by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy IFL)

It’s no secret that in the past when Playboy models have been brought into MMA it hasn’t exactly gone over well with the fans.

First there was Carmen Electra at UFC 39 and then Lisa Dergen’s multi-show run as a post-fight interviewer. The former came and went mercifully quick, while the latter became the fodder of many for its cringe-inducing moments of awkwardness, culminating in ridicule from the UFC’s own one-time broadcast team of Joe Rogan and Phil Baroni.

So earlier this year when it was announced that another Playboy model, namely 2005 Playmate of the Year Tiffany Fallon, would be joining Bas Rutten for the IFL’s My Network Television “IFL Battleground” show, you could almost hear the MMA community groan with discord.

However since the show’s dubious debut, famous for its “stretcher” promos – of which Tiffany was not involved – the show has become more of what it intended out to be, a look inside the world of the athletes of the IFL, spotlighting their unique personalities and lives, as well as their fights.

Fallon, for her part has shined, interviewing fighters and asking questions to help accolade newer fans to the sport with the help of Rutten, one of the sport’s premier experts and ambassadors.

In speaking to Tiffany herself, you’ll find she’s intelligent, funny, and genuinely passionate about MMA, breaking any preconceived notions one might have of a model coming into the world’s fastest growing sport.

Recently Fallon took time from her hectic personal and professional schedules to discuss with MMAWeekly her role on “IFL Battleground” and what lays ahead for MMA’s only primetime network television show.

MMAWeekly: First off Tiffany, how did you get involved with “IFL Battleground” on My Network Television?

Tiffany Fallon: I had seen many MMA shows on TV, and I’ve always had a love for sports broadcasting and sports in general, so when it did come across my team’s desk, they pounced on it. They really encouraged me, “This is something that’s going to be huge one day that you need to be a part of,” and I didn’t think twice about it. I’m like, “I’m in.”

MMAWeekly: What were those early experiences on “IFL Battleground” like?

Tiffany Fallon: Well, it’s been interesting for me because I grew up in a household of Martial Arts. My dad and brother are both Black Belts in Karate, but I never participated myself. So I was used the sport as discipline and self-defense, never mixed with boxing, wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu, so I was a little bit out of my element [at first].

But my first show was Atlanta, my old stomping grounds, so I really felt the connection there and felt at ease. I started asking Bas a lot of questions in between takes and while interviewing fighters, coaches and even Kurt [Otto, IFL Commissioner] and Gareb [Shamus, IFL CEO]. I was asking questions on camera that not only would the viewers like to know, but I myself was so interested in. [Questions like:] “How did this come up? Where did you get the fighters from? What are their training methods like? What’s the difference between jiu-jitsu and wrestling-based fighters?” Genuine questions that probably made for pretty damn good TV, considering I didn’t have the answers.

It evolved into a place where my co-host would have virtually every answer I would ever need. And so I’ve become more comfortable with it, with the athletes, knowing where they’re based and how they train. But every once in a while I’ll go, “Bas, why do they do that?” because I’m literally and genuinely curious and passionate about this sport.

MMAWeekly: Speaking of Bas, everyone in our sport is very familiar with him over his careers as a fighter, commentator and all-around ambassador of the sport. Did you know anything about him prior to meeting him and what’s it been like working with “El Guapo”?

Tiffany Fallon: I knew him from his prolific career. I knew of, for instance, his athletic ability, but he’s intimidating to look at, at first, in person. In that first meeting I was just awestruck by how charismatic he was, and how endearing and gracious he is with fans and fighters.

With me right off the bat there were no pretences. He wasn’t a prima donna by any means and he’s really very confident in what he’s done in the past. He’s very good at what he does for our show, and not only that, but what he does for our sport. I just really get a kick working with him.

MMAWeekly: So now I guess he has to send you the money he promised for speaking well of him, huh?

Tiffany Fallon: Exactly, done and done. [Laughs] You know, he has this hard-nosed career and he’s a champion in the ring, and he could very well be a jerk outside the ring, but he’s completely genuine and seems like a very good father, husband and is very passionate about his work.

MMAWeekly: And the fighters themselves, what’s it been like meeting and interacting with them?

Tiffany Fallon: I get such a kick out of meeting them personally away from the cameras. They really have a passion not only for the sport, but for the IFL. The IFL has provided these guys with a whole other level of security; as far as their families, their well being, insurance, and you can tell they’re very gracious about it. They all come from different walks of life, that’s why I love meeting them.

It’s interesting to me and it’s surprised me to how personable these guys are and how respectful they are, not only to me, Bas and the fans, but to their opponents. And that’s what I’m really spreading the word about when I talk to women about the sport or the media outlets, is how gracious and well-disciplined this sport is. Yes, you’re going to see blood and see someone get their ass kicked, but there’s a lot of respect.

I think it’s great for this world, especially when you see athletes get in trouble in football or in basketball for this and that. These guys are just on a whole different level when it comes to respecting themselves and each other.

MMAWeekly: Now that we’re about halfway through the season, we’ve already seen quite a change in the “IFL Battleground” format from those early episodes. What can the fans expect from future installments?

Tiffany Fallon: It’s constantly evolving and we’re getting more comfortable, Bas and I. We’re spending more time together, with the families, the celebrities, outside the ring and how these guys train and what their family life is and what their training regimen is. It’s just a constant evolution of getting inside these guys’ worlds. Where I don’t think any other organization has really cared about what these guys do outside the ring or cage.

Getting to know these guys on a personal level, their lives outside the ring, for me, it’s a great process. I’m learning as we go and I’m enjoying this whole evolution of their sport and growing with the IFL.

MMAWeekly: So you definitely see the show focusing more on the humanity of the sport, rather than the actual fights themselves?

Tiffany Fallon: Exactly, the humanity of the sport. I appreciate that as a woman viewer, because I know a lot of women sit with their boyfriends, husbands, significant others and they look at this as very brutal. But if you think of how these guys train, their passion for it, where their hearts are and what their history was, whether they were wrestlers in college, Olympians or are paramedics during the day, I think it adds some bit of humanity and heart to the whole sport. I think the show helps appeal to a wider range of fans that way.

MMAWeekly: Okay, let’s talk about your personal career for a moment. What kind of things do you have on the horizon for yourself that the fans can check out?

Tiffany Fallon: I’m dedicating a lot of time to the IFL, because they’re my bread and butter, and I really enjoy it. But with my husband in the music industry, we’re catching up on being newlyweds, going to all the awards shows that he’s attending and things. Between fights, that’s what I’m doing.

I’m always working with Playboy. They’ve always been a big backer of mine, and I help them from time to time on projects. You’ll see me pop up in an ad, or endorsing a certain project, and I just did a special with them called “Anna Nicole Remembered,” a special on Anna Nicole Smith. I do a lot of work with CMT [Country Music Television] and I’m looking forward to spreading my wings. Maybe using my hosting abilities and work that into maybe some acting roles. I’ve done a little in the past, so I’m thinking about maybe diving that way again.

I always enjoy the sports world. That’s been my first love. I graduated with a degree in Sports Management from Florida State, growing up in South Florida, so I have this love of sports that keeps coming back up in my life. It’s something that in my career that always comes back around. So I feel I’ll be involved in the IFL for quite a while.

MMAWeekly: Before we head out, as you mentioned, your husband is a musician, Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, and they win a lot of awards. So which is more exciting, going to an award show and seeing him win or watching fighters battle it out in the IFL ring?

Tiffany Fallon: Well, I’ve seen them win awards for years, so I’m going to have to go with the guys in the ring. We’ve got a room full of trophies, they come and go, but a real fight, I’ll take that any day.

MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time Tiffany, is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?

Tiffany Fallon: You can go to TiffanyFallon.net and that has a space where fans can read my blog, learn about different happenings and attractions with me, like if I appear on a magazine cover, it’ll be there. That’s the place to go, or IFL.tv. I’m just really excited to be part of this organization, sport and I suggest you tune in, watch and have fun with us, and keep it locked down on Monday nights to “IFL Battleground.”