) started wrestling, I made a trip over and we wrestled together off-season,” Simon said. “He was always one to pick up on stuff super quick. He was a state champion by his senior year. I was always a little bit jealous about that.”

“(Ricky) was always a stud, little, feisty fighter,” Morales said of his cousin. “He always had that mentality.”

As fate would have it, both men independently started their MMA careers, which were more like hobbies at the time. Neither man knew the other entered the realm of MMA until Simon was preparing for his first fight.

“All of sudden I posted about a fight, and Vince messaged me and was like, ‘Dude, I’m training, too. I got a fight,’” Simon said. “That’s kind of how it started. Neither of us knew that the other had pursued it. At first, I thought it was a hobby. Neither of us knew we were going to pursue that dream.”

Rising through the regional ranks to their current status in the UFC, Simon and Morales have had an unusual bond. Not many cousins are able to relate to each other the way the two bantamweights do. On the flip side, not many fighters are able to connect on the level Simon and Morales can.

“Mentally, it’s crazy because sometimes it feels like we’re so alone going through some of these things in our head,” Morales said. “To have somebody in family that’s also going through that stuff is kind of comforting. It makes it feel like we’re doing the right thing.”

Simon added, “It’s crazy to me and we definitely bounce ideas off each other all the time. We talk ins and outs, even just philosophy we have in the game. It’s really cool to get different takes and have someone I grew up with. I believe in him so much. To have the same dream that I have is really cool.”

Saturday night at UFC on ESPN+ 13 in at Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Simon and Morales will live out a dream they fantasized about many times throughout the years. For the first time, the two men will compete on the same card – something they couldn’t even align on the regional scene.

“(Vince) actually told me in person,” Simon recalled of when Morales broke the news to him. “I lost it. I went over to Vegas and he told me he was going to see how long he could go without saying anything. I think it was like one of the first things he said. He came up to me and just couldn’t hold it any longer.”

Simon echoed his cousin’s sentiments: “Oh man, I got goosebumps right now. It’s insane. It’s insane to have two people in one family in the same weight class at the highest stage in the UFC. It’s the biggest stage in what we’re doing.”

The Simon/Morales clan will be out in full force in Sacramento on Saturday night. Simon will take on UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber in the co-main event, after Morales faces his cousin’s rival Benito Lopez on the undercard.

Last week, Simon got married – a wedding at which both cousins had to limit themselves. If the tandem go undefeated Saturday night, expect the two fighters to make up for lost partying.

“After the fact, we’re going to go hard,” Morales said “We didn’t do too much (at the wedding). We kind of had to limit things. Victory is still the mindset. We know what we should be doing. We know what we’ve got to be doing. We’re just getting there, we’ll get it done, and then we can celebrate.”

“2-0, that’s the plan – against Team Alpha Male” Morales said. “A family affair – exactly what we always wanted. We just got to do it and that we’re working hard. Then we’ll come out on top.”

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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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