Amir Sadollah came into season seven of “The Ultimate Fighter” without a single professional MMA bout to his credit, and yet with the show winding down he finds himself in the semifinals and (though he can’t say in what capacity just yet) fighting on the Spike TV season finale card on June 21. Though he’s been portrayed as the lovable, self-deprecating underdog on the show, Sadollah now has his shot at a UFC career thanks to reality stardom.
In this exclusive interview, Sadollah talks to Cage Potato about being the man people want to fight, leaving his job to pursue his passion, and what he learned from his time on the show.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Amir. What’s it like now to sit down and watch the show and see it all edited together? Does it seem accurate to you?
It’s kind of crazy. We were there and we lived it so on some level it’s familiar, but seeing it on TV just sort of reinforces for you that it really happened. It’s strange though, to see something you lived through on TV.
For the most part it’s pretty accurate. So much is left out just because they don’t have time to show it all, I guess. Obviously, they didn’t show anything that didn’t happen, but they definitely did show the things they wanted to in order to help them make people look a certain way. If they wanted to cast you a certain way, they made sure to show the stuff that helped them do that.
I’ve talked to some TUF contestants who said that a lot of the footage has been taken out of order. Stuff that happened in week six was shown in week one, that kind of thing. Is that true?
A lot of the stuff is out of order, and some things they purposely left out to make certain points. But I think everything they did was for a reason. At least I hope so. I don’t know, I’m not a TV editor or anything.
They’re really good at getting you to believe what they want you to believe as you’re watching it. It makes me think twice now whenever I watch another reality show. I know now that it isn’t necessarily really how things were, but how they made what happened into what they wanted it to be.
Can you give me an example of that?
Now you’re going to make me back up my statements? Aw, man. Well, okay, definitely in the confessionals is where they did a lot of the scripting of the show. Not that they told you what to say or anything, but they would ask these very leading questions, like, ‘do you think this guy is scared?’ And you don’t get to hear the questions when you watch the show, just the answers. It gives it a different feel when you think someone is just saying something, rather than answering a specific question.
Obviously, you saw previous season of the show before you went on it. What did you think about it then, and what made you decide that you wanted to be on the show?
It was a combination of things. I remember watching the show and thinking, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be great to get to fight on this someday?’ But I guess I didn’t really think it would happen.
I remember vividly the moment I decided to do it. I was power-washing my deck, actually, and one of my friends told me that they were having tryouts for “The Ultimate Fighter” and they were going to go down and try out. I just thought, okay. Let’s go for it. I called in to work and went down there and then I made it on.
Does it ever seem strange to you that a guy like yourself, who has relatively little MMA experience, is able to get into the UFC because of this reality show?
Yeah, I do think about that a lot actually, how I just kind of shot right in there. On one hand I definitely appreciate the opportunity and I’m grateful for that. But I know there are a lot of guys who’ve been trying for years to get into the UFC and they haven’t got that chance, so it’s weird. It’s definitely something I’m mindful of and I think it’s great that it gives us all this chance.
It seems like there are some major gaps in people’s experience level on the show. Some guys have over ten fights, some have only a couple or none at all. Did that create any tension among you guys? Were you all aware of those differences while the show was going on?
Kind of. We were aware of it, but having all the guys fight just to get in the house definitely made us all respect each other. Everyone had a tough fight just to be there, so you knew it wasn’t as if anyone got a free pass.
Of course, you’re aware that some guys have a bunch of fights and others might not, but there was never any tension over it because everyone had proved themselves. You also find out in training who’s tough and who can do what.
What was it like to see everyone come in and talk about who they wanted to fight in the semis? It seemed like the consensus was that you might be the easier fight for any of the other three guys.
I admit I was slightly interested watching that. I don’t take it personally though. They were choices based on styles more than anything else. No one takes it personally. Like Dana said on the show, it’s just everyone thinking of the best path for them to get into the finals. By that point, we’ve all proved why we belong there.
Tell me about your life before going on the show. I heard you worked in a hospital as a surgery technician. How did you wind up doing that? What does that involve?
The short explanation is, I am the guy who hands the surgeon the knife. There’s definitely more involved than that, but that’s the easy way to put it. It’s really making sure all the equipment is laid out, keeping a sterile environment, all that.
I was kind of tooling around in life, working in a hospital delivering packages and such. A friend of mine told me about the program to become a surgical tech and it sounded good. It’s a really high-demand job and the hours were pretty flexible. They were always really cool about my training and my fighting. I was just getting out of school for this program when I really got into training, so both those things kind of started for me at the same time.
Did you ever worry about leaving that job to try and become a fighter? What if it doesn’t work out?
I wasn’t worried about trying and failing. I was worried about not trying. Even if I tried and failed, and even if I had to move back home and had no job, at least I tried. At least I gave it a shot. That, I could live with.
What made you want to be a fighter in the first place?
That’s a good question. I guess it’s kind of the question. But I think like a lot of fighters, I don’t really know. For me, as soon as I started training and as soon as I got into it, it was the only thing I wanted to do. It was the only thing I cared enough about to really try to be good at it. I guess that’s the best way I can explain it.
On the show they seem to want to portray you as the honest, open guy who says whatever he’s feeling, even if it doesn’t make him look so tough at times. It seems odd compared to the other guys, who all come of sounding very confident or stoic. Is that really how you are, or is that a result of the editing?
I’d actually say that’s pretty accurate. That’s kind of how I am. I’m pretty open about how I’m feeling and what I’m thinking, and I guess talking about it helps me to deal with it. I’m not one to keep it all inside. I just let it out and that helps me process it and work through stuff.
What’s it like to get to come in and train with guys like Forrest Griffin and all the other fighters on your team? What does that do as far as improving your overall skill level?
It was huge. Just being exposed to guys from all these recognized fight camps and seeing how they do things and what they do that I don’t do, it showed me a lot. Not that I didn’t have good coaches before, but just being around all these guys and seeing these different things made a big difference for me. I think that really helps everyone.