When I walked into the TUF gym for the first time…for the SECOND time as a contestant, I thought, “Welcome to the jungle. Here I go again. This time, it’ll be different.”
We saw Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje standing before us on either side of a big TV screen. I admit I fan-girled over Eddie a little bit at first. I’ve been watching him fight for years, and it turns out that we started fighting the same year, 2003, within months of each other! I wanted to be on his team so badly. I knew Justin was the WSOF champ and an exciting fighter, but didn’t know much about him personally.
On the way over, I had said to DeAnna, “Hey, when we are paired up for evaluations, do you wanna be partners? Since we already fought, you already know my game….” I was, not nervous, but I guess you could say wary, because we didn’t know the teams yet. I’d train with my teammates no problem, but I didn’t know who I was fighting first, so I didn’t wanna show them my favorite moves. DeAnna was all for it. When we got split up, we were in different groups. I politely told the staff that DeAnna and I would like to work together, so could we change groups? The friendly staff politely replied no, go with my assigned group. ^^;;
So I made a bee line for Rachael Ostovich-Berdon, who I was friends with on Instagram. I had posed with her many times at Invicta in our weigh-in costumes. lol
(I screen-capped the episode so images are copyrighted TUF or UFC or whoever)
We were with Team Gaethje’s coaches first. Justin, his striking coach Trevor Whittman, his training partner and wrestling coachMatt Lopez (current UFC fighter), striking coach Luke “Lil’ Hulk” Caudillo (former UFC/Strikeforce/etc fighter), and Vinny Magalhaes BJJ trainer! (fighter and my former teammate!).
Whaaaaat! VINNY?! I gave him a big hug.
Matt had us do strikes into take-down fit ins, to test our ability. Matt took turns going with each of us at least once. Then, we did rounds on the heavy bags observed by Luke. Trevor and Justin sat on a bench and briefly interviewed us. Why do we fight? Our motivation. Our heroes. etc I was impressed. It seemed very thorough.
Throughout this process, I kept hearing crashes and commotion coming from the cage area. (We were on the grappling mats.) “Dang, what are they doing over there?” I thought, about Team Alvarez evaluations. Then they went over to the treadmill and had the fighters run.
After one hour passed, we switched. I admit I was a little nervous …. I got to chat briefly with Eddie and he asked me about living in Japan. He had fought in Japan! Then he said, “OKay gear up. You’re sparring. 70%!”
I was like, “ummmmmmmmmm oh crap.” None of us had trained at all in a week before hand. I didn’t really WANT to spar someone since I didn’t know who I’d be fighting. I didn’t trust people to go easy….I didn’t want to go hard. I didn’t want to get beat up because I was going easy and they were going hard.
My first partner was Sijara. I remember chatting with her during the tryouts. She was so cool! A black belt in BJJ, we both agreed that if we’d get into the house, we’d bring our gi’s and try and get some gi training in. “Hey, Sijara,” I said, putting on my shin guards and she her helmet. “Sooo Eddie said 70% but that seems a bit much. Do you wanna go like 50% or something? Just show our technique?”
She smiled at me. “Oh no, he said 70%, so that’s cool! Let’s just do that!”
crap. ;_; alrighty then!
It really sucked. There was a heavybag in the middle of the cage dividing it so a few groups could go, so I barely had space. I was sliding all over the slippery plastic flooring since it wasn’t quite canvas… “Okay okay what do I know about Sijara?” I asked myself as we started testing jabs. I had followed her on instagram and she posted all these pics of her with her boxing coach. “Okay boxing boxing boxing….” suddenly I was in a front headlock …guillotine…or something. She had my neck and I couldn’t move. lol “JIUJITSU BLACK BELT!” My brain screamed at me. It was kind of a stalemate since I couldn’t move because of the headgear, and our gloves were so bulky she couldn’t quite get a blood choke. I forget if I tapped to get her to let go or if it was a crank or what but I survived that and then we switched partners. I think I sparred Maia? She was so fast. I was getting lit up when I stood in front of her. I couldn’t move well. I didn’t want to hit her back too hard! I looked horrible. Then I went with Rachael and she did some beautiful take downs and spinning stuff and finally I was tired of getting beat up because I couldn’t get my aggressiveness going, and I think I was like “RAAAAR” and flurried hard and took her down. I think it was Rachael I was sparring with. My memory isn’t the best under stress. lol I mean, Eddie is right when he says it’s the best way to see people’s abilities…I just… x_x wasn’t ready.
Anyway, then Eddie said he wanted to test our fitness by having us do sprints. My heart monitor thingies didn’t read my pulse, which is frustrating, but just another part of being the vampire that I am. (can’t eat garlic, look the same as in younger pictures, etc)
After we finished evaluations, I actually hoped that Justin would pick me for his team. My biggest anxiety was not having John Wood coach me. My second biggest anxiety was that my training partners would go too hard in training and hurt me, or we’d train too hard and I couldn’t recover and would get hurt and then everyone would hate me as a partner….surely Vinny would also put in a good word for me? I’ve heard Eddie was a good coach, though. I was just anxious all around. Other girls were probably anxious because they didn’t know what was gonna happen, and I was anxious because I DID know what could.
On top of that, he opened my envelop and said I was the number 1 seed! How cool!! That was so cool! I thought I would be in the top 4 but didn’t expect to be the first seed.
Later the interviewers asked me if I was surprised, and my first reaction was to say, “I’m not surprised, mother-fudgers!” That would have been hilarious. But even as a joke, I didn’t want to appear arrogant, so I just shrugged and reworded my answer.
After we all got picked, we got driven to the
House mansion! THERE WERE PILLARS and STATUES and a ping pong table and a stone table like in Narnia! There was so much vegetation! Huge pantry!
Two fridges! So amazing.
On the way over, I asked, “Whoever goes to bed early, let’s be in the same room.” Maia, Nicco, and Rachael spoke up. Thanks, Nicco, for taking the top bunk, because I always roll out of bed in the morning since I’m used to a Japanese futon being on the floor. And I didn’t want to die one morning forgetting I was six feet in the air. LOL
We had a huge closet Maia nicknamed “The Treehouse” because we often sat in there and chatted. lol
Every morning I woke up, ate breakfast, drank tea, digested that for a few hours, and put on sweat clothes, then went for a walk. I mixed in sprints to get my heart-rate up and break a sweat. After I had a good sweat going, I did yoga stretches, hoping to imitate my hot yoga classes that are so good for my back and shoulders and neck.
(That’s why I’m wearing a hat…to sweat. Not to be weird. I am weird, though, but that’s okay.)
I’ve suffered from nagging injuries, but thanks to yoga, my massage therapist Teri, strength training, stretching, and avoiding wrestling class, I’ve barely suffered for the past two years. Shout-out to Vegas Hot! Yoga and Pilates studio! Love you guys. Best yoga joint in Vegas. http://vegashot.com/
I was already in great shape going into the house, so I just had to keep up my condition, and do a little technique training for Shana. The coaches told me she’s a striker, so the obvious game plan would be to take her down. They said she threw low kicks so I should try and shoot in when she threw them. Alright. They had me mainly working with them, and I’m guessing it was to avoid any uncertainties of new training partners we didn’t know? I was very grateful. I know what it’s like to be a coach, and I recognized all the time and attention they were giving me.
This is Matt throwing strikes at me, and me closing the distance to take him down.
The whole group was from one gym Genesis Training Center in Colorado, except for Vinny and Miesha. They were all really positive, had really good energy, and gave off good vibes. I was still pretty anxious not having my normal coaches John and Captain around, but I just kept telling myself that I knew what I was doing, and they were with me. When you teach, you give a part of yourself to your students, so technique I did that I learned from them, is part of them. I could hear their voices and advice in my head if I summoned it.
The weight-cut wasn’t easy, but it was well-done and I had no problem. Maia woke up early to help me. Thanks, Maia! <3 I wore my Goku hair wig, symbolizing my love for the anime Dragon Ball Z. (On TUF Talk Bisping called it lame, but I don't mind. Of course it's lame and silly, and I'm totally okay with that! I like who I am and I'll never change. I'm just honored they're talking about me on TV! How cool is that!) anyway I relate to Goku a little with his desire to train, become stronger, and protect the ones he loves. He has a pure, childlike heart, and things are so simple to him.
I was very anxious the day of my fight. Last time I was on TUF, I fought Jessica Rakoczy. She was 1-3 coming on the show, but despite my superior experience, I still lost to her via powerbomb slam. I never take anything for granted. I never underestimate anyone. Ever!! Ever since I went to a Judo tournament in high school as a lowly orange belt and threw a brown belt ippon seionage in 5 seconds for the win, I realized what could happen in a fight.
Shana “Danger” Dobson’s striking is good. Her jab was like a homing missile for my face. I used my usual awkward movement, but I kept getting met with that dang jab.
But that’s fine, I’ve faced people with better striking before. I wasn’t gonna dive in.
I’d bide my time….and then I got the takedown and did my thing. I remember what Captain had been drilling with me regarding shoulder pressure lately.
We’d also been doing a lot of half guard passes. That’s exactly what happened in the fight! It was also great to hear Vinny in the corner. He told me in detail what to do and I pretty much did it. When I was hitting her, she was blocking a lot of my strikes, so I was wondering if the ref was going to stop it, but John always told me to just keep hitting and the ref has to. She couldn’t get out.
I’m so happy to have gotten the win, in the same way as my previous fight in Invicta May 20th a few months before.
I saw she hopped back up, not cut or injured. I was really glad.
It was such a relief to get a win. And other than a lump on my forehead, I was uninjured. It was the best possible outcome for me. The worst for her. I remember when I was on TUF 18, my friend Shayna lost early on, and had to spend 6 weeks miserable, knowing she was out of the tournament, but she couldn’t leave. I’m sorry for anyone in that situation, but that’s the nature of the jungle. Fighting is a tough sport.
I can’t wait to see the next episode next week!
Shout-out to my sponsor: webmaster, artist, poet nicknamed “wetdryvac” at http://wetdryvac.net/w/
Here are some samples of prints he sent me that he has for sale. He also built my website, and upkeeps my chat room.