They finally got me. Despite doing more than a dozen interviews with veterans of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, despite being told by each and every one how easy it is to shift perception in the editing room, despite being a video editor myself - they got me. Producers of The Ultimate Fighter should be proud. They had me hating on Josh Koscheck. And that, after all, is the entire point of this season, a prelude to what promises to be an amazing fight between Kos and welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.
In this week's episode Koscheck got into it physically with one of St. Pierre's entourage, medic Brad Tate. The feud was inserted into the show last episode when Koscheck went after Tate for being a "male nurse." I don't know what Tate's day job is. I do know my uncle was a paramedic and routinely had to face gunshots and other scary situations in the course of doing his job. Which, of course, is taking care of the injured and the sick. There's not a much more noble profession, and even if Tate is a "male nurse," he's certainly providing a much more valuable service to society than someone whose resume reads "Cage Fighter (2004-Present)."
Regardless, male nurse was the insult of choice, and Koscheck went after the overweight Tate with gusto. Never content to keep it safely on the verbal level, there always seemed to be an air of menace to it - Koscheck wasn't afraid to make it clear he would make it physical in a heart beat. Tate, to his credit or detriment, never took a backwards step. After some fun banter in the beginning of the episode, including a face off between one grown man wielding a plunger and another a plastic trash can, it got ugly at the fighter weigh ins.
Tate razzed Koscheck for his academy award winning performance in the fake knee" incident with Paul Daley at UFC 113. This seemed to send Koscheck over the edge and he went after Tate, grabbing him by the neck as things escalated quickly out of control. It seemed like Koscheck was the classic bully, someone willing to dish it out but never take it. I was furious, the kind of furious that is actually kind of fun. I concocted a revenge scenario with another BE staffer in which Koscheck was left gasping for air, surrounded by male nurses who refused to treat him after seeing The Ultimate Fighter. I was ready, not just for Koscheck-St. Pierre II, but for Koscheck-Tate II. Pumped up would be putting it mildly.
And then I saw this.
More on reality TV, Koscheck, and the UFC machine after the break
The video above tells an entirely different story. Here, Koscheck is still an overbearing jerk. His attitude and sexual politics is still right out of the 1950s. His hair? Still ridiculous. But he's also standing up for his guys. Tate, it turns out, was mocking the poor English of two of Koscheck's foreign fighters. That's what made Koscheck steam - comments about the Daley fight were just the straw that broke an already limping camel's back.
Koscheck even deflates a tense situation while Tate is still soaking in adrenaline and looking for a fight. In the end, there are plenty of shades of gray. Koscheck was wrong to escalate the situation, but after seeing Tate's comments, it was much more understandable. The way he was able to calm down, give solid advice to his kids, and then be the bigger man and shut down the drama with Tate was damn near awe inspiring.
I'll still be watching The Ultimate Fighter. I'll still be letting myself get worked up by it too. The sport needs heroes and villains. But it's nice to be reminded that the bad guy is not always wearing the black hat.