by Mike Dolce for MMAWeekly.com

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat

The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.


You may have heard this phrase used many times in your life,
often describing the highs and lows of organized sports competition. I had the
distinct privilege of experiencing both in the span of five days. Hopefully, I
can retell my personal account without sounding like a pu**y who is crying
about a loss. In this blog I’m trying to tell you exactly what I knew and how I
felt about it with no secrets.


Having made my way through the initial 32-man elimination
tournament of “The Ultimate Fighter 7” by way of highlight-reel knockout on a
Sunday, I was choked unconscious in the first round of the single elimination
tournament the following Friday.




Now that the series has truly started, I can go back a bit
and bring you up to speed.


We moved into the fighter’s house on Sunday night. Monday
morning the coaches chose teams. Monday night we trained with our team for the
very first time.


Tuesday we had a “media day” and were quarantined in the 8×14
kitchen of the UFC training center for nearly 12 hours with only takeout food
and each other’s conversations. It was good for getting to know each other, but
not so good for most else.


Wednesday is where my story really begins.


We arrived for Team Rampage’s first of two daily practice
sessions at 10 a.m., and that morning it was obvious that our coaches wanted to
see who we were as athletes. Just as important, they wanted to let us know
exactly who they were as coaches and veterans in the sport.


After pleasantries, we were informed that today was going to
be all conditioning. Mind you, the first fight pick was going to be at noon and
Team Forrest was not training until after Forrest made the first pick.


We started with a 2-mile run and a 20 minute “active stretch”
as a warm-up.


Rampage had seven different stations set up for us. Aerodyne
(bike) sprints, sprawls, heavy bag boxing, ground-and-pound floor bag, throw
dummy lift and slams, heavy-bag power kicks and hard pad work in the cage with
Juanito Ibarra.


All rounds were for seven minutes each with only 30 seconds
to get to the next station. All stations were to be performed at maximum
intensity with the coaches yelling for each of us to push harder and harder. In
all, we performed 11, seven-minute rounds of hard conditioning and everybody
was exhausted. We would’ve kept going until we finished all 14 planned rounds,
but it was past noon and Team Forrest was here to make the first pick.


None of that made the television broadcast. I don’t believe
I was really shown training at all. I do remember watching me read the Bible
though, which I didn’t actually have in my hands until just before my fight the
next day.


Right about this time, we on Team Rampage realized that one
of us was about to fight in two days, and our opponents were standing before us
fed, fresh and smiling.


I was the first choice. Evidently, Team Forrest felt that I
was one of the biggest threats in the bracket and wanted to get me out of there
quickly. I’ll take that as a compliment.


When my name was called, I was psyched! I love to fight. I
absolutely love it. And I was confident that I would win this tournament.


That morning, I left practice at 186 pounds. I had arrived
at 195.


Getting home, I began eating and re-hydrating all the fluids
and electrolytes I had lost during the first training session, then took a nap.


Knowing that I was weighing-in in 20 hours and fighting in
40, I planned on re-hydrating constantly and relaxing until the fight, allowing
my body every opportunity to begin the recovery process.


Walking back into practice at 5 o’clock that night I was
on-weight and planned on some light stretching and maybe some jump rope.
Quinton told me to get on the treadmill and run for 20 minutes at 6mph. I
raised an eyebrow and asked, “Coach, I’m pretty beat up right now and have to
weigh in tomorrow? I usually don’t train at all this close to a fight.”


He said, “I know, I just want you to get your blood flowing.”


Mind you, I was staring at Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the
freakin’ champion of the whole wide world, and he was telling me how to prepare
for a fight. Who the hell was I to argue with his logic, I figured as I laced
up my black Nike Shox.


Finishing the run, feeling ok, I grabbed a Pedialyte and sat
down. Just as my butt hit the seat, Juanito walked up to me and told me to put
my sparring gear on. He must be mistaken. I’m fighting in two days, remember?


“Rampage just told me to hit a run. I’m spent Juanito. I’m
fighting Friday,” I said to him.


“I know son. Coach Rampage wants you to get in the ring with
him and go over your fight. It’s a mental thing more than anything,” he said.


I looked into the cage and there was Rampage, full sparring
gear on, shadow boxing. There was the light heavyweight champion of the world.
Again, who was I to argue?


Getting in the cage, Rampage told Juanito to put seven
minutes on the clock for two rounds with a 30-second break. I turned to him and
said, “Coach, I’ve been training really hard for weeks, I’m tired. I don’t
think I have anything left.”


He said, “You need to do this to get ready for your fight.
This is for your mind, to react properly in each position.”


My mind? The only thing on my mind right then was, “How the
Hell am I going to recover from this sh*t?”


Fifteen minutes later, we were done. Thankfully, Rampage
didn’t try to take my head off or anything, he’s a great training partner
actually, but we went at a fight pace with less striking and more grappling.
Lots of clinching, wrestling and me getting up off the bottom. Very tiring.


I’m a strong guy, but Rampage is huge. I was glad when the
second round was finally over. Picking up my water bottle, I hear, “Zach, come
up in here and set the timer for 15 minutes.”


Zach Lyte was Quinton’s wrestling coach and an accomplished
mixed martial artist in his own right.


The plan was for Rampage and Zach to alternate taking me
down and just as I scrambled up, for the other to shoot back in and take me
down again. For 15 minutes with no break.


Do you see the comedy in this? I’m laughing again as I write


Again, I tell both coaches I’m shot, and they tell me, “Don’t
worry, we’ll just go light.”


Light? It was more like a live-drill pace than a fight pace,
but in no way was it light.


When that was finally over, the other seven athletes on my
team were brought into the cage and told to start in on double legs (takedowns)
and make me fight out of it.


This time, I say – more to Zach than Quinton, but loud
enough for my whole team to hear – “I’m done guys. I’m past my breaking
point. I can’t do anymore.” I was physically and mentally exhausted.


Zach tells the team to only go 60 percent on me, and I was
back fighting off shots and scrambling up off the floor. My teammates saw
exactly what was happening to me and half-heartedly performed their takedowns.
Great gesture, but it was too late.


On one takedown, I fell at 50/50 hips with Matthew Riddle
and posted my hand out to start a scramble. In doing that, the fatigue, and the
lost focus, I separated my shoulder, tearing the AC ligament and severely
damaging my rotator cuff. (An injury which I am still being treated for, but
that will come up in a later blog.)


Standing up, Juanito asked me if I was ok, as I turned to
answer, my left thigh began to violently cramp, quickly working its way from my
knee, up to the hip flexor and into my abdominal wall. I dropped down to the
floor contorted. Soon Juanito and a Glen, our assigned paramedic began trying
to work the cramps out with heat and some implement I had never seen before.


Surprisingly, none of this made it to the television screen


Fast forwarding my story, after eating and drinking at will,
I woke up for weigh-ins at 183 pounds. Three pounds below the middleweight
class limit and 10 pounds south of the 193 pounds I have woken up at for every
other middleweight bout I have contended.


“All things are possible to him who believes.” – Mark


I must have repeated that statement five thousand times,
between the weigh-in and actual fight. You see, at no point did I ever question
the outcome of the fight. I knew I was going to win. Losing wouldn’t even
register in my mind. Even while lying on the floor of the octagon, with two
grown men rubbing heating lube on my bare thigh and torso with television
cameras catching every sordid detail, I did not question my chances of winning
this fight. No way.


I competed and fought as hard as I could. That day, I tried
my very best to win and lost. I am proud of that.


After the fight, during interviews, the producers kept
asking me if I blamed Rampage, or my coaches for my loss. I would have loved to
have said yes, or to point the finger at someone else, but it wasn’t anyone’s
fault, it was my loss.


You see, winning and losing is very much like getting a
tattoo. Each will tell a story that will last a lifetime, your lifetime. Some
stories are great and some suck, but they are all yours.


This one is mine alone.


Dolce is a cast member of “The Ultimate Fighter 7.” He is a professional
fighter and strength coach. For more information, go to