Cage Potato guest blogger Rich Attonito returns with his take on last night’s episode. Read on to find out what it feels like to be Chuck Liddell‘s second pick, and why his oatmeal-making technique makes for important television.
After the preliminary fights were done, Dana White congratulated us and gave us a brief run down of what was to come. Team picks were going to be held the next day, but first we were going to be taken to the fighter house where we would be spending the next 6 weeks of our lives together. For better or for worse.
The lights of the Las Vegas strip lit up the night as we barreled down the highway in two sets of vans. I remember feeling a great deal of relief and for the first time in the past several days I was able to relax a little bit, until the vans arrived at our destination. Suddenly everyone started piling out of the vans and running into the house like someone had told them there was a million dollars inside for the taking.
Some of us took our time getting inside and I found my spot in the master bedroom, closest to the balcony which faced the backyard. I saved the bed next to me for my friend and teammate from home Charles Blanchard, who had also won his fight. I was glad I was not going to have to sleep in such awkwardly close proximity with a total stranger.
As I got acclimated to my new environment I started to realize how nice of a set up we were in. Fully furnished house, refrigerator stocked with food, outdoor pool and jacuzzi. We had a pool table, shuffle board, cards, and a chessboard for games. I had not played chess in quite some time but had the feeling I would spend a good deal of time playing to pass the hours. My only hope was that someone else in the house was a decent player and could challenge me. Otherwise what fun would it be to beat up on someone who does not even know how to move the pieces?
The next day came and it was time to pick teams. Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz stood in front of us and it was hard not to feel a little starstruck looking at these guys. I had watched both of them fight for years and dominate the 205-pound division during their title runs. Now one of them was going to be picking me to be a part of their squad. They almost didn’t even seem real, like cartoon superheroes. I knew that whichever team I was on I could benefit from both of the coaches and their assistants.
However, I was pleased when Chuck chose me as his second pick. Now I was teamed up with my close friend and boxing coach from American Top Team, Howard Davis Jr. I felt like I was at home. As the rest of the picks played out I knew Chuck had assembled a strong squad. While we were not going to be the tallest of middleweights I knew that everyone had a strong set of different skills that would bring great diversity to our team and training. Besides, who cares how tall the other team was? It’s not like we’re playing basketball or competing in the high jump.
Over the next few days we practiced hard as a team and began to grow very close and gel as a unit. Everyone seemed to be on the same page and understood that we needed to help each other so we could all succeed in this competition. I really liked all the guys on my team. At the same time I began to get the impression that Team Ortiz’s guys were not getting along so well. Jamie Yager seemed to be rubbing guys on his team the wrong way – figuratively, of course.
One night around three in the morning we had the pleasure of being awoken by the deafening sound of a few air-horns. My first instinct was that we were being hazed by our coaches. I suddenly had this vision that they would make us throw our running shoes on and go out into the desert for a midnight run. Not sure what prompted me to think that, possibly flashbacks of college wrestling. Later I would find out that Brad Tavares, Kris McCray, and Yager were the culprits. I recalled a collective agreement amongst the group not to mess with anyone’s sleep. Obviously these guys didn’t get the memo.
We had the first fight pick and Chuck called on his top draft choice Kyle Noke to take on Clayton McKinney. I knew very early on from only a few days of training with Kyle how talented he was. He had quick elusive striking and slick BJJ skills. Not to mention a stellar pro record of 16-4-1 and several years of training with Greg Jackson´s camp. I was confident that we would keep control. The Moneyshot was definitely a dangerous opponent but Kyle didn’t disappoint and finished the fight in the first round by triangle choke.
Our team had the momentum and you could sense us growing stronger as a unit by the day. I have to say that Chuck is by far one of the most solid individuals I have ever met. His calm and laid back demeanor brings a sense of confidence to everyone around him. During the show he was not concerned with much else other than the well being of all of the guys on his team, and getting another chance to fight Tito of course. We all knew that Chuck had our backs no matter what.
The first week on the show was definitely a step outside of reality. Everything you do there are cameras and sound guys following you. I remember one morning they extensively covered me making breakfast. I never knew that watching me make oatmeal was such an important event. There were lights and cameras everywhere and you always had to wear your microphone necklace, which would start to feel much like a collar.
Either way I was happy to be in the position I was and very focused on the task at hand. Every night I would write in my journal and look at a few pictures of my wife Ana and I from back home. There was one of her and I down in Miami with palm trees and aqua blue ocean in the background. I thought to myself that would be one of the first places I would go back to when I returned home. I missed her and my home a lot. I thought of my family and friends as well. All of these were small doses of sanity that helped give me strength in this otherwise insane situation.