Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Flashback: The TUF 2 Tryouts


The tryouts for season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter went down in Las Vegas, N.V. yesterday, and Bleacher Report ace scribe Jeremy Botter was on hand to witness what has over the course of almost ten years become an event in and of itself. Read his report here, and tell me if you don't get the impression that the tryout process is a well-oiled machine. It is, isn't it?

But the tryouts didn't start out that way. For the first season of TUF, the UFC simply called up a bunch of promising fighters and said, "Hey, want to do a reality show?" Only when that initial season proved to be a runaway success did the word "tryouts" enter into the equation.

So there I was one early morning in 2005, at Renzo Gracie's academy in Midtown Manhattan for the tryouts for TUF 2, watching as well-known local fighters like Joe Scarola and Eddie Alvarez and  shined, while lesser-known local fighters did okay and absolute "no names" with no experience got destroyed.

Of course, the whole process was less of an "assembly line" than it is today. Instead, Dana White wandered around with a clipboard, turning to Matt Serra every now and then and asking, "What do you think?"

I know from interviewing some of the hopefuls that they had traveled from all over the country just to be there, and ultimately, no one present made it on to that season (Alvarez was flown out to Vegas as a runner-up in case any of the starters crapped out, but he languished in a hotel and was never used).
But it was an experience. And certainly, it was insight into the shape of things to come. According to Botter's piece, there were less than 40 115-pound female fighters at the TUF 20 tryouts, but I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of male would-be TUFers at the tryouts for others seasons.

After nearly a decade of iterations of the reality show, and a handful of fighters who've garnered at least a modicum of fame, the TUF tryout is its own institution.

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