Just three weeks into production and roughly three months before their faces would ever be shown on television, the 32 contestants of The Ultimate Fighter 8 were already dishing the media-speak. You know, the interview script. The clichés. The mangled lines of Yogi that athletes feel the need to repeat.
"I definitely feel like I'm getting stronger and learning so much," one Forrest Griffin-wannabe said. "As a person, I've just really tried to focus on my goals, so I haven't really changed as a person."
"When you have some of the best coaches in the world, some of the best fighters in the world, you get something new everyday," another said.
That's wonderful, buddy. Next.
"Well, it's all mental --"
Please, dear God, no. Spare me.
I sat in the back room of the UFC's headquarters in Las Vegas, amid the sounds of 'Are you mic'd up?' and 'Are we rolling?' as, one by one, these guys came in to talk to me. I felt like the team shrink. All I wanted to was to hear what it was really like for these guys on the Spike TV reality show. What goes on behind the cameras?
Just as my eyes started rolling to the back of my head and my recorder let out a string of beeps because it was overloaded with b.s. interviews (or maybe it, too, was crying out of desperation), this soft-spoken, wholesome mid-20-year-old, who looked more Abercrombie than badass, trudged in.
"So, what's it like here?" I asked, testing him with a softball question.
"It's been absolutely crazy," he said. "We've had a lot of drama in the house already."
Off to a good start.
"I had wine thrown in my eyes and a glass broken on me," he said. "Broke my arm open. [This guy's] been a big problem when he's drunk. He doesn't handle alcohol real well and was going around and throwing cashews and peanuts at everybody. I started to get into it and I reached for a handful of nuts and threw at him. So he threw wine in my eyes and broke the glass.
The floodgates just poured open. A peanut-throwing catfight.
I sat up straight, started fidgeting with my recorder to get it going again and continued to pry.
"Who else does everyone hate? How many fights do you guys into at the house? Who gets drunk the most?"
Yes, I was living up to the stereotype of a teenage-reality-show-phile, but I couldn't help myself. I like just had to know what happened next. Like, seriously. And I know I'm not alone. Even the hardcore MMA fans are dying to know who will be this season's Jesse Taylor just as much as they're waiting for the next Diego Sanchez. It's what makes the show ... a show.
There's a reason why the producers hung 40 cameras throughout the T.U.F. house, why 10 camera crews watched these guys like hawks 24/7 and why the laundry room of the house was transformed into a full-out production studio. D-R-A-M-A.
Face it, American Idol would be that much worse if Simon weren't obnoxious. And The Real World, oh The Real World. That girl Kim from the Hollywood season, I can't stand her! Orange County Choppers - who cares about the bike when daddy Paul and baby Paul are bickering? The Deadliest Catch - if the weather were always perfect and a crab-happy fisherman wer never thrown overboard, I'd be bored out of my mind. Don't lie. You love it too.
So while millions eagerly await the start of Season 8 to see Ryan Bader's standup game and the fighters give you the memorized insightful confessional about a fight, relax. I know why you really watch The Ultimate Fighter.