I'd pick the cat encounter without a second thought...as long as I was certain it wouldn't eat me. I'd much rather plummet to my death than be a lions feast. But if both were completely safe, cat encounter for me.
In some of the photos Richardson is shown in a submissive position, as the lions bound toward him. As he must adopt that position for safety, but even more puts himself at risk around a powerful, aggressive animal, this says to me that he is at risk, and knows it, no matter if the cats had been licking his face moments before.
I'd love to do what he does but not at the peril of being eaten, a skill that remains quite intact with lions.