UFC Fighter Tabatha Ricci On How a Baby Shark Swims in Deep Waters

June 21, 2022

-Shane Mercer

Tabatha "Baby Shark" Ricci appears on Front Row Seat and talks about how she got that catchy nickname and why it's a perfect fit.  Plus, how her dad inspired her at an early age to train in martial arts, learn the way of the Bushido.  And the role Brazilian jiu-jitsu has played in her life. 

Watch the full episode:

Episode # 8

Episode Title: Tabatha Ricci

Guest Information: Tabatha Ricci is a Brazilian mixed martial artist currently competing in the UFC. Ricci, also known as Baby Shark, fights in the UFC's strawweight division. She has black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo. Ricci has been competing since 2013 and is associated with Paragon BJJ.

Show Summary

  • Started martial arts at 6 years old
  • Other weapon training
  • From Muay Thai  to mastering Jiu-Jitsu 
  • MMA in Japan
  • The Baby Shark nickname
  • UFC wins, loss and learnings 
  • Tabatha's future savage in wrestling
  • Model MMA fighters
  • Activities after fights and free time
  • Future plan in professional sports
  • Rapid fire session with Tabatha
  • Baby Shark merch

Episode Links


Tabatha Ricci Merch


Shane: You’re training at Paragon and I understand that this is where your very famous nickname comes in. 

Tabatha: We have a black belt here at the gym, his name is James and all the time I show up to training, he comes, “Oh Baby Shark is here,” because I'm a small, small girl, the only girl that go with all the guys doesn't matter their belt, doesn't matter their size, I trained with everybody. And I was doing good against the guys and he was like, “Oh, she's the Baby Shark.” In the beginning, I was not liking. I was like, “Oh, that's too kid.” 

Shane: Hello, I'm your host, Shane Mercer and welcome to Front Row Seat, part of the MILLIONS podcast network. Remember to like, download, share, subscribe, comment and follow us on all the socials at frontrow.pod. My guest today, a rising star in the UFC women's strawweight division, Tabatha “Baby Shark” Ricci. Baby Shark doo doo doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark doo doo doo doo. 

Tabatha: Hi Shane. It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for inviting. 

Shane: Well, thanks so much for joining me and I want to dive into your MMA career and sort of talk about how you got started and I mean you come from a country that is deeply, deeply entrenched in the MMA world. You're from Sao Paulo Brazil? 

Tabatha: I'm from a small city from Sao Paulo. 

Shane: Awesome. So talk to me about growing up and your early days and getting into mixed martial arts. 

Tabatha: Yeah. So my dad, he's a master in judo, right? So he put me and my sister in judo when I was six years old. So since I got into martial arts I already know what I want to do. I got in love and then I started Muay Thai as a 15 and then when I was 17 years old, I got a proposal to fight MMA and then that's why I started jujitsu. 

Shane: Okay, but you started early early on in judo. Talk to me about your father's expertise in that area. You said he's a master but what does that really mean? 

Tabatha: Well he's a huge example for me in the martial arts. So he taught me a lot about the Japanese, you know the bushido, the bushido style. How we have to see other people as a discipline, respect, be humble, you know? So being daughter of my dad gave me huge base not only in the sport but how to be a better person in life and be in love with the martial arts. 

Shane: So really like the philosophical side of the sport. 

Tabatha: Yeah. I think that's the one of the parts I really loved in the martial arts, the beauty of that. 

Shane: You know, you mentioned the bushido code and the samurai style. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: I want to just do a little screen share here because I saw this on your socials there and I thought it was pretty cool there. 

Tabatha: Which one? 

Shane: There it is. 

Tabatha: Oh ,yeah. 

[Video playing]

Shane: I thought this was so cool. 

Tabatha: Yeah, that's awesome. My dad taught me that. I learned from him. 

Shane: Just beautiful. 

Tabatha: Yeah. The view was amazing. 

Shane: I thought that was really really cool. Do you do a lot of other like weapons training?

Tabatha: That was the only weapon I learned, you know. My dad taught me that when I was little too so he was like playing with me with that. No, that's the only one I have played with. 

Shane: So your dad just taught you that one and only that one. Was there a special connection with that weapon? 

Tabatha: I always, when I was little he always was playing in the garage and I was like dad, that looks cool and I want to learn that and then asking for learning, I think that connection is that I learned from my dad. So it's kind of special for me. 

Shane: And what exactly is it? It looks like nunchucks but it's not exactly, right? 

Tabatha: It is. It’s nunchucks. It’s made by wood. 

Shane: Just straight wood?

Tabatha: There is a metal, the chain is metal and then the stick there is wood. 

Shane: Very cool. Then you got into Muay Thai. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: -- in sort of your teenage years, right? 

Tabatha: I got in Muay Thai because I was loving the martial arts, so when I learned more contact sports so I got into the Muay Thai but it was not through my dad, I just was in the gym and I saw the class going on at a regular gym and when I do that and I got into it. And then when I was 17, almost turning 18 from my Muay Thai gym they asked me if I want to do MMA. I was going to look it up say, “Oh what is that?” You know? And I looked some YouTube videos, I was going to like, oh I want to do that. And then I started doing Jiu-Jitsu too. So I started Jiu-Jitsu when I was 18 because of the MMA and then after that I fell in love with Jiu-Jitsu too. So I was training all my life I was always train like four times every day. 

Shane: To me, it's a little bit strange that you got into Jiu-Jitsu as the third discipline in your training. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: Because you come from Brazil, a country that has a style of Jiu-Jitsu named after it. 

Tabatha: I trained a little bit of Jiu-Jitsu techniques in judo because we learned a lot of ground game. So when I got in Jiu-Jitsu I learned everything pretty quick. I got my blue belt within six months. It was not like I got in to Jiu-Jitsu and I didn't know nothing. I came from judo. So I already knew a lot of things about it.

Shane: I guess you were able to just pick everything up really quickly because you already had that foundation. 

Tabatha: Yeah. Yeah. 

Shane: Right. So you're about 17 years old, you get into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at that age. And then how long did it take for you to rise the ranks there and sort of get your belt? You mentioned you got your blue belt, but how long did it take you to progress through it? 

Tabatha: It was a long time. Jiu-Jitsu is a sport, you got to be very patient, super dedication, consistent today. Today I’m a black belt under Ricardo Miller here in California Paragon Jiu-Jitsu and it's super special for me. I came to US to fight the words, the Jiu-Jitsu words, No-Gi, and by names and Gi words [ph]. So I really like to earn the belt. So it took me, I don't know, like almost 8, 9 years to get my black belt. It was a long journey, but it was worth it. 

Shane: You know, you mentioned you're now in the United States. But between Brazil and the US, you had some time over in Japan. 

Tabatha: Yes, so I got invited to go to Japan in 2017. I just finished my university in Brazil and I had the great opportunity to go there to fight a martial arts event, which is MMA with a lot of rules team versus team, a new a new thing in Japan. So I got invited for that. I was kind of scared because I was going into a country, a place like I don't speak the language, not speaking English. I was like nothing, you're going to the other side of the world. I don't know anybody, don't know who I’m going to trust, what I'm going to see there. So my family was kind of like, we don't know if you should go, but like it's a dream that that's what you want to do. So they support me, they always support me and I just like throw myself in the world and then trying to make my dreams come true. 

I love the food, I miss the food, made good friends. I learned English there. I earned my black belt in judo there. So it was special for me there. 

Shane: Wow, that's really cool. So you started training in judo at the age of 6, being taught by your dad who's a master in judo and has this huge influence from Japan. When you get your black belt, it's over in Japan. 

Tabatha: It's kind of make my dad's dream true through me, you know. That was pretty cool. I'm very happy to make him proud. 

Shane: That's is very cool. So now you're in the US and your training at Paragon and I understand that this is where your very famous nickname comes in. 

Tabatha: Yeah, we have a black belt here at the gym, his name is James and all the time I show up to training, he comes, “Oh Baby Shark is here,” because I'm a small, small girl, the only girl that go with all the guys doesn't matter the belt, doesn't matter the size, I train with everybody. And I was doing good against the guys and he's like, “Oh, she's the Baby Shark.” In the beginning. I was not liking, I was like, “Oh, that's too kid, the nickname.” But then you know, we cannot choose a nickname. 

Shane: It's true, right? You don't get to pick your own nickname. You get given a nickname. 

Tabatha: Exactly. 

Shane: And a really good nickname just sticks. 

Tabatha: Right? And it stays in your head because of this song. 

Shane: Yeah. Did you know about the song before you got the nickname or was it? 

Tabatha: No, I knew about this song and that's why I was like, damn, that song stick on my head all the time. Everybody like people see me, they're starting to sing this song. It's fun. It's kind of fun. I like it. I like it. I enjoy it. Yeah.

Shane: It's a great nickname and it's fitting too because hey, you want to be a killer in that cage. 

Tabatha: Yeah, I think it fits a lot myself now I can see a lot of me on this nicknames. So I'm really liking it. 

Shane: So you're currently 7 and 1 in your professional career – 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: -- which is really a great start, a hot start. But your one loss came at maybe the worst time for a professional fighter, your UFC debut. 

Tabatha: I don't know if I can count this loss because it was not even in my weight class. It was like I had to take the fight to get in the UFC. I got the fight with three days’ notice and I don't regret. And if I had the opportunity again, I will accept the fight again because that's what I want, I want to fight with the best, I want to be and they would make fighter that's what it takes. I do whatever it takes to be where I want. So I have to lose one fight to be where I am right now. So it's part of the game. 

Shane: Yeah. And you know, you're coming off a big win over Polyana Viana.

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: And that fight was decided by decision, right? How did you feel about that fight? 

Tabatha: I really like the fight. Polyana, she's a great fighter. Should had been in the UFC for a long time. She had amazing Jiu-Jitsu. I like the fight. I think it was great. Everything went as I planned for it. You know, I think I had a little bit hard time in the first round to find the distance and then I could take her down and I see my way to win on the takedown. So I stick with that and got the win. 

Shane: Were there any lessons learned from that first loss in the UFC with Manon Fiorot?

Tabatha: Yeah, I think any fight winning or losing we always learned something. I think in Manon fight, I don't know, look in the fight right now and I talk with my coach. I don't know, on that fight, I couldn't take her down because she was huge and long. And I think if I back on the fight, I would do some crazy Jiu-Jitsu like, like imanari roll, spooling guard, you know, like try like something different, like something unexpected. I don't know. I was just going to do something crazy Jiu-Jitsu, you know. But you live and you learn. That's how it is. 

Shane: That's how it is. Right? It's hindsight's 2020, it's always easy to look back and say, oh, I should have done this or I should have done that. 

Tabatha: Even with Polyana, you know, in my head, I trained so hard and I was expecting myself to show more. I know I can do better. I know I could have done better in that fight. But the fight was on the ground for so long too and everything happened so fast. Yeah, and I can't wait for the next fight to show more of what I have. You know. I know I have more and I can get better so I'm excited too’ I'm hungry to get better. 

Shane: When you say you want to get better and there's areas you want to improve on, what specific skill set are you trying to work on and focus on? 

Tabatha: I want to get better in everything because it's MMA so you got to be good in all the areas. But I really want to improve more and more my striking and I really want to get, I think more and more and more savage in my wrestling more as I get. 

Shane: Ooh, more savage in your wrestling. 

Tabatha: I want to be a little Khabib. 

Shane: Okay. 

Tabatha: I love his style and not only his style but the way he see the martial arts.

Shane: Okay, so he's one of the fighters that you sort of have been looking up to and trying to sort of model yourself out there. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: Are there any other big name fighters that maybe you looked up to growing up? 

Tabatha: Yeah, Ronda Rousey, she was one of the girls I always look at because she comes from judo and I really like the way she showed herself. Like represent the sports. So I really look up to her. 

Shane: Okay, Rhonda Rousey. Alright, cool. Yeah, I know she had that great win streak, that was so much fun to watch. 

Tabatha: Oh yeah, yeah. She was one of the golds and the girls division. She's legit. 

Shane: Yeah, absolutely. And you know, a Trailblazer, paving the way for fighters like you. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: What do you do after you get a win typically? Like I said, you're coming off a pretty big win, do you take a little bit of time off or do you like to get right back into it?

Tabatha: Right now, I just want to get back to training. That's what I did. My parents was in town, my mom is still in town, so I spend a little bit time with her. She's still here, but I'm back to the training. She goes with the training with me. It's my work. I can't wait to go back to the cage. I want to fight more as I can. 

Shane: Yeah. You know, I asked that because I got another screen share here that I wanted to do here. 

[Video playing]

Shane: You're hitting the bag and of course you're working at a few dance moves along the way. 

Tabatha: Yeah, that music is super popular now in Brazil and actually Charles “do Bronx” when he won his fight, he was doing that. That dancing too. It’s like a song like Baby Shark. It stick in your head, you're like singing over and over. 

Shane: So this is like one of those, one of those songs that you can't get out of your head in Brazil. 

Tabatha: Yeah. Exactly, that's like a thing right now, everybody like singing the song and doing that dance in Brazil. 

Shane: That's awesome. So, there's another fighter from Brazil who's at the top of his game? Do you know Charles Oliveira in any way? Or you don't? Have you ever crossed path? 

Tabatha: No, I crossed paths with him and in the -- hotel one time, but we just say hi, but no one ever talked and I spoke with him. 

Shane: Okay, what do you think of him as a fighter? 

Tabatha: I looked up to his Jiu-Jitsu. His Jiu-Jitsu is like insane. It's like submission after submission. Like it's beautiful. He comes from Macaco Go Team. I trained with Jiu-Jitsu coach before. He's like a legend in Brazil and I think all the words as a Jiu-Jitsu professor, like Charles on his prime right now is like, he's the best. He's the best right now. 

Shane: He's often being compared to Khabib. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: A chatter on social media for them to possibly fight. I don't think that's ever going to happen. 

Tabatha: Yeah, I don't know if Khabib is going to fight, going back to fight because he said he would never fight without his dad. And when he said that was his last fight, I believe in him because he's the man of a word. You know, so I don't think he's going to come back. 

Shane: Well, what a matchup that would be, huh? 

Tabatha: Oh, that match is going to be sick. If he's coming back. That would be so dope. 

Shane: You know, you were showing off your dancing skills there. Do you like to dance? Do you get out and party a lot or what do you do in your free time? What do you like to do for fun? 

Tabatha: I was a party girl back in Brazil a little bit, you know. I like to dance. I have the Brazilian swing. But no, I don't go out a lot. I really enjoyed to go to the restaurants with my friends and have a good food instead to go party and get all crazy. You know, I like more to be in a good restaurant and have a good company with my team and family. I do like to skate a lot when I don't have a fight schedule. I'm getting more into to surf. 

Shane: So hold on here. Baby Shark is also becoming a surfer? 

Tabatha: Yeah. Yeah. Actually I'm getting a board. Like I'm going to put some my Baby Shark with my surfboard customized. I'm going to customize my board. 

Shane: That makes a lot of sense. That sounds like a lot of fun. Surfing is not easy either. It's pretty hard. 

Tabatha: Yeah, surfing is hard, super hard. 

Shane: Yeah. 

Tabatha: Like when I go with short boards, my shoulders burn so much. It's like my neck is like my back. It's crazy. It's hard. It's hard. 

Shane: So where do you see your career going from here now? 

Tabatha: Well, I always do one goal at a time. Like I'm enjoying this moment in my life. I used to live the present. So I'm living that moment. Of course I want to get to the top. I want to be the best of the old times and now, I'm enjoying right now. So I don't know what is going to be the future, but I really want to be to the top. 

Shane: Obviously several fights before you get to the top. But who do you want to fight next? 

Tabatha: I already have a fight line up. So I’m fighting soon, a couple of months. I'm going to fight Cheyanne. 

Shane: Oh, Cheyenne Buys?

Tabatha: I think that “The Warrior Princess”. 

Shane: What do you think you need to focus on in your training camp to fight Cheyanne? 

Tabatha: Everything. I will be ready for everything. I think it’s going to be a good fight. There's going to be like a lot of actions and the fight. She's a great fighter. She has a nice and sharp striking and now I'll be ready for her. It's going to be a nice fight. 

Shane: I think so too. We're going to be looking forward to seeing that and seeing the two of you in the cage there. That'll be awesome. 

Tabatha: Yeah. 

Shane: I want to do a little bit of rapid fire here with you. 

Tabatha: Okay. 

Shane: You know, it's either this or that or yes or no kind of thing. So if you're ready here, we'll do a little rapid fire. Alright, pool or beach?

Tabatha: Beach. 

Shane: Fruits or vegetables? 

Tabatha: Fruits. 

Shane: Movies or TV shows?

Tabatha: Movies. 

Shane: Phone Apple or Android? 

Tabatha: Apple. 

Shane: TikTok or Instagram?

Tabatha: Instagram. 

Shane: Judo or Jiu-Jitsu? 

Tabatha: Jiu-Jitsu. 

Shane: Oh, geez, you didn't even hesitate with that one. That's the true love though. Even though judo was first, Jiu-Jitsu is really where it's at. 

Tabatha: Jiu-Jitsu impacted my life a lot. Because of Jiu-Jitsu, I am where I am right now. I teach, I got a family here. It got me open a lot of opportunities, you know, and I love judo. But I really have a deep connection with Jiu-Jitsu. 

Shane: And I've heard other people say similar things about Jiu-Jitsu that for some reason it just takes a hold of you. 

Tabatha: Yeah, yeah, yeah, something like special. 

Shane: Before we go, I got one more screen share. 

Tabatha: Ooh. 

Shane: You are on the MILLIONS platform. 

Tabatha: Oh yeah. 

Shane: Right? This is all your stuff here and check it out, the Baby Shark merch, which I love. I think this is hilarious. Look at this. 

Tabatha: Yeah. No, that's amazing. I love it. 

Shane: Yeah, this is pretty cool. Obviously, you’re Baby Shark. But was this design easy to come up with for you? 

Tabatha: Well, it was not that easy. We got a lot of mock ups, but we come up with the shark with the boxing gloves. I love it. I think it was so funny. 

Shane: It just makes a lot of sense. Alright, well, is there anything else that you wanted to mention? Any shout outs or anything you want to share before we say goodbye?

Tabatha: Well, I want to shout out all my sponsors have been helped me here, MILLIONS, Dopa, AthleticCBD. All my gym's Paragon, Knucklehead, LOX, Saxons, Black House, Ruka, everybody being helped me, all my teammates, family, and you Shane too have me here. Thank you so much. 

Shane: Thank you. And I'm so glad you're able to join me and you know, we'll be rooting for you in the next time you step in the Octagon. Looking forward to seeing that. 

Tabatha: Yeah, let's go, Baby Shark power. 

Shane: Baby shark doo doo doo…

Tabatha: Baby shark doo doo doo… 

Shane: Awesome. All right, this is a lot of fun. Take care of Tabatha. Really enjoyed this. 

Tabatha: Thank you. 

Shane: Thank you so much for joining me in the Front Row Seat with Tabatha “Baby Shark” Ricci. Once again, I'm your host, Shane Mercer and this podcast is presented by MILLONS.co. If you want to support and interact with Tabatha visit MILLIONS.co to shop her merch and join her for exclusive live events. You can also find Front Row Seat on MILLIONS to shop our merchandise. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast on YouTube and follow us on all socials at frontrow.pod. We'll see you next week with our next special guest as we dive deep and give you the Front Row Seat.