It has been a turbulent few months for women's bantamweight competitor Shayna Baszler. The "Queen of Spades" was announced as a contestant on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, where she was placed on Ronda Rousey's team and used in the season-opening fight against Julianna Pena. To the surprise of many fans and pundits alike, Baszler, who was a heavy favorite ahead of the fight, lost in convincing fashion to the eventual champion.
While hindsight is 20/20, Baszler does believe that her loss, which will arguably go down as one of the biggest upsets in TUF history, was entirely for the best. Baszler has since relocated to Southern California, where she lives and trains with UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, as well as Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir.
"I think I'm in a better position now than I would have been had I won the show," Baszler said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Everything worked out in the end. I'm moved out to California, I'm living with Ronda and Jessamyn and Marina, and I think if I would have won the show I wouldn't have made so many changes, I would have been satisfied with where I am."
The 33-year-old Baszler admits that the worst part of losing her fight was watching fans' reactions to the release of the TUF 18 list a few weeks ahead of the premiere episode. While filming had already halted, it was still a few months before the official debut episode, which added to Baszler's difficulty enduring the show.
"The part that did suck was the list comes out. We're done filming, I was home July 4, the list comes out in September, everyone was, here's the list of the cast, who made it, everyone was talking about how I was one of the favorites to win the show and knowing I lost my first fight. A local club was like, hey we want to throw party for your episode. It was hard to get excited for that knowing what happened. That part was harder knowing I lost and everyone else being so excited and it had already happened."
Baszler's opening round loss to Pena was not the end of her troubles either. Soon afterwards, Shayna would break her foot in training, which forced her out of the Finale and her official UFC debut.
Though it has been a tough few months for Baszler, it eventually worked out as she flew out to help Jessamyn Duke prepare for her match-up against Peggy Morgan. A short trip to help a teammate eventually turned into a relocation to Southern California, where she now resides with three other women's bantamweight competitors.
To Baszler's surprise several weeks later, the UFC revealed that she would be matched up against former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman, whom she has lost a decision to previously in 2009.
"I'm surprised they're throwing me in the mix right away," Baszler said. "It's cool because it shows how highly they think about me. I'm not getting the girl from whatever country who is making their debut, Kaufmann used to have the world title. We fought before. Both of us think it's a great matchup. I'm stoked about it, I'd much rather win a fight that means something, then fight some girl no one has heard of from Timbuktu on an undercard Facebook prelim that no one is going to see, then have to work my way up. This puts me in the mix."
Since Baszler believes she has been thrown directly "in the mix," it would not be farfetched to suggest a potential clash with her current housemate and women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey sometime in the future. Baszler admits that if that situation ever arose, she would fight Rousey in a heartbeat.
"Ronda knows that if they called me tonight to fight her tomorrow, I would do it," Baszler said. "I tell her every day. Her and Jessamyn and myself, we all know we would fight each other if it came to it. We also know it would have to mean something. ... Ronda and I have even practiced trash talking to each other, we have no problems. You know, Ronda's the titleholder she knows it would be stupid of me to be in the sport and put in all this time just to say Ronda's going to have the belt and I have no intentions of taking it."
The TUF Nations Finale will take place on April 16, 2014, in Quebec City, Quebec.
Transcription provided by: Dave Doyle/MMAFighting