Ben Sergent was incredibly close to landing a spot on The Ultimate Fighter 22 in early 2015 — until the UFC removed welterweights from the show, leaving the season featuring lightweights only.
The 31-year-old tried out in March and was accepted, he said, only to later hear his weight class was cut from the season. The executive producer told him that welterweights would be featured on the next season and to “sit tight,” Sergent said, but nothing came to fruition (The Ultimate Fighter 23 featured light heavyweights and strawweights).
Sergent, a Louisville, Ky., native who had moved to California in anticipation of being on The Ultimate Fighter, knew this wasn’t the end of the world, but he was still frustrated. So he took a break from fighting.
“I kind of got down on myself and was like, ‘You know what? This kind of sucks, so I’m just gonna take a break and just relax and have fun,’” Sergent told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I kind of needed some time just to reevaluate life, really see who I was as a person, and kind of look around and see who’s really in my corner. I got to see that first-hand. I really did a lot of reflecting on myself, so it was very needed.”
Fighting is an exhausting sport, so the hiatus helped. He was able to do many things, including some stand-up comedy and MMA commentating. But Sergent wasn’t done; he wasn’t going to allow the TUF mix-up to end his career. After all, fighting is what he truly loves to do.
Now living in Cleveland, Tenn., Sergent is set to fight Steve Bell at the Warrior FC vs. Valor Fights co-promotion event in Corbin, Ky., on Saturday evening.
“I realized that fighting is who Ben Sergent is, and after a year or so, I moved back to Kentucky,” he said. “I started working [injuries] off, working off a bunch of beer and German food I ate in L.A., and now I’m back.
“I am 100 percent committed to training, coaching, and fighting, wherever it may lead me.”
In hindsight, Sergent isn’t too upset The Ultimate Fighter fell apart for him. It was a rather eye-opening experience, he said.
“It’s just part of the journey. I can handle being told no. And I’ve been told no plenty of times, and that doesn’t discourage me from continuing my journey,” he said. “That’s all this is: a journey. That’s what life is. It’s a journey to improve yourself as a person — that’s what it did to me. And it humbled me to the point where it made me realize that I’m just another number. When I was trying out, I was just a number. And I would’ve been just a number on the show. It would’ve been just another season. I realize you’re just a number in life, and I don’t like that. I want more for myself, and I want more for the people that I love.
“I’m kind of grateful that I didn’t get on The Ultimate Fighter, because, honestly, I already say enough stupid stuff; there’s no reason to amplify that on a TV show and say and do things I could very well regret. Everything happens for a purpose.”
Despite being so close to The Ultimate Fighter, “The Drill” doesn’t think he’s even close to stepping foot inside the UFC’s Octagon for the first time.
“I’m very much far away from the UFC,” he explained. “The reason why I think I would’ve been perfect for The Ultimate Fighter — yes, I would’ve won The Ultimate Fighter — is because they don’t pick guys with complete talent. They pick guys for the entertainment. Me, I would’ve been just fine with the entertainment side. And on top of that, I’m self-motivated, and I would’ve been on the show with equally-class guys and I would’ve been just fine.
“But as far as getting in there with serious athletes that fight in the UFC, I don’t think I would be there yet, and I do need quite a few more fights to even consider or think about the UFC. And also, they have to consider me being in there; it’s not just a one-way street.”
Sometimes outspoken, Sergent is seemingly an intelligent person who understands that prize-fighting is not just a sport, but also a business. It’s not outrageous to compare him to two particular UFC champions.
“I don’t know who Conor McGregor is,” he said, jokingly, “but I’ve been compared to Michael Bisping, because people either really love him or hate him. Conor McGregor is someone I can’t be, because anytime I do start talking smack about an opponent, karma always bites me in the butt and makes me very humble. He has the luck of the Irish, and I’m German-English, so it doesn’t work out for me.”
Public personalities — in this case, professional athletes — constantly have to deal with online negativity. From “keyboard warriors” to “trolls,” some people choose to ignore the hate, while some choose to indulge themselves in it.
Sergent has a few choice words for fight fans not on his side.
“I have a very strong support system. I have people who have known me for my whole life,” he said. “As for the ‘haters,’ I do not have haters. I have people who want to be me, and it makes them sick they can’t be me every time they wake up in the morning. It’s people who have a low self-esteem. They wake up and they can’t just do it on their own. They have to have somebody to blame, they have to have somebody to hate, and I am that beautiful guy.”
Sergent is 6-0 as a professional and his opponent, Bell, is 3-7. To some people, this matchup could look like a easy fight for Sergent, especially because most of Sergent’s wins have ended by submission and Bell has had troubles with his submission defense. But he’s adamant he’s taking his return bout very seriously and not looking past the man facing him on May 6.
“My plan right now is Steve Bell and that’s it,” he said. “He’s a very serious opponent. He has two eyes staring right directly back at me in the cage. He has two arms, two legs. He’s been training for this fight, he wants to win, he wants to beat me, and there’s no way out.”