Hello, and welcome Bloody Elbow readers to a new series we’re calling Retro TUF Recaps (RTR). This came about after recently getting my hands on a real deal DeLorean time machine and “convincing” Victor Rodriguez to climb inside and take a little trip with me back to the year 2013. And since we can’t mess with the timeline too much while we’re here, we’ve decided to check out an old season of The Ultimate Fighter before heading back home.
And to kick things off we chose to review one of the more reviled seasons of the show with TUF 18 featuring Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey as the first ever female coaches.
Retro recap – TUF 18: Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate
It was the summer of 2013 and Ronda Rousey was undoubtedly one of if not the biggest next BIG things in MMA. After taking the Strikeforce WBW title off Tate in March of 2012 and defending it against Sarah Kauffman, she was crowned the inaugural UFC WBW champion when the Strikeforce roster was folded into the UFC’s. She then became the first woman to headline a UFC PPV by defending her belt against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in February 2013. Ronda Rousey was on top of the world and looked for all intents and purposes to be unstoppable.
The “Death, taxes, and Ronda Rousey by armbar” meme was around for a good reason. As an Olympic bronze medalist in judo, she used her skills to great effect after transitioning to MMA. She was a perfect 3-0 as an amateur and 7-0 as a pro with all of her fights ending with a first round armbar submission, and all but two of them coming within the first 60 seconds.
Ever in search of a big name or gimmick, and sometimes both, to help boost the sagging ratings of an aging reality show it was only natural for the UFC to name her as one of the head coaches for the upcoming TUF season. This would also be the first TUF to feature a mix of both men and women looking to score themselves a UFC contract. The opposing coach and title challenger was going to be another WMMA trailblazer, Cat Zingano, with Cat being the first mother to compete in the UFC and the first woman to score a knockout win in the promotion.
Cat earned her position by mauling Mishea Tate in April (the aforementioned KO), however she would never make it to the TUF mansion in Vegas. She suffered a pretty serious knee injury that would keep her benched for the next year and a half and was off the show before the cameras even started rolling. Eventually she would get her chance at Ronda Rousey in February 2015 after handing future GOAT Amanda Nunes her second to last loss ever in her comeback fight.
So that is why Miesha was selected to take her coaching spot and title shot despite having lost her title eliminator fight to Cat. And I think that pretty much sets the stage for what the MMA world was like 10 years ago, unless Victor says I’ve forgotten something?
VR: You gotta remember that Ronda Rousey was white hot and everything she touched was gold. So having her against someone she hates and using the framing of reality television was going to help fuel engine and draw viewers. Well, at least in the UFC’s calculations. And that wasn’t a bad bet, I remember this doing respectable numbers.
It seems to me that this was a marketable rematch between Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey considering that Zingano had suffered a pretty gnarly injury after being scheduled to coach against Ronda Rousey. That also led to some really weird stuff afterwards, but that drama isn’t exactly germane to what we’ll be discussing. But it kind of worked out since there was no clear challenger other than Tate at the time. They ran with it, and it was fine.
DS: As Dana explains the premise of the season we’re shown brief glimpses of them arriving at the hotel, hugging their loved ones, and talking about why they chose to be fighters. They’ve brought in 32 fighters, 16 men and 16 women, for tryouts and half of them will be culled so it’s just 8 and 8. And I have no idea who most of these folks are.
VR: Gotta put on my MMA Hipster hat, because I’d at least heard of most of them. Revelina Berto was a pleasant surprise, as she’s not only Andre Berto’s sister – her dad actually fought at UFC 10. Laura Howarth had made some noise on the regionals and so had Gina Mazany. Jessica Rakoczy gained a bit of traction on social media bolstered by interest due to her boxing background.
Bollinger earned more infamy later in World Series of Fighting. Tonya Evinger had been rolling around the regionals. Chris Holdsworth was a Team Alpha Male prospect that some people were high on for good reason. Letorneau had already fought future UFC talents Alexis Davis, Sarah Kaufman and Claudia Gadelha before getting here, all of whom she had lost to. I had heard of Danny Martinez because he fought Joseph Benavidez in the WEC, but never saw him fight. Shayna had fought in Strikeforce while Modafferi was another known veteran finally putting down roots stateside. Finally, Tara LaRosa had been one of the most respected submission fighters in the MMA world for a good while.
Ronda Rousey, meet your opposing coach Cat Zin… I mean Miesha Tate
DS: When Ronda Rousey sees Miesha Tate walk in through the door she puts on a smile and apathetically shakes her hand and feigns not knowing why she’s there instead of Cat. And this is partly why Ronda Rousey never made it very far in Hollywood, she’s just not a good actress. Not that Tate’s performance is much better but she comes off as far less forced.
VR: It’s gotta suck to hate somebody, expect to do a show with someone else that you have no real beef with, and that one person you hate shows up. Ronda Rousey probably thought this was some kind of prank or something. And this is assuming that they really didn’t tell Ronda Rousey what the deal was. So… whatever, I guess.
DS: Here we have our first sighting of some of Ronda Rousey’s coaching staff. It’s my understanding that they pretty much have their pick of the litter when it comes to their coaching staff, when Rashad Evans was coaching against Quinton Jackson he had a mix of guys from Greg Jackson’s and the Grudge Training Center camps. So who exactly has Ronda Rousey brought in? None other than… Edmond Tarverdyan… I am so glad I bought a new bottle of Maker’s Mark as part of my prep work for this.
VR: Ronda Rousey had Manny Gamburyan there, and that was cool. Marina Shafir was also a coach, and
I guess that made sense due to her friendship with Ronda Rousey due to their time together in Judo. But that also seems like a weird choice, right? Manny had MMA experience, at least. But Edmond as the striking coach? In retrospect, it’s downright irresponsible. At one point Ronda Rousey says “I trust him impeccably”. I just… no. Come on.
Ronda Rousey trained at Hayastan. She left for whatever reasons she had at the time, but Ronda Rousey had to have way better connections than this. You may think that I’m just being a hater for being so negative here, but perhaps you need a reminder of precisely who and what we’re dealing with here. Haterism is different, it actually looks like this.
I mean… Tate had Bryan Caraway as a coach, but he had fights and wrestling credentials. You could learn from that. I distinctly remember Dennis Hallman coaching on Team Tate, maybe he shows up later. He was a slick submission grappler that submitted Matt Hughes twice in under a minute combined. You might want a guy like that helping your crew. But Edmond? His track record since tells us more than enough.
Interestingly enough, Ricky Lundell was coaching for Team Tate, but he later helped corner Ronda Rousey’s husband Travis Browne and other Glendale Fight Club talents. If you take a shot for every bad coaching decision here, your liver won’t make it to the coaches challenge. We’re trained professionals beaten down by life and disappointment, so don’t try this at home.
DS: Don’t forget that I’m German/Irish Victor, I’m literally built for this.
Ronda Rousey tells the camera “I’m going to retire undefeated” and I’ll take “Things the MMA gods take an exception to” for $1,000 LeVar.
VR: I’m imagining Burton as Geordie LaForge taking off his visor and going “I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see this.”
Fight like your life is on the line just to get into the TUF house
DS: Here we are 10 years in the future and knowing what we know about how UFC contracts are structured and how little the fighters make in relation to the profits they generate, Dana standing there telling them to leave everything in the cage is basically him saying “Put your health on the line for peanuts”. What about the fighters who don’t make it into the house? What do they get to do? Wash Dana’s Mercedes while he chucks nickels at their heads?
VR: Leaving everything in the cage… for an exhibition. To get in the house. That’s just so gross, looking back. These cats ain’t even making rent money and the best-case scenario is them winning the whole thing and being chained to a contract that’s somehow even more absurd than your standard UFC contract.
DS: The first hopeful we’re properly introduced to is Jessamyn Duke.
VR: I always liked Duke. She seemed nice and had some potential.
DS: I don’t know if Duke was already friends with Ronda Rousey and was part of Edmond’s Glendale Fighting Club camp or if it all started here, but the two of them along with Shayna Baszler, and Marina Shafir would later be labeled as The Four Horsewomen Of MMA. This was a play on the old pro wrestling heel group The Four Horsemen who were lead by Ric Flair and ran roughshod over the NWA/WCW back in the 80’s.
VR: And it was a cute attempt at reviving that, but the reputation was unearned at the time. And oh boy, did it not age well. I’m guessing that all came together later with Shayna and Jessamyn joining Glendale and later CSW.
DS: Not only that but WWE tried playing with that gimmick a bit when they signed Ronda Rousey and the others got development contracts. From what I understand it was the equivalent of taking Sid Vicious, Paul Roma, Jeff Jarrett, and Mongo McMichael and calling them the Horsemen. For you non wrestling fans, that’s really really bad.
Something to take note of here during the tale of the tape is that the TUF production crew isn’t above some chicanery, and I don’t mean editing footage to make someone look better or worse than they may actually be. I’m talking about them altering fighter records by adding phantom wins and subtracting losses. Previously I caught them switching James McSweeney’s actual record from the abysmal 3-4 to the very unrealistic 7-2, and they’re doing something similar here.
This fight took place on May 29th 2013 and at the time Duke’s record was 5-2 as an amateur and 2-0-1 as a pro, so this is accurate. Laura Howarth’s however is a bit different. She was 4-0 as an amateur and wouldn’t have her first pro fight until the following December. But for some reason they’ve listed her as being 3-0 taking away one of her wins. I don’t know why, just something to keep in mind from here on out.
VR: See, I totally forgot they did that sort of thing in the past. It feels so unnecessary, too. Just arbitrary record inflation, and all for what?
What do you mean there’s 16 fights to watch?
DS: When I first asked Victor about working on this with me, I had no idea there would be 16 fights to cover in the first episode, so I’m sorry for dragging you into this and I’ll understand if you don’t send me a fruitcake for Christmas. And since we’d be here until Christmas if we had to recap all of these fights in detail, how about we just go over the highlights?
VR: Nah, that’s fine. The fights are the most watchable thing other than some training stuff. My usual modus operandi for this is fast forward until I see training, then do that again until they actually fight at the end of the episode. I can breeze through a season in two days like this on top of other commitments.
But I will say this: I appreciate the effort in condensing some of these into highlights. It’s humane and viewer-friendly.
DS: I don’t have much to say about Davey Grant but after that illegal 12-6 elbow on Martinez’s spine and then an illegal knee, it makes me wonder how clean of a fighter he’s been during his 10 year long (and counting) UFC stint.
VR: I guess this was… odd. You just felt for Danny after that knee. Not that it has much bearing on his other subsequent fights, but this is a terrible way to be introduced to a fighter.
DS: While we’re just shown highlights of the Jessica Rakoczy and Revelina Berto fight, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sponsor of this segment, NOS energy drink. It’s pronounced N O S, not “NAWWWS”. If you ever hear someone calling nitrous oxide that, back away slowly like you would from a coiled cobra.
VR: You thought modern sponsors like Grunt Style were bad. At least you’d see sponsors back then that you could actually walk into a store and see stocked on a shelf, like Corn Nuts. Kid Nate detailed the shift in recent years with some great comments via John Nash regarding the ever-increasing amount of weird or lower-level brands showing up in the Octagon. Worth noting.
DS: Apparently Michael Wootten vs. Emil Hartsner was such a wet fart of a fight we’re only shown about 30 seconds of the 15 minutes they recorded. I’m not complaining.
VR: Having seen how the sausage is made on the production front, trust me when I tell you they did you a massive favor. It’s bad enough they didn’t split this into two episodes, the least they could do was this.
DS: I don’t know what kind of fighter Peggy will turn out to be, but her mean mugging skills are Grade A.
VR: Spoiler alert: not a very good one. I can’t find it now, but there was a very weird video with her coach speaking for her and going on some real transphobic crap about Fallon Fox, which is unsettling to say the least. It felt a bit culty, and I don’t even remember if that matchup was even on the table to even begin to elicit that sort of reaction. She’s a good writer, though. Hope she’s in a better place now.
Say hello to Roxy
DS: Next we’re introduced to Roxanne Modafferi, who would later go on to become a contributor to a little online karate magazine called Bloody Elbow. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s where all the cool MMA fans like to hang out.
VR: Roxy already had her blog detailing her life in Japan and being a pro fighter, and it was interesting to see her here. Her long stint in Asia and her two Strikeforce bouts garnered interest, even if she was on a losing skid coming into this. But she made for great TV not once, but twice. More on that later.
DS: Since every reality show needs a heel, it seems Tim Gorman is stepping up to fill that role by saying he doesn’t know what Miesha’s name is or even who she is. That’s ok Tim, I don’t think she knows who you are either, but at least she has a wiki page which is something that can’t be said for you.
VR: See? This is the garbage I keep talking about. It’s why I mostly skip giant chunks of this show, to avoid this sort of numbskullery. Part of me thinks he just said this as a thing to say just to be inflammatory. You need to have a personality that is engaging enough to be on the show, and this smells like the Chael Sonnen effect was taking hold and Tim was determined to separate himself from the pack. Then again, guys were doing the “playing the heel” bit on this show well before him, it’s just that he’s not very convincing in it.
The smelly kid always gets picked last
DS: I’m just going to skip ahead to when they’re making picks for dodgeball.
Ronda Rousey selects Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, Peggy Morgan, Jessica Rakoczy and Chris Beal, Davey Grant, Anthony Gutierrez, Michael Wootten.
Miesha Tate goes for Julianna Peña, Sarah Moras, Raquel Pennington, Roxanne Modafferi and Cody Bollinger, Chris Holdsworth, Josh Hill, Tim Gorman.
Since Ronda Rousey won the coin toss and chose to pick the first matchup instead of getting the first pick, she decides to have Baszler face off against Pena, which we won’t see take place until next week. And with that I believe Victor and I are done here for the night, but we’ll see you folks next time.
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