September 15, 2009

by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 cast member Mike Wessel was the guy on set with the big smile, talking and cracking jokes. He was the guy with shaped eyebrows, the guy who quipped that the cast hated him because he was the hottest. He was the guy that dropped his pants to show everyone the tattoo that ran from top to bottom as a magazine photographer clicked away.

“I’m a fun loving guy that really don’t care what people think of me,” the 31-year-old Jonesboro, Ark., resident tells MMAWeekly.com.

That was before the booze stash at the TUF house was raided.

Wessel trusts that people that know him will understand his behavior. He doesn’t want to come off as a villain, but on the other hand, there’s not much he can do about it now.

His mea culpa: you had to be there.

“The first three, four weeks, it didn’t really get too crazy, because we were all so focused on the goal at hand: becoming the next Ultimate Fighter,” he said. “Week four, that’s when people started going stir crazy and acting like we were in a zoo. I’m not gonna say I didn’t. Everybody, at one point or another, did something stupid. Well, I’ll take that back. There were three people that didn’t, out of 15 people. Of course, I wasn’t within the three.”

The scenario played out much like Wessel’s post-football life. After a college career and a three-year stint in arena football, he had no structure. There was no one to wake him up in the morning, no one to tell him that he sucked, no one to help him get better. Left to his own devices, he drank and got into trouble.

Around week four, Wessel says he and the other fighters acclimated to the workload at the TUF training center. When they came home, there was no structure, and no place to hide.

“Lord of the Flies” was the analogy he and many other cast mates used to describe the situation.

“The middle stretch of it was something I’ve never dealt with,” said Wessel. “When people say, ‘you want to be an Ultimate Fighter?’ Well, that’s not real fighting. Real fighters have comfort zones. It could be a wife, it could be their kids – Wes Shivers was missing his kid. It could be your dog – James McSweeney talked more about how he missed his dog than anything. So, when we as fighters come home from training, we have something at home that makes us feel better.

“In that house, you have nothing. And when someone in the house had a bad day, everyone knew it. It was like wolves on a bloody sheep, man. If anyone in the house knew there was a weakness, they would start attacking real soon. That’s what it turned into. You’ll find out on the season who Piggy is, because there’s one kid in the house that turns into Piggy.”

Of course, Wessel can’t give details on what led to the island scenario, but it’s clear he was at the center of some drama.

“I’m one of the most mature people in the world when I know I have something that I can lose,” he said. “When there’s nothing I know I can lose, I turn into a criminal and an (expletive) real quick.”

Thankfully, the drama made for good fights when housemates faced off.

“There’s not one fight in this season that wasn’t kick ass,” he said. “Every fight was a damn good fight.”

Wessel was one of the few in the cast to have a UFC credit before joining, though he admits he squandered the opportunity by being unprepared (he fought Antoni Hardonk at UFC 92 and says he was partying the week before). The show, however, taught him to train correctly, which, as in his football days, was one of the stumbling blocks to success. Regardless of how he fared in the show, he feels he’s earned another shot at the UFC.

While he may not win everyone over with his personality, the structure he got from the show was invaluable.

“People that don’t know me will probably think I’m an (expletive),” he said. “But then again, they’re the ones that don’t know me. Maybe I’ll come out worse than Junie (Browning) and maybe people will like me as much as (Ryan) Bader. It’s all how they edit it. It’s all how you come across to the public, and to be honest, I don’t give a (expletive). I can’t change it; I’m not going to apologize for it. It happens, and oh well.”