Yesterday, we published Part One of our visit with UFC on FOX host Karyn Bryant, who has enjoyed an “up close and personal” look at the cast of The Ultimate Fighter Season 20.
Today, Ms. Bryant offers her perspectives on tonight’s main event at The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 Finale, which will crown the promotion’s first women’s 115 lb champion. She also describes some of her favorite moments as a broadcaster — including an emotional meeting with a UFC champion, and a historic trilogy from her days at Showtime Boxing.
Caged Insider: It’s an interesting contrast between the two finalists, Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas.
Karyn Bryant: Yeah, for sure.
Caged Insider: One was so highly rated coming in, the other, not so much. One was known for a great wrestling background, the other more a striker. One with a wealth of experience: a champion in Invicta; the other only a few fights. But when they were hyping the show (after taping was completed), you heard Dana White say he thought he found the next Ronda Rousey in this cast. It wasn’t someone you thought of looking over the cast to begin with.
Karyn Bryant: The comparison became easier to make after Rose finished two women with Kimuras! I’ve known Rose for a few years and I know how dedicated she is. To me, it wasn’t personally surprising. But you saw bigger names, like Jo (Calderwood), Tecia Torres — I think people were really surprised Tecia lost her first fight.
When you look at Rose’s composure on the show; how comfortable she is where she is. That really helped her succeed.
Caged Insider: You did see a little anxiety from Namajunas during that stretch, after training with Kron Gracie, where she burst into tears. Granted, grappling Kron Gracie can have that effect on anyone. But then there was a different pressure on her as well, where she was representing the team alone. Did you see that confidence in her from beginning?
Karyn Bryant: She is composed. She understands that she’s going to have emotional highs and lows, and she says, I’m going to flow with this. I was more surprised at Carla’s seeming lack of confidence sometimes. She went in there with a championship, and often sort of positioned herself as an underdog. She sometimes spoke as if she wasn’t sure she was going to win — she said hadn’t fought in a while. The pressure was there as well.
With Rose, she’s a young woman, but she’s very assured about who she is.
Caged Insider: It feels the division is developing at the same time as Rose. It’s a dynamic division, maybe not in an embryonic stage but still growing; so it’s exciting.
Karyn Bryant: Absolutely. We’ve already seen that with the 135 women’s division that they can steal the show. When you look the other day with Paige Van Sant and Kailin Curran’s bout (at 115 lbs.) — the pace these women can keep is amazing. They’re exciting, the cast is so passionate and so fired up, I feel you can’t watch these strawweight fights and not get emotionally invested.
Caged Insider: It’s another contrast that Esparza struggled to earn decisions and Namajunas was kind of a buzz saw in the tournament, earning three submission victories. Do you think that’s playing into people’s heads when they choose Namajunas to win? I saw only she picked herself to win the fight, in that last segment with the cast at TUF Talk.
Karyn Bryant: I was surprised at that. I don’t know if that’s the cast’s relationships at work. But I do think people are impressed by Rose’s unpredictability; her skill level. She’s new and exciting, and people are enamored with that style — the way she’s finishing. She looks like a trained killer, while Carla’s fights were more methodical. She’s also an unknown entity for Carla. Carla was familiar with Tecia (Torres) and Jessica (Penne), so that’s going to be different.
Caged Insider: Thank you, I appreciate your insight. I know you’ll be in Phoenix next?
Karyn Bryant: Yes.
Caged Insider: Last question: you’ve spent a few years with the UFC now, also were with Showtime Boxing for some time.
Karyn Bryant: Yes, I was there for about three years.
Caged Insider: Do you have a favorite trip you’ve made in your career in the fight sports?
Karyn Bryant: My favorite? (pauses) Going to Sweden for that first time was incredible. When you can go somewhere and see fight fans have a first event it’s amazing. But I have to say, when I worked at Showtime Boxing I worked at the first three Israel Vasquez vs Rafael Marquez fights and those stand out to me. Those stand out as highlights because they were incredibly intense; three of my favorite fights. But I was also there when Anderson Silva fought Vitor Belfort, and the Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman fights — and I’ll never forget those… or, when Ronda Rousey fought Liz Carmouche. Going to Brazil to watch Wanderlei Silva was another one! I’ve been really fortunate, there’s been some amazing moments.
One of my all time favorites was when Anthony Pettis beat Benson Henderson (for the UFC Lightweight title) in Milwaukee. He came on to the post fight show, so emotional, there with his belt. We were asking him what it meant, and he mentioned the passing of his father a long time ago, and how he was going to visit his father’s grave that night. It was one of the most intense conversations I’ve ever had on television. Such an incredible moment to talk to him about that, and the pride in what he had accomplished was incredible.
Caged Insider: There’s something special about the emotional content in this sport, and similarly in boxing. And you can’t really manufacture it. It’s either there or it isn’t.
Karyn Bryant: Yes.
Caged Insider: I don’t know if it was always there in a positive way at TUF 20, but it was there, and we look forward to seeing how it all wraps up!
Karyn Bryant: (laughs) As am I!
Caged Insider: Thank you for spending some time with us.
Karyn Bryant: Thank you for having me on!