If that name means anything to you, well, congrats, you’re probably really good at trivia. Thacker was a cast member on the first-ever season of The Ultimate Fighter, and just to refresh your memory, who was THE guy who sucked in a house full of so many guys who didn’t. Seriously, Thacker’s housemates were Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar – essentially, a bunch of guys who were already on the cusp of getting into the UFC before they were needed to play a role in getting this new reality TV show off the ground. The poor Canadian was the epitome of a “nobody”.
Thacker was pretty much eliminated right off the bat, but not before being the brunt of so much hate. Leben even pissed on his pillow. Sadly, that whole experience left a lasting impression on the young man, and he went of the grid as a result.
But ace reporter Chuck Mindenhall of MMAFighting did some extensive digging and finally found him. The results weren’t pretty.
Of course, “reality” and the reality are different. When asked if the show ruined his life, Thacker says it did. Boldness, contrary to what Goethe once suggested, does not have genius, power and magic in it. Not in this case.
Thacker doesn’t have kids or a wife or a girlfriend. No cell phone, no car of his own, no job, and no friends. Somewhere along the way, when the punch lines began adding up and the humiliation sank in, the seasons began to pass through his window without him. He stopped going out. Maybe he was always destined to be a private person. But as he drives me out to the compound to see the old abandoned truck stop, it’s clear that his big break turned into his ultimate ruin.
He points out the old outhouse, that’s still in use. There’s the tree with the long limbs he used to practice gymnastics from. He points to the trails into the woods, where he has encountered bears on his runs. Over yon is the pond that has “beaver fever,” he says, and that direction the river with the sturgeon. Canada turned on him when the show aired. The martial arts community condemned him. He was vilified in not only his local gyms, but those across the country.
“When I got back and they were starting to promote the show, there were two things that hurt me the most,” he says. “One was a comment Mauro Ranallo made. He’s from Maple Ridge, and when the show was over they asked, what do you think about this Jason Thacker guy? And he said, ‘he should make Canada’s version of a milk carton, and disappear.’ That was at the height of the show, when it was airing, when people were talking.”
The picture painted of Thacker is a sad one, but it’s masterful reporting and writing by Mindenhall (as usual – he really is the best in the business). The whole piece is a must-read.