by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
How does it take a 17-1 heavyweight five years to get into the UFC?
“I don’t know,” says Minnesota Martial Arts’ Chris Tuchscherer, owner of the record in question. “I honestly think being where I’m from, Fargo, North Dakota, I’m kind of up in the no man’s land up there. Just not getting the exposure for someone to notice me.”
In 2005, a green Tuchscherer applied for the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” hoping to leapfrog a small-circuit tour of duty in the Midwest. He spliced a tape of fight footage and a self-interview, trying to look respectable and poised.
Spike TV scouts told him he’d made the first cut and would get a call back if he was in the top 16. The call never came.
Tuchscherer shrugged it off and made the circuit, racking up victory after victory. Along the way, he met Brock Lesnar, who was just getting into mixed martial arts, and became the future champion’s training partner.
Success was a long ways away.
“I figured I’ll make it into the UFC one way or another,” said Tuchscherer.
After defeating UFC vet Branden Lee Hinkle in March, a friend called with news of a new TUF season for heavyweights. Tryouts were in Seattle, a half country away. Tuscherer convinced a local sponsor to spring for a plane ticket.
“The money wasn’t really there to just get up and go,” he said.
He went to the tryouts and impressed again, this time getting a call to Las Vegas, where Spike execs interviewed him further. He showed more teeth in the room. They seemed very interested in his record; he had wins over Hinkle and current prospect Krzysztof Soszynski. “I figured, cool, maybe I’m in,” said Tuscherer.
A week later, Spike called, but it was to tell him he once again hadn’t made the show “for no one reason at all.” “I hit the floor,” he said. “I was like, ‘Jesus, what the hell did I do wrong?’”
He was helping on his father in law’s farm when he got a call from his manager. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva had emailed a multi-fight contract with an offer to fight Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 102.
“I listened to that message and it was the weirdest feeling I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Tuchscherer. “I went from down in the dumps to just, boom. Whoa, here we go. Just telling you about it I get the feeling.”
Looking back, he’s happy he didn’t join the Kimbo season of TUF. He’s trained with one of the cast members, Zak Jensen, and expects Roy Nelson to win the show. But between six weeks in a house with 15 guys and a shot to beat an arguably top-ten heavyweight, he’ll take the latter.
“Being away from my family for six weeks, I think that would have been really hard,” he said. “So, I’m glad everything went the way it did.”
Tuchscherer says Lesnar helped him briefly in camp and will be there for Saturday’s fight.
“Gonzaga is very dangerous if you give him space and time to think,” said Tuscherer. “It’s a very good opportunity for me to make a name for myself and see where I’m at.”
As to whether his long resume we’ll help him, he’ll find out when his name is called.
“You can never be ready enough,” he said.