My initial thought upon seeing The Ultimate Fighter house for first time was, “Oh my dog, we have a moat.”
Granted, it wasn’t a huge moat. More like a stream trickling underneath the walkway that led from the driveway to the front door, but I’ve never lived in a house with any sort of moat at all, so I was impressed.
At that time, I was living in a crummy little apartment in a crummy little neighborhood in Nashua, N.H., so the house looked to me like an absolute mansion. I mean, there were marble counters in the kitchen and a mothersqueaking waterfall in our swimming pool. If a waterfall in the swimming pool isn’t opulence, I don’t know what is. So long story short, I was more than happy to be moving into that place.
As soon as we got inside the house, everyone ran around claiming their bedrooms. Initially, Shayna, Jessamyn, and I were going to share a room with three beds adjacent to the kitchen, but that left Jessica and Roxy in a five-person room with the two Brits (Mike and Davey) and Timmy. It’s probably too early in the season for y’all to have a good read on Roxy (a.k.a. “Hot Rox” or “Foxy Roxy”), but she’s not the sort who’s all that comfortable in co-educational bedroom-type situations.
So Jessamyn, Shayna, and I traded with the boys and went to live with Jessica and Roxy. The upshot was that we had the coolest room (at least in terms of inhabitants), but the downside was that we had the smallest bathroom in the house. And if you are a woman or are at all familiar with the habits of women, you know that five females and one tiny bathroom is a bad situation.
That first week in the house was kind of like the first week at college. We were all getting to know one another and getting accustomed to being away from home. At the same time, it was completely unlike college in that there were cameras filming our every move and we were all keenly aware of the fact that the person with whom we were eating breakfast or chatting with might be the person we’d be fighting next. So it was kinda like college meets The Hunger Games.
Aside from the omnipresent cameras, I think the hardest thing to adjust to was the boredom. Outside of training, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. No TV, no books, no music, no Internet.
We all coped differently. Describing how the women of Team Rousey passed the time, I wrote in my journal: “Jessica cleans, Jessamyn talks, I sleep, and Shayna poops.” And if memory serves, this is a pretty accurate summary of what we actually did in the house.
Since the only place we got to go outside of the house was the gym, when team training time approached, we were usually about as eager to get into the van as a group of golden retrievers who had been promised a car ride.
The teams’ training schedules were staggered so that Team Tate trained from 8 am-10 am and from 4 pm-6 pm and then Team Rousey trained from 10 am-noon and from 6 pm-8 pm. Most of us were accustomed to doing double training sessions, so adjusting to life at the UFC training center was more a matter of getting used to working with different coaches.
My general impression at the time was that our team was a lot more organized than Team Tate. Listening to discussions around the house, it sounded to me like there was a lack of direction within the Team Tate coaching staff. I genuinely enjoyed working with Ronda ￼and her coaching staff, although I was the first member of Team Rousey to be arm barred by Ronda. It took her about twenty-seven seconds to isolate and extend my arm. I wasn’t sure whether to feel disappointed that I’d succumbed so quickly to the arm bar or exultant that I’d been submitted by The Ronda Rousey’s signature move. I’m still sorting that one out.
As far as I’m concerned, the most dramatic thing to happen that first week wasn’t the rivalry between the coaches or anything that happened in the house, but the upset that Julianna Pena pulled off against Shayna Baszler. I don’t think anyone expected Julianna to win.
Independently of each other, Jessamyn and I both applied to word “obliterate” to our predictions for that fight. Used in a sentence, it sounded something like this: “Shayna is going to f—ing obliterate Julianna.”
No one was more confident of this than Shayna herself. In the days leading up to the fight, Shayna strutted around the house delivering grandiose speeches about how absolutely offended she was to be pitted against such an unworthy adversary and declaring that under no other circumstances would the fight even conceivably take place. And in Shayna’s defense, it was a ridiculous match-up… at least on paper. But luckily for Julianna, fights don’t take place on paper. They take place inside a cage, and as any seasoned fighter can tell you, inside the cage anything is possible.
As much as it sucked to see Shayna lose, it was also kinda motivating. It seems that almost everyone who is knowledgeable about women’s MMA considers Shayna to be the strongest female fighter in the house. Julianna, on the other hand, is more or less unknown. Seeing Julianna pull off that win, I realized nothing was guaranteed and that any one of us had the potential to win the whole thing.