The Ultimate Fighter, often hailed as the savior of the UFC, is a powerful vehicle for up and coming fighters. Since it's first season in 2005, we have seen quite a few stars born via our television screens. Names like Michael Bisping, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Kenny Florian and Rashad Evans all cut their teeth there and later went on to see great success and mainstream attention.
For young fighters that might be perched on the cusp of widespread recognition, TUF has become the perfect outlet to introduce them to the masses. Unfortunately, that introduction comes with a price tag. The selective editing from the producers of the program have a habit of seeking out the darkest, most embarrassing moments, and putting those on display, sometimes out of context and exclusive of the situation or conversation they originated from. In a time when ratings talk and everything else has to hit the door running, the fighters in the TUF house have to be prepared to be painted as the bad guy, the obnoxious guy, the guy fans grow to loathe.
Bubba McDaniel came into the TUF house with an impressive 20-6 record. He has been one of the most experienced fighters from any season, and had fought in major promotions prior to his competitor status on the show. The 30 year old father of two was consistently shown as being the outspoken and cocky loud mouth. For casual fans just being introduced to these guys via their televisions, the depictions of the fighters' characters can oft times be warped ones, and we were treated to a pretty unflattering distortion of Bubba's character.
I had seen a couple of McDaniel's fights before his TUF stint, but I didn't know much about him. When the season aired, I was more excited about it than previous seasons because Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones were the coaches. It would be the first season I watched in it's entirety since Season 8.
Admittedly, I got a bad impression of Bubba. A little voice at the back of my mind was constantly telling me that he was suffering from the dreaded production / editing team, but it was still easy for that fact to get lost in what my eyes and ears were taking in. I realize that not all of that was carefully crafted and cropped entertainment, as every fighter on the show goes through rough days. When you have to make weight several times in a six week period, it tends to take it's toll on you.
All throughout the season and directly afterward, I was informed by several friends, both fighters and media colleagues, that The Menace was actually a lot nicer person than TUF portrayed him to be. UFC women's bantamweight fighter, Julie Kedzie, a teammate of McDaniel's, told me he is the first one in the gym every day, and that he is probably the most generous with his time and most helpful to the athletes at Jackson's MMA, offering support wherever it is needed. He just chalks it up to being a good team member and told me that being close knit is how it should be.
That's just part of being a member of the team. I think that should be the same for anyone that's a part of a team. That's your family. Those are the guys that are bleeding with you in the gym. They're in your corner when you fight. They're on the edge of their chair and are just as much in that fight as you are.
Since he was slated to fight this coming Wednesday, I decided that now would be a good time to interview him, and decide for myself. I was happy to discover that McDaniel is a very intelligent, engaging athlete with a friendly attitude. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders and understands that his persona on TUF is one that helped gain him a decent amount of recognition. We spoke about several topics, including his TUF stint and what he thinks of his opponent, Brad Tavares.
The Ultimate Fighter & The Baggage That comes With It
The Ultimate Fighter didn't have a great feel for me. They made me the heel, and that's fine. It's brought me to where I'm at right now, and I've gotten a little bit of attention from it. The person I am is a totally different person than what they showed. I still get lots of people saying, 'I wish you'd get knocked out', and that's fine.
Everything about that show was centered around us all being ready to fight. I was always ready to go, so I can't be mad at them for showing a guy that was ready to fight. I kind of wasn't the best guy at times. Every time they would catch me, I was starving, just getting up or I had to go train or had to run extra. I had to do so many things just to be able to make weight, that I was constantly in a bad mood.
You know, I made weight four times in five weeks. It was just such a trying time for me, and for everyone else. The bad attitude was just coming out. If you come and hang out with me at any other time, you'll have fun. Nobody in the world but my friends actually know that though [laughs].
It's a stigma that I have, but if I didn't have that, would I still be somebody that people talk about? Would I be somebody that's on the main card and have the fight that I'm fighting? I take the good with the bad in all this.
I was the picked on kid all through school. I was the geek, the skinny one, the one that nobody wanted to be around. I was bullied, so when I grew into my body, I took it and I went the wrong direction with it, and became a bully myself. I started getting into trouble, but it was because I was a scared guy. I didn't like feeling scared so I turned that fear into anger. I was the kind of guy that I would never want my kids to be around.
I still carry that scared kid mentality with me. The way I keep it in check is by training. Once I started training, I had no time to be angry. I had no time to go and find trouble. Then I had my kids. That changed everything. Now, every time I go into a fight, I stay focused on training and being in the best shape. If I go into a fight and I'm in shape and I've trained well, then I know I've done everything in my capacity to fight to the best of my ability. It takes courage just to walk into that cage, and by doing that, I prove to myself that I'm not that scared kid anymore. I'm happy with myself.
Benefits Of Seeing A Sports Psychologist
I use a sports psychologist myself, and it's helped me a lot. I go out there to perform, and that scared kid thing has hit me in there. When that happens, it makes a difference. Now, I take measures to make sure that I'm not gonna be that scared kid in the cage. When it's time to focus, I can focus.
For me, this is the fight that counts. This is my chance to show how much I've improved and how I'm putting it all together. This fight is the most legitimate fight that anybody from my season has had. I think Brad Tavares is right on the edge of being Top 10. He's tough, and those guys from Hawaii, they love to fight. For me to get to fight a guy of his caliber is a big deal to me.
Brad is faster than people give him credit for. He's moving his head, he's moving his feet, he's hitting people with big kicks and straight punches. He's doing all those things quick. He also has a gift of being able to throw accurate, solid punches, even when he looks to be off balance. His takedown defense is phenomenal. He's Top 10 material. The only reason why he isn't in there is because he hasn't had the fights with the name guys, but I think he is a Top 10 guy. I just want to show everyone that I'm just as experienced as he is, and I deserve to be in there with a guy like that.
You can follow Bubba via his Twitter account, @BubbaTheMenace