Gathered in the Bishop-Gorman video room, Coach Ricky Lundell watched the second episode of UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 with head coach Miesha Tate and Team Tate cast member Roxanne Modafferi.
Episode one concluded with rival coach Ronda Rousey choosing the initial fight: Tate’s first pick, Julianna Pena, vs. Rousey’s No. 1, Shayna Baszler, the “one to beat” coming into the season.
MMAWeekly.com: First of all, what was it like watching the episode with Miesha and Roxy this time?
Ricky Lundell: Miesha and Roxy were very entertaining: laughing and smiling. We loved watching the whole crew; wished they were all with us at Bishop-Gorman. We all felt that the show gave us a lot of personal insight into the other team’s thought process and coaching style. I believe every episode is going to give Miesha more and more of an edge to overtake Rousey.
MMAWeekly.com: Do you remember what your reaction was to Ronda’s fight selection of Julianna Pena vs. Shayna Baszler, with Baszler being, arguably, the house favorite?
Ricky Lundell: Her presumptions of Pena were huge mistakes, and her selection wasn’t thought through thoroughly. She had no idea how much heart Pena had, or her true ability. It was a rash decision to go after the No. 1 pick, and they didn’t spend enough time truly scouting the other team.
MMAWeekly.com: How much time did you get to train Pena?
Ricky Lundell: I spent a few days helping Pena prepare for Baszler. She focused on squaring up the hips and keeping the pressure on Baszler. We knew that Baszler had the experience and if we let off the pressure she could utilize her experience as a veteran. Pena never stopped pushing forward and, over time, it paid dividends. Baszler started to break down, and the dog fight that Pena was able to create caused Baszler to make mistakes, even as a veteran.
MMAWeekly.com: What were some of Pena’s concerns that week?
Ricky Lundell: Pena wanted to make sure she was ready from every angle. She’s one of those athletes that you have to hold back rather than push. That can be good and bad. If you don’t have your eyes on her, whenever she has the opportunity to get on a mat, she could over-train. I can tell you, as a coach, I would much rather have a person I have to keep my eye on than the person I have to drag out of bed and doesn’t give me quality work. If Pena keeps fighting with grit and heart, as well as keeps learning, she is going to be at the height of our industry one day. Just gotta keep an eye on her. (Laughs)
MMAWeekly.com: What was going through your mind watching the fight?
Ricky Lundell: As a coach, I was talking Miesha and Roxy through areas that needed correction. They are such humble individuals, in every way. Roxy loves to ask questions and learn, and Miesha has the mindset of a true champion, always seeking the cutting edge knowledge. To show what kind of drive Miesha has, even though the show is finished for us, we still critiqued every part of the fight and talked about ways we could improve our athletes in the future. That’s why Miesha is where she is: pure drive to be the best at whatever she does.
MMAWeekly.com: What was your immediate response when Pena won?
Ricky Lundell: We were happy to take control. That’s such a major part of winning The Ultimate Fighter. Once you get control, you can’t lose it. Every decision is important. Lucky for us, we got the first pick, and Pena’s win captured the control for us.
MMAWeekly.com: What did you think of Ronda’s reaction to Miesha? (“Just to let you know, you smiling at my girl’s pain today is one more reason I’m gonna (expletive) destroy you.”)
Ricky Lundell: We were all shocked that Ronda was so sensitive about Miesha celebrating a win for her team. How weird would it be to see the coaches of the winning team crying for the person who lost at the end of the fight? Talk about a downer (laughs).
MMAWeekly.com: Tate said, “no one is scared of you,” referring to Ronda. Do you think that is accurate?
Ricky Lundell: Miesha truly isn’t scared of Ronda. She has some very nasty tricks up her sleeve and isn’t at all afraid.
MMAWeekly.com: Any final thoughts from the coach’s corner?
Ricky Lundell: With this week’s upset, you can see what I was talking about in my interview last week: Everyone is ready and anyone could win this show. The talent this season is amazing, and even Pena, being the underdog in every ranking out there, showed that this show is far from being predetermined. Don’t miss an episode, because the twists are only beginning!
Ricky Lundell, Assistant Coach for Team Tate, will be checking in with MMAWeekly.com readers each week as the season progresses. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram and let him know your thoughts.
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