*Super Friends announcer voice* MEANWHILE, IN THE DINING ROOM…
If you thought watching the sixteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter was hell, just wait until you hear how bad it was to be one of the show’s participants, and a winning one at that. As finalist Mike Ricci will tell you, TUF 16 wasn’t exactly Dancing With the Stars, where everyone got to take their perfect-bodied Ukranian supermodel partner home and have their way with them (although to be fair, the above video makes the case that there certainly was a lot of banging going on). No, TUF was much, much uglier. In fact, during a recent appearance on The MMA Hour, Ricci admitted that he hated his time on the show so much — despite being a finalist, mind you — that he wished he could sue the show for the “psychological damages” he suffered:
It was an absolute nightmare, I wanted to sue for psychological damage, I wasn’t the same person. I actually thought I had a case, ‘I’m not the same person, I can do this and win.’ But, I felt like don’t get me wrong, I knew what I was getting into I knew how I was going to react. Even some of the producers in the house toward the end were like, ‘Geez, you’re the most institutionalized fighter we’ve ever seen, we’ve done 11 seasons and we’ve never seen anyone like you, you’re like a robot now.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “How will Danga shoehorn a Shawshank Redemption reference into the next couple sentences?” Truth be told, I thought about it. Hell, I even wrote a couple quotes down. But I’m not going to do it, Nation, because I honestly feel for Ricci here and wouldn’t want to reduce his plight to a few lines from a film, albeit a great one at that. Because CagePotato is kind of like the TUF set, if you replaced wannabe fighters with wannabe writers. In here, we’re important men, we’re educated men. On the outside, we’re nothing, just a bunch of used up cons-DAMN IT.
Anyway, Ricci also claimed that it was the time away from his family and friends that truly made the experience unbearable. Again, I just want to clarify that we’re talking about the favorite to win the season here:
I was taken away from my family and from my friends and from life, you literally, you vanish, you’re gone, there’s no sign of you whatsoever. Its almost like to everyone in the outside world you’re dead and you’re gone. There’s no sign of you whatsoever. And, things like for instance I didn’t know what was happening with my people on the outside, it was upsetting, people had gotten new jobs or changed their hairstyle or experienced different things I missed out on, it just upset me. It still upsets me to this day.
OK, Ricci, now I’m kind of glad I went the Shawshank route when breaking down your case. If the sacrifice you had to make in order to launch your career – the career you chose, by the way – was to miss out on a friend getting a haircut or telling you that they now work at the Jiffy Lube instead of the Outback’s Steakhouse (quite a career change, I realize), then I’d say you’ve got fuck all to complain about. For Christ’s sake, Michael Chiesa lost both his father AND his home last season, and cried about it for approximately five seconds. But yeah, continue to talk about the dark, depressing loneliness that eats at your soul because you missed out on a trip to Fantastic Sam’s.
So why, one would ask, would Ricci choose to partake in such a venture, knowing full well how grueling TUF can be from the 15 previous seasons that documented this exact process?
I feel it was an opportunity for me to get ahead and go faster than I would have by the usual route, fighting your way up on undercards. I know that it was a lot of work that was going to be crammed into a short amount of time, but if I looked good and was successful … I feel like I brought in just as much exposure and gone as far forward fighting four fights for TUF than I would have four fights outside of TUF. But the time status is those four fights could be in a year, and I did it all in the span of a summer. That’s why I did it.
So there you have it, in order to become semi-famous in one’s trade, one might be forced to neglect their tanning regimen for a few months. No wonder Colin Fletcher is one of the TUF: Smashes finalists, dude must have been neglecting his G.T.L. for years now.