The tryouts for the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter were held yesterday in Las Vegas, N.V. – a season that will feature a slew of 115-pound females competing not for the moniker “Ultimate Fighter” but for an actual UFC championship belt – and Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter was on hand to witness the festivities.
It is a very big deal. And you can see it on their faces. They are focused. There is no laughter. Some gaze at a spot on the floor. Some stare off in the distance at nothing at all.
“There’s definitely a lot of energy in the room. A little bit of tension,” says Miesha Tate, one of the UFC’s top female stars. “But mostly, these girls just seem really happy to be here.”
But Botter goes on to say that there are only 36 applicants.
That’s, uh, not how they usually go.
Behold the tryouts for TUF 14, which were held in a hotel near Newark Liberty Airport in Newark, N.J. back in 2011, and featured hundreds upon hundreds of aspiring reality TV stars/fighters.
A typical TUF tryout is akin to an assembly line, with the first part of the process being the filling out of paperwork. Lots of paperwork. After that, and after a substantial amount of time spent chilling in the hallways and ballrooms with coaches, teammates and whoever else came along with that particular TUF hopeful, a group of candidates is called into a separate room where, on mats laid down before Dana White, Joe Silva and some TV types, there will be grappling and hitting pads.
The grappling part comes first, and though White is forceful in telling everyone not to go crazy, people go crazy – as they should. After all, to get tapped out usually means your ass is gone (also, at the TUF 14 tryouts, White began offering up a $100 bounty for every successful submission).
Those who make it to the next phase must then slip on some gloves and hit focus mitts, and White and Silva wander the room watching for form. If you hit like someone who’s never thrown a kick or punch before, your ass is gone, too.
To remain after the grappling and striking phase means you get a one-on-one interview with the TV producer. This is where personality comes into play, and because someone with zero personality would translate into crappy TV, this is the stage where the vast majority of ultra-talented fighters get the axe while some less talented schmoe who wore bunny ears or spoke in tongues gets an invite out to Las Vegas.
Yeah, the process is flawed, because in its nearly ten-year history, it’s turned away the likes of Frankie Edgar, Eddie Alvarez and Clay Guida. But it’s for the sake of TV. And you can’t say that the UFC doesn’t owe much of its popularity to the Gods of Television.
Anyway, that’s what a typical TUF tryout is like. Now go tryout and see how you do.