The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Austrailia TV Report - Episode 1
Saturday, 18 January 2014 11:47
By Steve Juon
The gate rises, the fighters run into the gym featuring flags of both nations painted on the walls, plus huge posters of coaches Patrick Cote (Canada) and Kyle Noke (Australia). Vik Grujic from Australia is excited and says he feels like a little fish in a big pond. Elias Theodorou from Canada says all the blood sweat and sacrifice is to get here right where they are right now. Sheldon Westcott talks about Patrick Cote being a legend of the sport. Chad Laprise calls him a Canadian pioneer of MMA.
Noke gives his fighters a pep talk, saying that they've had a lot of fights to get here but he's glad they made it. Brendan O'Reilly says he's been a big name in Australia from before he even came to UFC. Cote gives Noke the coin for the flip and it comes up Team Cote. Cote says the first fight won't be announced for a couple of days so train and enjoy. Dana White says that all of the fights of this season will be evaluated and the best fight this year will win $25,000. They'll also give $25,000 for KO of the Year and $25,000 for Sub of the Year. He also says any fight that goes to a finish gets an extra $5000 bonus.
Cote gives a speech to the locker room and says everybody on Team Canada has to work together to defeat Team Australia regardless of where they're from or who their fight team was outside of this. Matthew Desroches said, "I want this more than anything else or I wouldn't be here." Cote says he has been through what they're going to go through, but it's six weeks that are going to change your life, make the most of it. Noke gives a similar pep talk to his locker room and says they should give 100% all the time. Noke says he doesn't want to hear about anybody crying because they're all tough Aussies and Aussies don't cry!
The fighters arrive at a house that's decked out like an upscale hunting lodge. Richard Walsh from Team Australia says he's not surprised. He makes note of the giant stuffed moose head. Dan Kelly talks about being a 30-something and a lot of other guys in the house being in their 20's. They start grilling up some steaks. Team Canada shows up second and start playing with the arcade hockey game. Nordine Taleb says he feels very blessed. Kajan Johnson says Taleb is a BEAST so I guess we should look out for him, and that Luke Harris is a judo black belt. He goes on to put over everybody on the team. Kajan puts a fur pelt on his head and starts doing a freestyle rap.Segment 2
Desroches talks about how blessed they are to be in this house and have this opportunity when we come back. Grujic says he's gotten 2-3 hours of sleep a night on the trip here. O'Reilly says it feels like you're supposed to be asleep when you're awake and vice versa. They're all honest about knowing they need some extra rest to adjust to the time shift. The next day, they have to use an XBox at the gym to pull up White for a video conference. "Every fight you have means everything in the world. I just wanted to say to everybody good luck, and welcome to the Ultimate Fighter." Jake Matthews says that made it real to him that this is TUF.
Cote announces the first fight: Johnson (Team Canada) vs. O'Reilly (Team Australia). Noke says he's surprised by the pick and happy for his team because he thinks it's a good match up. O'Reilly says he's happy to be first up and doesn't feel that's a disadvantage. Johnson says he knew he wanted to fight first. Tyler Manawaroa from Team Australia thinks Johnson is arrogant and O'Reilly is gonna kill him. Noke notes that Johnson may have had almost 30 fights, but that he's also lost about half of them. Johnson seems very confident though. At the house, he says he only has 3 pounds to lose. He goes outside to spar in the dark. Johnson got an eye injury two years ago that nearly ended his career because he was seeing double, but he went into surgery. "If I said I wasn't afraid for my face, I'd be lying."Segment 3
Cote is happy about everybody on his team working so well together. Laprise says that they had a hard sparring session. Cote says he's not here for his personal fame so if anybody has any questions don't be shy about asking. Luke Harris says they have so many tough guys and veterans that they stack up well against the Australians "You might even see a sweep or close to it." At the Team Australia session they're just as confident. Striking coach Israel Martines says no sympathy if you forgot a cup, the balls are gonna be sore for a while. Noke reminds them nobody's a star right now. O'Reilly says they worked on technique, game plan and escapes if needed. "I'm an explosive guy, I'm naturally quite strong, so we'll see how he can handle that. Pain has never bothered me. I just want to get in there and get the job done. We just want to learn as much as we can." There's a bit of a row at the house because and Elias were calling the Australians "weekend warriors" and O'Reilly says talking smack behind our backs is not the Australian way.
Johnson says his rotator cuff is almost torn and he's got a minor tear to his LCL. "I have these injuries, I know they're there, there's certain things I haven't been able to do in training camp. Even if I'm injured, I'm more dangerous than everybody else here. Everything that I've gone through in my life has led me to this. This is the closest thing I can get to being a ninja." Cote: "If you're not nervous, you're not normal." Johnson: "Once you let go of control of the outcome, and focus on the task at hand, it allows you to be a lot more free to be yourself in the cage."
Weigh-in time with Johnson the first to step on the scale. 168 for Johnson, so he's two pounds under. O'Reilly looks very squat, stocky and muscular with his shirt off. 166 for O'Reilly, so he's four pounds under. Johnson puts the fox fur on his head and O'Reilly puts a hat with a feather on his. Johnson: "If you can harness that spirit of play, that's when you're at your best. They shake hands and bro hug. Segment 4
Johnson has a philosophy about everything, and a story about everything. I suppose if you're a teammate or friend, that is what you'd love about him, and if you didn't know him you'd probably get tired of it really quick. He does this thing called "smudging" where he burns grass and rubs the smoke into his body to make sure he's physically and mentally prepared for the battle ahead. We get the final thoughts of O'Reilly too, who says he sees fighting not as bloodsport but as a beautiful art form. And with that it's time to get to the fight!
Johnson is 29, 5'8", has a 75" reach and is 19-10, while O'Reilly is 26, 5'8", has a 68" reach and is 5-0.
O'Reilly takes Johnson down 15 seconds in but he's back up ten seconds later. O'Reilly body hugs him and slams him back to the ground. Again as previously noted the Aussie fighters are in yellow and the Canada fighters in red. Yves Lavigne gives a warning to let go of the cage. Johnson goes for a heel hook but O'Reilly gets out of it. 1:15. There's blood everywhere because in one of the exchanges Johnson busted O'Reilly's face. Johnson tries to single leg him and finally just jumps on his back and works to get the hooks in. He's got one hook at two minutes and the blood continues to pour down the right side of O'Reilly's face. They're both up and standing at 2:30 but Johnson gets his back again and pulls him to the ground at 2:17 with a rear naked choke sunk in - he taps six seconds later and Lavigne stops the fight.Winner: Johnson (Canada) via rear naked choke - 2:49 of round 1
Everybody analyzes the fight on both sides, then we go back to the cage for the official announcement from Lavigne, but not before he smiles at the camera and says "Hi Dana!" We go to commercial after the victory is confirmed.
There's a CA-NA-DA chant. Johnson says he's surprised that O'Reilly didn't tap because he thought things might be breaking and he was trying to tear his foot off. O'Reilly: "I'm gonna grow from this experience and learn. I'm just happy that I fought it and showed that Australians are gonna be in it in every fight." The doctor says they'll stitch him up but they won't medically suspend him, so he could still be an alternate later if needed.
Cote gives Johnson a pair of Monster Octagon headphones, then makes the next fight. It's Elias Theodorou (Team Canada) vs. Zein Saliba (Team Australia). Both coaches seem confident about the pick as do the fighters. Preview for the season is Team Canada saying they're the best prospects in the country, but that Team Australia saying it's more than just a fight to them. We see a lot of hijinks in the snow, guys dressing up in costumes, coaches screaming "What the #%@! were you thinking?" Noke says they're fighting for their heart, fighting for their lives. Cote says he has the next Ultimate Fighter on his team, Noke says he has the next TWO.
Personal thoughts On Episode 1
As with any season of The Ultimate Fighter, editing makes all the difference in the world. The Canadian team is probably not as arrogant as they're being made to look, nor are the Australian team complete newbies with no experience, but it's a story they've chosen to tell to draw viewers in. As such I'm looking forward to seeing if the Australian team can "overcome the odds" based on the build-up from the first show, I also enjoyed seeing an entire team of fighters just show up and get to work without an opening week "win to get in" episode where half of the people we meet are eliminated and disappear.
I feel like I'll get to know these fighters much better as a result, and Johnson has done a good job (as did the editors) of making himself the breakout star. Here's looking forward to week two!Follow Steve's in-person coverage of UFC on Fox for the Observer all week long in Chicago.