We’ve seen fighters cry. We’ve seen fighters in the shower accused of doing something unclean in there. We’ve seen Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock left alone in a room with a camera crew for what seemed like hours.
Last week, we saw the most awkward scene in the history of The Ultimate Fighter.
Everyone’s surely sick of hearing me talk about touting Ronda Rousey as a future MMA star a few years ago. I never dreamed she would be this successful this quickly. I also never dreamed she would embrace the role of MMA sexpot. Oh, the Octagon Girls still get their share of attention, but Rousey is now the Mae West of MMA.
So when Dominick Cruz brought the sharply (but modestly) dressed MMA champion into the gym, things would surely get interesting. And they did, in the sense that the Olympic judo medalist really knows her stuff and has a few things to show the guys. And give full credit to the guys on Team Cruz for realizing her expertise and paying attention to her as they would any other guest coach on the show.
Then she went to the house …
I don’t know what the producers, Cruz or Rousey herself expected to happen. If she and one of the guys had “snuck away” (with a camera crew in tow), surely FX would’ve showed that in the previews, and this wouldn’t have been the lowest-rated episode in show history.
Perhaps if Rousey had showed up with these 16 guys under different circumstances, she would’ve been the center of attention. But the guys had gathered to watch TV for the first time in weeks, and it was a compelling UFC pay-per-view card. And … there were cameras. Most of these fighters have girlfriends or even wives, and the last thing the guys want upon their return to civilization is a good argument about how they acted in the presence of that blonde girl on that show. And the fighters who don’t have significant others don’t have much incentive to make idiots of themselves hitting on a public figure, all for the chance to say, “Thanks for your number — I’ll call you in six weeks!”
Jeremy Larsen summed it up pretty well: “Everyone was like, sitting around her but not really next to her. I guess it’s just, we’ve been here so long, everyone’s just … they don’t even know how to act around a girl any more.”
As it turns out, the guy who sits closest to Rousey in the TV room is compelling personality/camera hog Chris Tickle, who is already on record saying he can’t wait to get home to his fiancee. And Tickle, bless his heart, was a perfect gentleman. Even when Rousey seemed intent on turning the scene into closing time at TGI Fridays.
(OK, I have no idea what closing time at TGI Fridays actually entails. It’s a throwaway NewsRadio reference. I’ve been happily married for more than 12 years, and in my miserable days as a single man, I never attempted to pick up someone at a bar or whatever the kids do nowadays.)
So Rousey twirls her hair and looks increasingly agitated as the guys … watch the UFC pay-per-view on TV. Until the following conversation ensues:
TICKLE: Is there anything you want? We have a whole bunch of (bleep).
ROUSEY: There’s something I want, but I don’t want to ask for it publicly.
(OK, that’s not going to make anyone nervous or anything.)
ROUSEY: I’m (unintelligible) diet at this time, and what I’m really craving right now is salted nuts. But I don’t want to ask for it in front of everybody or to everybody because there’s a joke waiting to happen.
Tickle, for the first time this season, doesn’t make the joke.
TICKLE: Uh, I’ve got (mumble) trail mix. You want (mumble) trail mix?
ROUSEY: No, I’m fine. I’ll get it afterward. Thank you, though.
After an edit, we see Rousey sigh while Tickle just watches the fight. Also note: Someone takes Tickle’s drink when it appears he’s going to be getting it up, then hands it back the second she says she’s fine.
If the producers are trying to stir things up, they really need to dial it back. Way back.
Speaking of which, we do have another idiotic Cruz-Faber exchange, and Rousey is peripherally involved. As Cruz and Rousey head out of the gym, they bump into Faber, who clearly knows Rousey and decides to chat. The last 45 seconds of this clip will explain what happens next. Of course, Cruz isn’t just defensive when Faber talks to the stunning blonde next to him — in the previous episode, Cruz got all huffy when Faber tried to congratulate Chris Tickle on a good fight.
So what else has happened on the show in the last two episodes?
– Vinc Pichel won a sudden-victory barn-burner against John Cofer, coming out swinging in the third round and winning by arm triangle. Best fight of the season so far.
– Then last draft pick Chris Saunders upset Sam Sicilia in another Fight of the Season contender that Dana White thought bound for a third round. And he has a point. Saunders clearly won the first and rocked Sicilia midway through it, though Sicilia has his moments. The second round was back-and-forth, but Sicilia was winning the standup game and minimizing the effects of Saunders’ grappling.
– Andy Ogle was worried that Mike Chiesa might spill secrets to his best buddy and “Team Purple” teammate Sicilia. But Chiesa reassured him, and it didn’t matter. Sicilia lost, and Ogle will face Chiesa lookalike Mike Rio in the last bout of the round of 16.
– Ogle has struggled with his confidence. Rio has struggled with an injury.
– After Tickle’s loss, he was pretty pissed that Cruz questioned his heart. Tickle brought up his family, saying he was fighting for them. Cruz rightly shifted into apology/backpedal mode.
– Dana gave a big pep talk that challenged the censors, a la Kenneth live-bleeping Tracy on 30 Rock.
– UFC fighter Danny Downes has been writing witty recaps, especially for this latest curiosity.
And the book is coming along nicely. Thanks for asking.