Ultimate Fighting Championship

Ultimate Fighting Championship


(Andy Williams, second from right, has beef with the TUF 10 cast member.)

As a high school wrestler in upstate New York, Andy Williams was hooked on MMA because of grapplers like Royce Gracie and local fighter Harold Howard. The 32-year-old guitarist for Every Time I Die is now such a dedicated fan that there’s an outside chance he might stop by the Wand Fight Team Training & Conditioning Center when he and his girlfriend celebrate their anniversary in Las Vegas, just as long as Brendan Schaub doesn’t make a surprise visit to the gym. After all, Williams has beef with the TUF finalist.

FIGHT! Magazine: How good of a wrestler were you in high school?
Andy Williams:
I was ok. I mean, I wouldn’t say that I was a state champ or anything like that, but I was alright. This was really funny because I went to North Tonawanda High School, and the next school system over was Niagara Wheatfield and that’s where Rashad Evans went to school. So I was wrestling when Rashad was wrestling. I saw him wrestle about 900 times. He was little, like really little – 132 [pounds] or something like that – and now he fights at 205, probably walks around at 220. It’s mind-boggling.

FIGHT!: Were you guys in the same weight class?
No, but they were our biggest rival. I know we definitely almost fought them before. We had some really good coaches. Both of them were snap cases and they hated Niagara Wheatfield, so when we would wrestle Niagara Wheatfield, it would get kinda heated.

FIGHT!: Would you wrestle Rashad now?
I would try. I’m sure he’d probably kick my ass, but I would definitely wrestle him. That would be awesome.

FIGHT!: One of the reasons you got into MMA was because there were a lot of wrestlers. Being a wrestler yourself, why didn’t you ever try competing in mixed martial arts route?
By the time I was out of high school, I had already been playing guitar and stuff like that, and I was touring. I guess the interest kinda fizzled out – just competing wise. Guitar became a little bit more important. I would still love to do it. There was talk for a while about a celebrity version of The Ultimate Fighter, and I’m not a celebrity by any means, but I’ll fight anyone in another band.

FIGHT!: Have you ventured out to learn any other fighting disciplines?
I was rolling at HB Unlimited for a while. My girlfriend lives in Costa Mesa, California, and Tiki [Ghosn]’s place is right there and I got a friend who teaches jiu-jitsu there. Being 32 and rolling there was kinda awesome. It’s a little different from wrestling, for sure.

FIGHT: Who are some of your favorite fighters nowadays?
I really like Alan Belcher. He just seems like a rad dude and every time he fights, he brings it. Since I started watching MMA, Wanderlei [Silva] has been unstoppable, so it’s like I’ve always been a big Wanderli fan. BJ [Penn] of course. I really like Eddie Alvarez and Joachim Hansen. It was funny. When we went to Norway, I tried to get a hold of him to see if he’d come to the show, but I couldn’t find a way to get a hold of him.

FIGHT!: Well when you go to Vegas to celebrate your girlfriend’s anniversary, you should train with Wandy at his new gym. That would be a great anniversary gift.
Yeah. I’m sure she would like that. The funny thing is my girlfriend knew nothing about mixed martial arts, but the last [season] of The Ultimate Fighter with Kimbo [Slice] and Roy Nelson, like I was out there the whole entire time that season was pretty much going on, so by way of me, she kinda had to watch it and now, she is completely obsessed with it. She like owns all The Ultimate Fighters on DVD now and she goes to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the fights there.

FIGHT!: Does your girlfriend have a crush on GSP like every other girl?
No. I tell you what. She is in love with Brendan Schaub and I hate it. It makes me want to fight the dude. Like if I met Brendan Schaub, I’d give him attitude. And the funny thing is I don’t look anything like that dude, so why are you with me? I have hand tattoos, I’m covered in tattoos, I got facial hair, blah blah blah, and it’s like why do you like that dude? “Ah, he’s so pretty!” God, you son of a …

FIGHT!: Wow. Most girls think GSP is the pretty boy, but Brendan Schaub.
Yeah. It’s funny because my voice – I got sick a little on this tour, and my voice got real sandy sounding, and she kept saying, “You sound like Matt Mitrione. You sound like Matt Mitrione.” I’m like, “You’re kidding me?” With the Brendan Schaub shit and the Matt Mitrione stuff, it’s like, “Just stop. Ok?” I’d rather look Roy Nelson.

Every Time I Die – “After One Quarter of a Revolution”

EVERY TIME I DIE | MySpace Music Videos


(“Big” Dan raises Silva’s hand – briefly. Photo by Paul Thatcher.)

They don’t call him “Big” Dan Miragliotta for nothing. At 6’ 4” tall and 295 pounds, he is a towering presence in the ring or cage and he’s got an impressive background in the martial arts and has refereed hundreds of fights over the past decade. I sat down with Dan to discuss everything from his crazy daily routine – he rises at 4:30 a.m. to train before going to work running a backhoe and jackhammer, as he has done for the last 25 years – to how this humble Jersey boy got started in MMA to the future of the sport. And of course, I had to get his thoughts on the Anderson Silva vs. Damien Maia fight at UFC 112 as only he—the only other person in the cage during the fight—can tell it.

FM: So, Dan, how’d you get started in MMA anyway?

Dan Miragliotta: Well, I broke my neck wakeboarding when I was 14 and was in the hospital and in traction four months. I was body surfing during a very high tide, misjudged one of the waves and crashed on the beach. My neck went straight into another guy’s back and it snapped. I broke two vertebrae in my neck and didn’t realize it until two weeks later when I couldn’t move my neck. I started doing karate to get my coordination, balance and motor skills back.

FM: What types of styles have you studied?

DM: I started learning a Japanese style karate known as Shito Ryu at around 14 and got my black belt at 18. At 21, I started doing Kenpo Karate and have a 5th degree black belt. I also have a brown belt in Doce Pares Escrima, a senior instructorship in Muay Thai under Vut Kamnark and am a 3rd level instructor in Shoot fighting under Bart Vale and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Renzo Gracie.

FM: Have you ever competed?

DM: I used to compete in karate, full contact fighting and full contact stick fighting. I’ve also run my own training school and ran 24 MMA events in the early years. Nick and Matt Serra, the Miller brothers, Chris Liguori, and Jorge Rodriguez all had fights with my promotion. Matt Serra’s first fight was at my school.

FM: So you got started refereeing with fights through your own promotion?

DM: Yes, I refereed many of my own events back in the day before MMA really became mainstreamed and then started with smaller organizations.

FM: You mentioned you had your own school at one point. Do you currently teach any MMA classes anywhere?

DM: I teach Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu and Shoot fighting two nights a week at Five Star Personal Fitness Training Center in Atlantic Highlands, NJ.

FM: Do you have any hobbies outside of MMA?

DM: My wife and two sons and I snowboard in the winter, water ski and wakeboard in the summer and ride dirt bikes and quads in the spring and fall. We do things as a family.

FM: In your opinion, how has MMA changed over the years?

DM: It’s evolving and fighters are starting to make what they deserve so they don’t have to work two jobs and they can train and fight like professionals. It’s really come a long way and it’s overdue. It’s really unfortunate that some of these guys that fought six or seven years ago used to fight for $400 or $500 a fight.

FM: You were the referee for the Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia fight at UFC 112. What are your thoughts on the earlier rounds?

DM: There was a point in the second round when I was almost giggling…because [Anderson Silva] is just so good and I was watching him hit Demian Maia at will. Anything he wanted to throw, he connected with. The guy is amazing, but then all of a sudden it just stopped…and it was upsetting.

FM: In the middle of the fight, there was what some are calling a “little shove” between you and Silva? What was the real story there?

DM: Between the third and fourth rounds, I don’t know what he was doing, but he was kind of hiding behind me as I was refereeing the fight and I went in to try and stand [Maia] up and the next thing I know, he’s like playing peek-a-boo behind me and I kind of like pushed him away and was like, “come on, what are you doing?” so after the round was over, I walked to his corner and I said to him in front of his trainers, “I’m warning you right now, I’m giving you your first warning for unsportsmanlike conduct and if you do it again, I’m taking a point away.” After that, he didn’t do the taunting and unsportsmanlike stuff. Between the fourth and the fifth round, when I started the fight, I grabbed them both, brought them both to the center of the ring and said, “I’m telling you both, this is a championship fight. I’m going to give you both a warning for being committed to this fight.”

FM: So the fifth round started out a little better then?

DM: They started fighting and there were a couple of good points where Maia actually scored some points with punches and then the next thing you know, that’s when Anderson started running around again and I stopped the fight with minute left and I told him, “This is your final warning.” I should have just taken the point away. I knew he was winning all five rounds anyway, but nothing was really being done. I was mad at myself for not taking a point away. But it’s over and hindsight’s 20/20. Like I said, I was honored to do the fight and I was proud to do the fight and then when it was over, I’d been a spectator and not the referee.

FM: Did Anderson Silva say anything to you after the fight?

DM: We had words. Everyone says he doesn’t speak English. I don’t know. He understood what I said to him. He kept apologizing. He called me coach. He said, “coach, I’m so sorry. This isn’t me. I don’t know why I did this; I’m so sorry.”

I said, “Anderson, you are an extraordinary athlete, an extraordinary martial artist. You can’t keep giving performances like this because you’re just so good. Let the people see how good you are.” I don’t know what happened. It’s a shame because he’s talented and Demian Maia’s no slouch either…I give Demian credit. He tried to come back in the fourth or fifth round and he kind of risked his neck to go in there to try to knock Anderson out because he knew he couldn’t get him on the ground and Anderson just ran away. That’s why I stopped the fight and I actually warned him.

FM: There’s obviously been a lot of backlash about the fight. What do you hope comes as a result of this?

DM: I hope the public—I’m not going to say forgives him, but—forgives what he did because I would like to see everybody who spends their hard-earned money and goes to the events and buys them on pay-per-view get what they paid for. There were people wall-to-wall at UFC 112 and they were there to see the champion fight like a champion and I hope he sees what happened and I hope he changes his fighting for the next fight.

FM: How did you feel being the referee for that fight?

DM: It was a fight I was very proud and honored to have and then when it was over, I was disgusted. I didn’t even want to hold his hand in the air.

FM: Speaking of which—you raised Silva’s hand at the end of that fight for about one second, dropped it and walked away. What were you thinking at the end of the fight?

DM: You’re not supposed to get emotional about the fight, but that was a disappointment with the whole thing, but I still have to do my job so I raised his hand. I didn’t want to be in the picture and I just walked away. There was no one else even there to hand him the belt, so it wasn’t just me that was disappointed.

FM: There were a lot of great fights that night that were overshadowed by the Silva debacle, don’t you agree?

DM: The Frankie Edgar fight was terrific. Nobody expected that. I mean I don’t care how you judge it. You could say it was 3-2, 4-1 or 5-0, I mean you had three different judges with three different scores but they all gave it to him no matter what, so he still was the champion. He still won the belt and he’s a Jersey boy, so that was good to see. And BJ Penn is a phenomenal fighter; there’s no doubt about that. He didn’t get the name “The Prodigy” for any small feat, so there’s no doubt about him being as good as he is. And everyone Frankie’s fought, people said he was going to lose—Sean Sherk, Spencer Fisher, Tyson Griffin—I mean he doesn’t have knockout power, but he has some very good skills.

FM: You’ve been involved with MMA in some way since the very beginning. Given the strides the sport has made over the past 10 years, what lies ahead for the future of MMA?

DM: For every true fan, it’s going to go past boxing. Still, small changes need to be made. The more the public sees it, the more the public grasps it and the better we do at presenting it to the public, it’s just going to keep getting bigger and better. Like I said, hopefully these fighters will get paid what professional boxers make and I think it will happen, I really, do because it’s a sport that’s being grasped by so many people.


Many fighters achieve brilliance on a single night. Far fewer achieve a few years of greatness. And an elite group can point to a five or 10 year stretch at the top of the mountain when they fought the best and almost always won. Here are my picks for the top 10 fighters of the last decade.

10. Georges St-Pierre, 19-2

UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre claims his spot on the list from Matt Hughes’ misfortunes. The French-Canadian stopped Hughes with strikes to avenge his first career loss—a 2004 armbar defeat to the future UFC Hall of Famer—at UFC 65 and forced him to verbally submit in their third fight—an embarrassing moment for “the most dominant welterweight of all-time.” He cleaned his improbable loss to Matt Serra off his slate too and goes into the next decade as one of the sport’s most unstoppable and popular (see: Gatorade endorsement) champions.

9. Chuck Liddell, 21-7

Chuck Liddell is the greatest light heavyweight of all-time. Two wins a piece over former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture added to a UFC 79 win over parallel divisional king Wanderlei Silva proves it. His inability to defeat Quinton Jackson in two bouts as well as demoralizing losses to Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua hurt the UFC Hall of Famers reputation nearing retirement but appearances on The Simpsons, Entourage, and Dancing with the Stars cemented “The Iceman”‘s place as MMA’s pop culture embassador.

8. Matt Hughes, 43-7

A strong grappler, Hughes successfully added submissions to his top control and steady ground and pound with the weapon that pushed him into his greatest moments—his will to win. Until Georges St. Pierre passed him by, Hughes’ two-time seizing of the title and record seven title defenses rendered him the greatest welterweight to date.

7. Randy “The Natural” Couture, 17-10

The first champion to win titles in two different weight classes, Randy Couture’s consummate underdog breakthroughs shaped the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions for the majority of the decade. An ambassador of the sport, Couture is one of the sport’s best draws, only appearing in four non-title fights in 20 UFC bouts (not counting a two-fight UFC 13 tournament win).

6. Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva, 32-10-1

Wanderlei Silva reigned as PRIDE’s Middleweight (205 pounds) Champion from 2001-2007 with the kind of violence that makes megastars in Japan. His relentless, murderous strikes saw him put together 16 wins over four years until a decision loss at heavyweight began slowing the Brazilian, who is 5-6 since but maintains his killer aura.

5. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira

Antonio Rodridgo Nogueira is synonymous with heart in mixed martial arts. An underdog in life and in fighting, Nogueira survived being run over by a truck at nine-years-old to become the only man to win titles in PRIDE and the UFC. His humility is as revered as his classic comeback victories and the ability to preserve through sometimes unworldly beatings. A win over UFC Hall of Famer and fellow legend Randy Couture at UFC 102 cemented his place as the second best heavyweight of all-time behind Fedor Emelianenko, who he lost two twice in classic battles.

4. “The Prodigy” BJ Penn, 15-5-1

BJ Penn’s first outings were glimpses into one of the world’s best talent. Then the Hawaiian lost a majority decision to Jens Pulver at UFC 35, coming up short of the lightweight strap. It was the last lightweight fight he lost. Seven years later, Penn would become the second fighter to hold a title in two different weight classes (155 and 170-pounds). Penn has key wins over Matt Hughes and Renzo Gracie at higher weights and even competed at heavyweight versus future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida.

While his stock dipped from the divisional journey, he only lost to Machida and the two greatest welterweights of all-time in Hughes and St. Pierre, all the while developing lightweight into one of the sport’s best divisions and becoming a top draw in the process. His prodigious skill set often draws Penn praise from his peers as being the world’s pound-for-pound best alongside Fedor Emelianenko.

3. Dan Henderson, 25-7

The former Olympian is the only fighter to hold two divisional titles simultaneously. The Team Quest pioneer won the prestigious Rings “King of Kings” tournament in 1999 at an open-weight before crafting a Hall of Fame career at 183/85 and 205-pounds. He helped close PRIDE out by blasting Wanderlei Silva to achieve the unique positioning of ruling two different mountains at once, furthering his reputation as a heavy-handed world class fighter—a reputation he carried through a return to the UFC and now into Strikeforce.

2. Anderson “The Spider” Silva, 25-4

Anderson Silva has successfully eliminated world champions in three different weight classes with landmark wins over Hayato Sakurai at welterweight, Dan Henderson at middleweight and Forrest Griffin at light heavyweight. The Brazilian’s striking offense and defense coupled with underappreciated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills and playful yet scary swagger have carried him to the UFC’s longest win streak with 10 in a row.

Silva tied Matt Hughes and Tito Ortiz’s shared record of five title defenses and has a chance to break it in 2010.

1. “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko, 31-1-1

Fedor Emelianenko’s record is unparalled. The Russian suffered a dubious TKO from a cut in 2000 and won 27 consecutive bouts over the nine years since. The longest and last reigning PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, the stoic Russian bested Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on two separate occasions to become the world’s best heavyweight.

His skills have elevated him to an untouchable myth of sorts. “The Last Emperor” defeated five UFC Heavyweight Champions and two PRIDE champions in a run that will likely stand the test of time.

FIGHT! Fans: Did we get it right? Would you shuffle the order, take a fighter out or put one in? Tell us what you think!

(Randy The Natural Couture)
(Randy "The Natural" Couture)

By FIGHT! contributor Brad McCray

“People pay to watch this,” Robert Follis says. “This is practice for one of the top teams in the world. You can’t just watch the Lakers practice.”

Once a used car lot, the garage door in this poorly lit room functions as a cage wall for professional fighters pummeling under hooks. I have been sent here to find out what is wrong with Team Quest and why one of the most venerated gyms in MMA is faltering in recent years.

“It’s a sensitive topic around the gym but I think there is some merit to that question,” middleweight Chael Sonnen says. “I don’t know if it’s just normal or if something has changed.”

Established in 2000 by world-class wrestlers Randy Couture, Matt Lindland and Dan Henderson on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., Team Quest was immediately recognized as one of the best in the country. While its owners made headlines, the gym developed a strong stable of fighters and developed a Greco-Roman wrestling-centric style of fighting.

Follis was Couture’s training partner in 1997 and came to Team Quest in 2001 to run the business. The gym did well and Henderson opened a second gym in Temecula, Calif. in 2003. In 2008, Team Quest opened a third facility in Tualatin, Ore. Lindland and Henderson scoff at the notion the gyms are struggling. Heath Sims, the manager of Temecula gym, wishes they had more space.

But nine years after it was founded, Team Quest’s star has faded and many of its marquee names are gone.

“People read into things and they see people leaving and think there must be problems,” Follis says. But that’s not necessarily the case. “Your kids are going to grow up and leave the house and people will move on. This is just the natural progression of life,” he says.

Most American fans became acquainted with Team Quest during the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2005 when Couture was a coach and the cast included Team Quest fighters Nate Quarry and Chris Leben.

“That TV show was great for the sport, but maybe not as great for how guys perceive themselves,” Lindland says. “In some cases it was a detriment to their careers.”

Henderson agrees. “It’s really a big change for these guys,” he says. “They believe they are stars because of that TUF show.”

The second season featured Josh Burkman with Couture in a cameo role. Ed Herman and Josh Haynes were on season three. TUF 7 featured Jesse Taylor, Mike Dolce and Gerald Harris. Vinnie Magalhaes and Krzysztof Soszynski appeared on season eight. Henderson was a coach on TUF 9, which featured Team Quest Temecula fighter Richie Whitson.

“That show has been an absolute curse,” Sonnen says. “From Josh Haynes to Josh Burkman to Gerald Harris and Dolce. I don’t know what happens.” Of the Ultimate Fighters only Herman, Soszynski, Taylor and Whitson still represent Team Quest.

For five years, Couture was the face of Team Quest but in 2005 he left Portland for Las Vegas, Nev., re-married and became an industry unto himself with a clothing line, books, and gym franchises bearing his name.

(Dan Henderson)
(Dan Henderson)

“Randy kind of separated himself,” Henderson says. “He broke off contact with us. It was a little weird for awhile.”

Couture even opened a gym in Vancouver, Wash., 20-miles north of the original Team Quest gym.

“I was like, ‘What is he doing?’ So I asked him and he said he thought it was far enough away it wouldn’t affect our membership,” Lindland says. “He was right. We didn’t lose any fighters. It’s not like he is a coach there. All the guys he coaches are in Vegas.”

It didn’t help matters that Couture aired some of dirty laundry regarding Team Quest’s business dealings and certain people’s in his personal life in his 2008 autobiography, “Becoming the Natural.”

“The whole situation was a little awkward,” says Follis. “I wonder what happened as much as you do. Our relationship is cordial. I have no ill will towards Randy.”

“I think people read too much into it when they see people moving on and they think something is wrong,” continues Follis. “Eventually, everyone will move on. In 20 years, all the fighters will have moved on.”

Like Henderson, many fighters simply returned home. Leben took a coaching position in Hawaii. Chris Wilson returned to Brazil. Josh Haynes went to Las Vegas to train with Couture.

“Dan has a gym. I have a gym. Randy has a gym,” Lindland says. “Where’s the problem?”

According to some former Team Quest fighters, the problem is Lindland, or more accurately, the lack of Lindland. The middleweight fighter competes, manages fighters, coaches, runs the Sportfight promotion, his gym and made a failed state congressional bid in 2008. It’s a lot to juggle and Lindland catches heat for not providing enough individual attention.

After a UFC title shot, Quarry left after Lindland denied his demands for more discipline-specific coaches. “I felt like I needed to be selfish about my career,” Quarry said.

On the flip side, Follis, who is hands-on, has taken the blame for poor performances because he is not a fighter himself. At least one of Follis’ former charges point to boring, repetitive practices reason that he left. “I love Team Quest, but on my first day back from the TV show, they were doing the same practice as before I left,” Dolce says.

But according to Team Quest loyalist Sonnen, Follis knows everything necessary to train successful fighters. “The NBA and NFL are beset with coaches that were not decorated athletes,” say Sonnen. “They were sitting on the bench studying the game. Robert is knowledgeable. He studies everything. He knows everything about fighting. He really does.”

In his own defense, Follis says, “It’s not like these guys were black belts when they came to us. We have taken a lot of guys that were green and turned them into fighters. We took guys who were willing to grow and work and made them into fighters.”

(Matt The Law Lindland)
(Matt "The Law" Lindland)

As you can see this is how playing poker online works if you are playing poker in a poker room such as this or BlackChip Poker
Sims, co-owner of Henderson’s Temecula gym, takes a similar view of the complaints. “We have a lot of guys who started with us and made fighting their career,” Sims says. “Look at all the guys we’ve taken from scratch. Take (Matt) Horwich for example,” he says, referring to the 37-fight Extreme Challenge, Sportfight, Strikeforce, International Fight League, World Extreme Cagefighting and Ultimate Fighting Championship promotions. “Horwich. Everyone thought that guy was crazy and he would never be anything. Look at him now,” Sims says.

In the end, Team Quest may just be a victim of its own success. In 2005, Couture held the UFC light heavyweight title, lost it and retired in 2006 only to return in 2007 and win the UFC heavyweight title. In 2007, Henderson became first man to hold titles in two weight classes when he held Pride’s middleweight and light heavyweight belts. Lindland was considered a top middleweight until his recent knockout loss to a resurgent Vitor Belfort. From that zenith anything less seems like a failure.

In spite of all the changes, Team Quest still boasts a healthy roster of professional fighters including six who are under contract with the UFC – middleweight contender Henderson, Herman, Sonnen, Soszynski, Jake Ellenberger, and Ryan Jensen. Jesse Taylor fought for Strikeforce on Aug. 15 as well as for Japanese promotion Dream earlier in the summer. Pride FC and UFC veteran Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou has found a home in Dream as well, and Ryan Schultz, who had success in the IFL, currently fights in Japan for World Victory Road.

“We pride ourselves on helping guys further in their career,” Follis says. “When they get further along, they may want to open their own gym or whatever. That’s fine. That means we’ve done our job.”

To learn more about the key players in the Team Quest story, check out Matthew Ross’ March 2008 cover story on Dan Henderson, Donovan Craig’s March 2008 profile of the Randy Couture, and Craig’s September 2007 profile of Team Quest Temecula. When you’re done with that, check out our exclusive photo gallery of Henderson, FIGHT!’s photos of Couture at work and play, and this gallery of Team Quest’s Temecula facility.

FIGHT! Fans: Do you think that the idea that Team Quest is more perception than reality?


Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 5.05.14 PM

You were born and raised on the bayous of Louisiana and grew up during the rise of the hip-hop scene in New Orleans. Back in those days, there was a power struggle being played out between Master P’s label No Limit Records and Birdman’s label Cash Money Records. I imagine there was no half-steppin’ on that particular topic. Which side of the line did you stand on?

That’s an awesome question, but Cash Money for sure…100 percent. When I was in middle school, kids used to run around with the “No Limit Records” on chains. They’d come up and ask if you were down with No Limit or Cash Money. For me,it was Cash Money all the way. That was an awesome question. I love it.

Is there another genre of music that you dig in your free time?

I like to listen to older rock n’ roll with a little bit of older country, too. I listen to Johnny Cash and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Just good ole music, man. You were heavily featured in a critically acclaimed documentary Fightville that chronicled the regional MMA scene in southern Louisiana.

If a camera crew showed up around the Poirier residence these days, what would be the subject matter of the next documentary?

I could definitely put together my own cookbook and should have my own cooking show. If you want to set that up with Food Network, that’s good by me. I’m pretty sure that one guy on the Food Network—Guy Fieri—is a big fan of MMA and a really big UFC fan. I think if we could get a show together, that would be the best way to go.

How about The Knockout Kitchen?

That’s exactly right. You got it, man. Now get to work so we can get this pilot shot and put together.

As a proud Louisianan and a native of the Gulf Coast, you get to see different aspects of your culture all over television. Shows like Duck Dynasty and Gator Boys have become very popular. How much “reality” is in those reality programs?

You know what, man, those things exist for real, and it’s not just for television. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette—where I’m from—are all cities, and they are pretty modern, but if you drive two hours away from those places, you get some pretty crazy stuff like you see on television.

In addition to your fighting skills, you also have a strong ink game working. At what age did you get your first tattoo?

My first tattoo was at 14 years old. To tell you the truth, it was done in somebody’s living room in some old project in Louisiana. Looking back now, I’m happy it didn’t get infected or I didn’t catch any crazy diseases. I got lucky.

What’s next in the ink department?

With tattoos now, it kind of comes and goes. I’ll be cool for a year and won’t get any work done. But then I’ll get the itch after a fight or something and I’ll want to get some work done. It just comes and goes, but I’m definitely still working on it. I’ll probably start working on a sleeve for my left arm.

I bet you get some interesting looks from the older crowd?

Yeah. I’ll be in the grocery store shopping, and there will be some old lady with blue hair across from me, and I can see her staring at my arms and giving me that look like I’m some kind of bad guy or something. Going from a highly touted prospect in the WEC to becoming one of the top featherweights on the UFC roster and with all the attention Fightville garnered, sounds like it has been a pretty hectic stretch for you. It has been 100 miles an hour with no looking back. I’m happy with everything that has happened thus far, and that includes the losses on my record. I’ve learned a lot from those losses, and I believe everything happens for a reason. I want to finish out this year with another win, then head into 2014, get a few more wins, and get that strap. I’m growing in this sport with every fight and every day in training. I don’t take any time off. I train everyday, and I think it is all part of my journey. I think everything is right on track and where it should be.

Is 2014 going to be your year?

100 percent. That title is within my grasp. I just have to go out there and win fi ghts. If I keep beating top guys, it will definitely happen. I know Ricardo Lamas is fi ghting Jose Aldo for the title next, and I feel like I can beat Ricardo Lamas, so I’m close, man. I’m right there.


Ranger Up’s innovative sponsorship tactics are keeping fighters covered in and out of the cage.

Ranger Up

Not too long ago, the MMA landscape was overflowing with sponsorship opportunities. Fighters were covered with logos of the newest clothing lines, equipment brands, and nutritional supplements. But those days are over, with many MMA companies having gone the way of the dot-com boom. We’re now in a time where the MMA sponsorship well has dried up, leading several outspoken fighters to voice their displeasure about not getting paid enough—or at all—from the few consistent sponsors they are able to secure.

One company that has maintained its staying power through this downward spiral is Ranger Up—an apparel brand focused on the unique worldview of those who serve in the Armed Forces. The company was started by military veteran-turned-entrepreneur Nick Palmisciano in 2006.

Palmisciano graduated from West Point in 1998 and served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from 1998 to 2003. He then attended graduate school at Duke University, where he volunteered with the ROTC, teaching the “Army’s version of MMA and small unit tactics.” It was shortly after graduation when he heard a few of his students complaining about a shortage of cool military apparel, other than those of the “skull and snake” variety. Palmisciano came up with a few t-shirt designs he thought were original and cool and gave them to his students. Surprised by all the positive feedback he received for his creations, Palmisciano decided to brand an apparel line that he named Ranger Up.

Now, Ranger Up is the largest military apparel brand and has grown at such a pace that it was ranked in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide as one of the top 1,000 e-commerce websites in 2012 and 2013. Palmisciano credits much of that success to a loyal Facebook following of more than 200,000—all fans and customers of Ranger Up’s military-themed clothing, which feature the company’s patriotic slogans and creative designs.

Not only has Ranger Up found a unique niche in its clothing and merchandise, the company has also taken a very interesting—and almost unheard of—stance on sponsorship and the fighters they choose to support. They are open to sponsoring any male or female fighter as long as he or she is active or retired in military, law enforcement, firefighting, or EMS capacities—it’s a leave-no-fighter-behind sponsorship philosophy.

“The number of fighters we sponsor hovers around 100,” Palmisciano says. “With only a handful of exceptions, every person has served in uniform—men and women. We invest in people that we believe in, who share our values and believe in us.”


Ranger Up’s stable of sponsored fighters who have served in the military include recognizable names such as Tim Kennedy, Brian Stann, Colton Smith, Liz Carmouche, and Jorge Rivera. The company also extends their sponsorship opportunities to fighters competing in smaller organizations and regional circuits, even though the athletes may not generate as much exposure for the company as more well-known fighters.

“Most of the fighters we sponsor won’t ever make sense monetarily, but we don’t care,” says Palmisciano. “When they go out on the local MMA circuit and perform well, it often leads to the guys who look up to them to start training. We like being a part of that—making the military stronger. That’s why we do it.”

Marine and retired mixed martial artist Jonathan Walsh, whose 10-year career was spent competing on the regional circuit in smaller shows, remembers the opportunities Ranger Up provided him, both in and out of the cage.

“During a losing streak, they didn’t drop me,” says Walsh. “They were there to help every time. I came to realize it wasn’t fighting they cared about. It was the fact that I was part of the family, repping the brand with good sportsmanship and pushing it out to everyone I knew at fights, grappling tournaments, and around the bases where I was stationed. After a year out of uniform, I was having a hard time getting ahead. So, I called Nick. We spoke about an idea—a program to help vets become entrepreneurs—that he had been kicking around. He asked if I was interested. I worked at Ranger Up for nine months, taking classes in marketing, finance, and accounting that he created for me. When the nine months were up, they invested in my business—space, mats, weights, the whole nine yards. I am now the proud owner of Five Rings MMA in Jacksonville, North Carolina.”

Most MMA companies are caught up in trying to measure the number of eyeballs that are going to see their logo on a guy’s shorts. Companies are on the record saying they hope for a long fight with their guy on top so their logo gets more exposure. That’s not the case for Palmisciano, and that’s what separates Ranger Up from other MMA brands.

“We’re in business to support those in uniform, literally,” says Palmisciano. “That’s why I started Ranger Up. I had a very lucrative job at a Fortune 100 company. It was never meant to be anything more than a hobby—a way for me to stay connected to service. Now, I’m fortunate that that hobby has grown to a substantial endeavor, but that doesn’t change the ethos or our values. The bigger we get, the more we give back. For us, sponsorship is giving back.”

So, the obvious questions become, how does Ranger Up maintain this model of sponsorship, and what type of financial impact does it have on the company?

“It’s not something that even gets discussed,” says Palmisciano. “You have to understand, we are a company made up of infantrymen, special operators, and Marines. We like a challenge. We’re not looking to make a living and be comfortable. We want to develop an enormous business across multiple product and service lines, employ a ton of veterans, and make a marked difference in the military community.”

For Tim Kennedy and Brian Stann, being Ranger Up fighters is more than having a patch on their shorts or a logo on their shirt.

“At first, they were just a sponsor, albeit a cool sponsor,” Kennedy says. “But one thing that stuck out was that they never pretended to be giant like all the other brands that no longer exist, and I liked that. Over time, they honestly became my family. And that’s why I bought into the company a few years ago. There aren’t too many good organizations anymore. I wanted to be part of something good.”

Ranger Up Office

Stann echoes the same sentiments. “Ranger Up is not really a sponsor in my eyes,” he says. “They are a partner. You help them by being an ambassador for their brand, but they also help market you and your own personal brand. They support their fighters with everything they have, and regardless of the outcome, they support their athletes because of their character, sportsmanship, and effort.”

Not resting on his laurels, Palmisciano has big plans for his company in 2014. “Ranger Up is going to be a product and content powerhouse,” he says. “This past year, we have developed our own animated cartoon, our own line of American-made jeans, and our military news site—the Rhino Den—has cemented its place as the largest military blog in existence. And that pales in comparison to what we have planned for next year. As far as fighters, we plan to sponsor as many of them as apply, so long as they have served honorably, represent themselves as men and women in uniform should, and live up to their obligations.”

For more information on Ranger Up’s merchandise, apparel, and sponsorship opportunities, visit rangerup.com. To become part of the Ranger Up community, join them on Facebook at facebook.com/RangerUpFanPage and make sure to check out their military news blog Rhino Den at rhinoden.rangerup.com.


(Props to Warmma.com.)
(Props to Warmma.com.)

You already recognize some of names and faces from the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but there’s a lot you probably still don’t know about this group of 16 heavyweight warriors. Each weekday between now and the Sept. 16 premiere of “The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights,” FIGHT! will introduce two cast members leading up to the introduction of our TUF bloggers.

Justin Wren
Age: 22
Height: 6’3”
Weight: 264 lbs.
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Trains: Fort Worth with Travis Lutter
MMA record: 6-1-0

Born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, Wren attended Dallas Bishop Lynch High School, where he was a two-time Prep State Champion (2004, 2005) and a two-time Prep all-American, becoming a Prep National Championship his senior year. With two Olympic gold medal winners as coaches, Wren had superb mentors to hone his wrestling prowess. During his last year at Dallas Bishop Lynch, he spent time training at the Olympic Training Center. He attended Iowa State University and joined the wrestling team, but spent his freshman year as a medical red shirt following elbow surgery. During his recovery time, he worked on his mixed martial arts skills and decided to turn pro. Even though Iowa State offered him a full scholarship, he turned it down in order to pursue his professional career in mixed martial arts.

Wren train in Fort Worth with “The Ultimate Fighter 4” champ Travis Lutter but is currently relocating to Denver, Colo. to train at Nate Marquardt’s High Altitude Martial Arts and Trevor Whitman’s T’s KO Fight Club.

To connect with Wren, visit his Myspace page here. Below are videos of Wren wrestling in high school (set to a touching tune by Story of the Year) and a Fort Worth news report about his budding career in “the sport of UFC.”

Learn more about the cast of “The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights.”

(Nelson goes toe-to-two with Brad Imes. Props to ESPN.com.)
(Nelson goes toe-to-two with Brad Imes. Props to ESPN.com.)

You already recognize some of names and faces from the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but there’s a lot you probably still don’t know about this group of 16 heavyweight warriors. Each weekday between now and the Sept. 16 premiere of “The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights,” FIGHT! will introduce two cast members leading up to the introduction of our TUF bloggers.

Roy Nelson
Age: 33
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 265 lbs
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.
Trains: Las Vegas, Nev. – Team Big Country
MMA record: 14-4-0

Roy “Big Country” Nelson wants you to take one look at him and underestimate him because of his physique. It makes it all the more sweet for him when the referee raises his arm at the end of the bout.

Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nelson has always been a gifted athlete. He wrestled and played football and baseball at Cimarron Memorial High School before graduating in 1994. He became a martial arts fan after seeing “The Karate Kid” at a young age and began training in karate and kung fu. He started watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1994 and in 2000, began training in jiu-jitsu with John Lewis in Las Vegas.

Four years later, he made the transition from trainer to fighter, and made his pro debut. With a devastating mixture of striking, ground and pound, and submission skills, he has compiled a 14-4 record and hold the now-defunct International Fight League’s heavyweight title. “Big Country” has two recent losses to notable mixed martial arts heavyweights including a KO to former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski last October and lost a three-round decision to Jeff Monson in March.

Below is the vid of Nelson’s KO win over Brad Imes to win the IFL belt along with his official TUF promo video.

Learn more about the cast of “The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights.”

Chris Weidman stalks Anderson Silva
Chris Weidman stalks a showboating Anderson Silva. Photo: USA TODAY SPORTS

Chris Weidman stalks Anderson Silva
Chris Weidman stalks a showboating Anderson Silva. Photo: USA TODAY SPORTS

Heavyweight great Floyd Patterson wouldn’t have sex during his training camps before fights, because he believed it weakened the knees. This is a proud fight game deprivation that has been passed down through the centuries. It’s more scientific than a rabbit’s foot, but “Jersey” Joe Walcott carried around a miniature horseshoe just in case. Fighters always have been superstitious. Englishman Charlie Mitchell, it is said, avoided cross-eyed women before a bout. Phobias like that are a dime a dozen.

Yet, New York’s Jake LaMotta had no use for charms and no fear of crook-eyed women. Back in the day, he even laughed at Patterson’s forced celibacy on a televised roundtable with him. To a no-nonsense New Yorker, a fight hinges on getting in there and fighting. That’s it. And that’s the sort of cloth that Long Island’s Chris Weidman is cut from.

On the eve of his historic fight with the UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, Weidman was in bed. He had read some inspirational texts and was sleeping away the last Friday night before his life would change. For weeks leading up, he insisted the pressure that comes with fighting for the belt wouldn’t bog him down. He wouldn’t disappear in the moment, he said, wouldn’t let doubt creep in. He told FIGHT! two months prior in New York, “I have a refuse-to-lose attitude.” That sort of projection seemed admirable from a distance, but also increasingly unrealistic as the thing drew near. Even for a guy with a degree in psychology, as Weidman has, it’s hard to stay raveled when the boogieman of the division looms ahead—when posters of Silva and yourself are everywhere you look in Las Vegas. The immensity of that moment can do things to a man.

But by Friday night, he’d been hit with the worst of it already. He’d gotten through the weigh-ins and all the boom mics and recorders and the bombardment of familiar questions. He dealt with the doubts—all of them transferrable from the tone of the questions—and absorbed the “dead man walking” looks. He’d strolled by Silva and his monstrous entourage many times, coolly ignoring the archipelago of yellow and black shirts that moved through the throngs at the MGM to wild chants.

Even when he and Silva went lips-to-lips in the weigh-in stare down, he smiled and joked about the unexpected softness of the Champ’s sweet kiss. He had been a good sport.

Now, he was fast asleep in a town that doesn’t sleep, with only one thing left to do—get up tomorrow and take out the number one pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.

His trainer, Ray Longo, wasn’t sleeping, because it’s left to the closest people in a fighter’s camp to do the worrying. He came downstairs for a quick drink at the Rouge Bar in the MGM Grand, a little Grey Goose and grapefruit. He’d been with Weidman throughout the night…throughout the cut…throughout the week…throughout his entire run through the UFC…all the way back to when the young Hofstra wrestler was dragged into Longo’s by a friend that insisted Longo check him out.

“He’s homegrown,” Longo says. “He grew up with me.”

Now, here he was—here they were—on the cusp of greatness.

First, there was Matt Serra in Houston at UFC 69, knocking off Georges St-Pierre in what’s still considered the greatest upset in UFC history. Serra was a local boy from Longo’s, just like Weidman. Nobody thought Serra would beat St-Pierre, other than Longo and Serra. With Weidman, it was different. People were split. Some believed he had the tools to take out the UFC’s longest running champion, but others were convinced he’d get his ass handed to him. Silva was 16-0 in the UFC, after all, and “has a highlight reel as long as Long Island,” as Longo says. Weidman was green and hadn’t fought in more than a year. Even Longo had to consider both sides. “There’s a chance we go in there and he makes us look stupid,” he said. “We won’t know until we’re in there with him.”

“Do you like this feeling, the night before a title fight like this?” I ask him.

“I do love this feeling,” he says. “He’s ready. I really think he is. He’s so strong. I want to say, if he gets a hold of Anderson’s neck, it’s over, man. This kid is so strong.”

“What did you see on the tapes of the other guys fighting Anderson?”

“That they aren’t Chris,” he says. “Weidman’s not those guys—that’s the difference. He’s really not those guys.”

“What happens when Silva drops his hands and does that thing that Silva does, where he switches modes and goes berserker?”

“When he does that, he leaves his hips open and his body open, and I’ve told Chris to punch a hole in his chest,” Longo says. “That’s another way of saying, start at the body, finish at the head. I think Anderson doesn’t realize just how long this guy’s reach is. He did that to Forrest, and Forrest just couldn’t hit him.” Here he looks up with those glassy blue eyes. “This kid—this kid will put a tracking device on his head and he’ll catch him.”

Of course, days later, Longo admits he was a nervous wreck at the bar, and the rest of the night. And he’s nervous because he feels accountable for Weidman. Here’s a kid being scrutinized by every pundit and casual fan in the country. There’s a whole Fan Expo built around the event he is headlining.

But Longo knows what he knows, about Weidman’s strength, his stand-up ability, his wrestling, his grappling, his poise, and his desire. He knows he won’t break mentally. But knowing and hoping are interchangeable the night before the event. The possibilities are of all kinds, not just those you feel good contemplating. There’s a very real possibility that this moment is the closest Chris Weidman will ever get to the sun.

“I just really want to see this kid do good,” Longo says. “Not for me, but for him. If anything goes wrong, I’ll definitely take it personal. I know we put the work in and everything, but it’s MMA, and anything can happen. I really just want to see the best for him.”

The anticipation of the fight overrides everything. Longo talks about “the kiss,” and chuckles, and about how behind the curtain before coming out to weigh-in, Silva walked up behind Weidman right to the back of his head and stood there, as if to intimidate. “I thought, what is this, kindergarten?” he laughs. “Just playing head games.” With all the things going on, with Brazilian and American fans everywhere, and the UFC handing out towels of those countries to fans in attendance, Longo finishes his drink and says, “It really has a feel of Us against Them.”

On fight night, Longo will show up with his father’s ID bracelet from the Navy, just like he always does. “I’m a whack job,” he says. “I have some superstitions. Nothing that will make me stop what I’m going to do, but things that make me feel better.”

And somewhere, Silva had a couple of Big Macs (or maybe Whoppers now that he’s sponsored by Burger King). That has long been his ritual before a fight. Everybody has their thing.


“I guarantee you the second time around Weidman’s going to beat him worse than the first time.”

Striking coach Ray Longo, Chris Weidman, Charlie Weidman, and JiuJitsu savant Jon Danaher celebrate the results of months of hard work and preparation. Photo: USA TODAY Sports
Striking coach Ray Longo, Chris Weidman, Charlie Weidman, and JiuJitsu savant Jon Danaher celebrate the results of months of hard work and preparation.
Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Twenty-four hours later, Weidman is the UFC Middleweight Champion. It’s one of the most memorable knockouts in UFC history, and for a variety of reasons.
Silva dropped his hands and tried the old Venus flytrap technique, where he invites his prey in, like he has so many times, mocking Weidman the whole way.

Just as Longo said, Weidman was ready for it. He took the invitation seriously and got in on Silva to land a fateful left hook. “The reason Weidman stood up is because he knew that I believed he could beat him standing,” Longo says two days later in Long Island. “I’ve watched the kid spar so many times against quality guys and we never had a problem. If Silva had starting mugging too much, the idea was the back out, to disengage, and to re-stalk him again.”

Didn’t need to. Silva clowned, and Weidman connected. In the second round of a fight that Weidman begged for and Silva only relented to take, he knocked out the greatest mixed martial arts we’ve known to date. For the second time in his life, Longo has helped a homegrown Long Island boy become a UFC Champion. And for the second time, he’ll now prepare that guy for a rematch with the man whose belt they took.

“Honestly, I feel like these are two totally separate entities when it comes to the rematch,” he says. “I guarantee you the second time around Weidman’s going to beat him worse than the first time. Matt really went into that second fight with two herniated discs. Matt’s a company man. He was going to take that fight if they wheeled him in on a wheelchair. He had canceled on Hughes, there was no way he was going to cancel on GSP.”

Longo is hesitant to say too much about the Serra/St-Pierre fights, because these days, they’re all friends. But facts are facts, and Longo has some history on the right side of the facts. Serra shocked the world, but didn’t win the rematch. Weidman smashed the game’s greatest, and now awaits Silva’s return.

“With the antics, as far as that goes, it’s funny,” Longo says. “People are fickle. When he did it with Forrest, it was okay. When he did it with Bonnar, it was okay. All of a sudden, it’s not okay. Honestly, that’s the way the guy fights! And he paid the ultimate price for it. Weidman’s not those guys—that’s the difference. He’s really not those guys. Silva’s not going to get away with that crap, and that’s what happened. And, another thing, you give him confidence like that, I’m going to say there’s no stopping Weidman in a rematch. That’s all from knowing him versus a fan speculating from the outside. That’s just how he is. Once he gets it into his head that he can beat you—I don’t care if it’s golf, tennis, MMA, basketball, Tiddly Winks, croquet—I’m telling you, this guy’s going to be a problem.”

It was one hell of an exchange. Silva handed Weidman the belt, and in return, Weidman handed Silva the problem.



Following each episode of The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights, Team Rampage member Abe Wagner will share his thoughts on what happened on camera and behind the scenes.

Hello, my name is Abe Wagner and I’ll be doing a weekly blog here at Fightmagazine.com. I fight out of Omaha, Neb. and have a professional record of 7-2.

Obviously I was involved a lot in today’s episode. I’ll try to go in order of the episode, though I’m sure you’re dying to hear what I have to say about the fight at the end of it. But all in due time.

To start out, they showed the coaches jawing with each other, and all I can say here is that they truly seemed to dislike each other and that part of the show will only get better from here on out. A lot of funny stuff is about to happen as it relates to their rivalry.

When we all got to the training center, it was a lot like the first day of school. Some people you know, some you’ve never seen before in your life and everyone trying to figure out where everyone else fits in. Dana White lined us all up. At this point, me being the mathematician that I am, couldn’t help but notice that there was an odd number of us and something was missing. Sure enough, there was a surprise fighter: Kimbo MF’ing Slice. Most of what I knew of him was from youtube like everyone else, so I was curious to see what he was all about.

Then there were the evaluations, each set of coaches got an hour with us to evaluate us. They each had drastically different methods of evaluation. Team Rashad’s evals consisted of grappling and hitting bags, whereas Team Rampage’s consisted of more sparring type drills.

Now on to the interesting stuff; I was Rampage’s second pick overall after evaluations. Right after our team was formed, Rampage asked who wanted to fight right away, and me and one or two other guys raised their hands. Nothing really further was decided at that time, but about a half hour before the first fight announcement (and incidentally before we even had our first team practice) he approached me and told me he wanted me to fight first. I told him I was game and asked who he had in mind.

He told me John Madsen. I told him that while my stand up was good and my jiu jitsu was decent, my wrestling needed work and sometimes I’ll have trouble with a good wrestler. He told me he thought Madsen was only an average wrestler and not to worry about it. It turns out he’s a two-time national champion wrestler and that’s possibly the understatement of the year for me. I still didn’t think it was a good match up for me, but at some point, you just have to say that you’re there to fight and fight whoever is chosen for you. I just didn’t get why if we had control, he wouldn’t have picked someone I matched up better with. I didn’t think it was a very good strategic move for me or Team Rampage.

On to the fight: First off, any one that knows me or has been involved with me in organized athletics knows that I throw up before every competition. This goes all the way back to high school and through college, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary for me there. I had the foresight to warn Rampage in advance, otherwise who knows what he’d have done.

Round 1: We both came out and touched gloves (something I’d later regret in round 2) and after a bit of feeling out, Madsen shoots and takes me down. I felt like everything was going pretty ok for me at this point. I started working my legs up in high guard to start looking for a submission. But I was kind of wedged up against the cage and it made it hard for my hips to be as mobile as I would have liked. Also I was against his corner, so it was very hard for me to hear my corner because his coaches were so loud. At some point he caught me with an elbow that made a pretty bad cut. At this time, I didn’t really feel it, but I did feel the blood running down my forehead. Then I looked over and saw a puddle of my own blood. All I really thought at this point was “Great, that’s happening.” It didn’t really affect me mentally. We spent the whole round in his corner, him on top. In the final seconds I was able to hit a scissors sweep, but frustratingly, it was too late to do anything with it.

Round 2 began with us touching gloves and him immediately shooting upon doing so. I know, I know, “protect yourself at all times”…but in all, I think it was a bit of a shady move. At this point, we’re both too covered in sweat and blood for any jiu jitsu to be effective. I kept trying to work my legs up or control his arms, but things were just too slippery. I was overall unable to stop his take downs and that’s what lost me the fight. He controlled me on the ground without much recourse on my part and I lost a decision.

I guess one of the main reasons I fight is self-exploration. And what I learned about myself from this fight is that even when I find myself in a bad situation, quitting is not in me. The whole fight I kept trying to find something that’d work even though I wasn’t having much success with it. Also, I think a lot of fighters wouldn’t have come out for the second round.

The most disappointing thing for me was that I didn’t really get to show anything that I’m capable of or any of the skills I have. I wouldn’t have minded losing as much if I had at least fought well in doing so. Hopefully, this one fight is not all that the world gets to see of me and what I can do, and I will make the most of future opportunities to show my skills.

Some things about the experience of fighting on The Ultimate Fighter:

You fight in the middle of the afternoon, in the place you train every day, in front of 20-30 people, against a guy that you live with. It honestly didn’t feel that much like a real fight to me, more like a sparring session. My training partners and coaches can tell you I’m nothing special on a Tuesday afternoon, but when it’s Saturday in the arena, that’s when the best comes out of me. For whatever reason, I just didn’t feel “up” for the fight. It just felt more like the excitement level of a sparring session rather than a fight.

I’m not going to make excuses for my performance, I knew that my wrestling needed work coming into the competition, so the fight didn’t really illuminate anything for me there. But it did add a sense of urgency to learning it, and I’ve been working diligently on that aspect of my game since then to become a more well-rounded fighter.

That’s my take on the first episode of the season. Trust me, there’s still plenty more show to watch and a lot can (and did) happen in the next 11 episodes.

For more on me, check out www.abewagnerfights.com.

Read the recap of the first episode of The Ultimate Fighter Heavyweights.

Read Matt Mitrione’s TUF blog.