The path to the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter has become one of the most popular ways for a fighter to not only get to the Octagon, but build a reputation along the way.
There are popular fighters born out of the show like Forrest Griffin and Joe Lauzon, and not so loved fighters like Josh Koscheck and Michael Bisping.
No matter how you cut it, if the performance pays off and you’re a memorable person in the house, the future can be very bright.
That’s the exact reason why veteran fighter Kyle “Alley Cat” Baker will make his third attempt to land on TUF, this time around as part of the initial cast for the new version debuting on FX in March 2012.
A veteran of more than 15 fights, Baker has faced some stiff competition in his years of fighting, taking on names like Drew Fickett, Douglas Lima, Brian Foster, and Chad Reiner.
Now he’s hoping to land a spot as part of the TUF 15 cast after almost making the final call most recently for season 11.
“I think it’s the third, maybe the fourth. I think it was season 9 and season 11,” Baker told MMAWeekly Radio about his previous tryouts.
“Season 11, that’s when we didn’t send the video in, we actually tried out. We went down to North Carolina and tried out, and they flew us out to Vegas, and we did all our medicals and stuff, so I thought it was a definite that time.”
Unfortunately, Baker didn’t get the call he was hoping for and so he had to get back to work in the regional fight game, and hope that one day he would receive that message from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches in this sport. If you get too worked up about things not going your way, or you’re not getting the fights you want to get, you’re going to have a short career. It was definitely disappointing in the aspect that I had postponed a lot of other stuff, a UWC title fight, I couldn’t take that at the same time that was going on,” Baker said.
To hopefully make the next step necessary, Baker took a fight in October with rising prospect Nick Duell. Prior to their fight, Duell had gone 8-1 and was a fighter definitely on the radar for a UFC opportunity. Baker ended that when he knocked out Duell in under 90 seconds when they met. He was hoping that would be the notch on his belt that the UFC was looking for.
“That’s why I took this last one because everyone said the UFC was looking at him,” Baker said about facing Duell. “Cause I mean the money was crappy, so I was just like what the heck, let’s do it. It was actually my first fight back up at 170 in probably a year and a half or so.”
The call didn’t come flying in after the fight, but Baker didn’t get discouraged, he just continued to work hard and hoped that The Ultimate Fighter route would pay off this time. Baker submitted another video and got ready for the tryouts that took place on Dec. 5, and he’s ready to show the UFC that he’s prepared to not only win the show, but to win over viewers as well.
“Dude, I’m ready to become a star,” Baker said with confidence. “I’ve put in my time fighting hard, it’s the easiest way to get a big fan base in a hurry, and I think people are just going to fall in love with the rawness of my personality. I’m not going to hold anything back. These young cats in the house want to buck up, we’re going to have problems. There’s only going to be one alpha male in there.”
This latest season will be the first time that the show airs the fights live when it shifts to FX on Friday nights in 2012. Not only will the fighters be required to live in the TUF house for all 10 to 12 weeks the show is filming, but it will lead right into the season finale where the fighters will square off, as well as their coaches.
Rumors have bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and challenger Urijah Faber as leading candidates to head up the first season of the show on FX, but Baker is hoping for a different route.
“I hope it’s not them little guys. I don’t want to train that hard,” Baker joked. “I’d rather have like Ken Shamrock and somebody. I’m getting old. Maybe get him and like Don Frye, that would be my dream team coaches.”
Baker even got ready for the possibility of having Don Frye as a coach by growing out a mustache to pay homage to the multi-time UFC veteran.
“I’ve been growing one out for ‘No Shave November’ that would make Don Frye happy. That would be good TV right there,” Baker said with a laugh. “When I go straight mustache, I look like a sex offender. It’s not cool.”
It’s unclear if Baker will keep the mustache should he make The Ultimate Fighter season 15 final call list.