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Severn
09-18-2007, 04:34 PM
Another group endures six weeks hard labour in ''The Ultimate Fighter''
BYLINE: NEIL DAVIDSON, CP

Mac Danzig had friends who had been on previous seasons of ''The Ultimate Fighter'' reality TV show, so the mixed martial arts fighter knew what to expect.

But that knowledge didn't make the experience any easier.

''I knew what I was getting into, but it didn't necessarily make it any less stressful,'' Danzig said in an interview. ''When times got tough, it was still tough.''

In Season 6 of the show, which debuts Wednesday (Spike TV, 11 p.m. ET), the focus is on the welterweights with 170-pound UFC champion Matt Serra and former title-holder Matt Hughes as rival coaches.

The premise of the series remains the same. Take 16 MMA fighters, divide them into two teams and have them slug it out over six weeks until there is only one left. The winner gets a contract to fight in the UFC.

To spice up the show, the 16 are cooped up in a Las Vegas mansion without TVs, phones, computers, books or communication with the outside world apart from daily trips to a gym to train and fight. And they are shadowed by cameras everywhere they go.

Expect the usual testosterone-fuelled mayhem in the house, as bored men trash the furniture and bicker with each other. And look for bad blood between the coaches, a twist that has worked well in the past (witness Season 3 with Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock).

So how do Serra and Hughes get on?

''Not well. Not well at all,'' UFC president Dana White said.

The lack of love will only help sell a planned December title fight between the two.

In what is almost a tradition these days, the opening episode shows the two coaches alone, trying to ignore each at the UFC training centre as they wait for the fighters to arrive.

''There's no secret that Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, they're not best friends,'' said Danzig, whose record is 17-4-1. ''And they're getting ready to fight. ... They weren't on the show to trade recipes and play cards or anything.''

When it comes to talking up TUF, White rivals International Olympic Committee presidents who somehow find a way to say each set of Olympics is the best ever,

Season 5, which featured lightweights, was the series' best to date, White said at the time. This one ''is just as good or even better than last season,'' according to White.

The final report card will depend on whether the fighters and coaches can elevate the series from a format that has become a tad stale. The first episode offers some hope in the form of the smirking Hughes, who wastes little time playing head games with his good guy rival.

The show's producers have tweaked the format of the fights a little this time around, to prevent one team from consistently choosing who meets who in the ring.

Serra has now seen the show from both sides. He won the welterweight portion of Season 4, which was devoted to veteran fighters making a comeback with a title shot awaiting the winner. Serra used that opportunity to upset Montreal's Georges St. Pierre and now he is a coach.

Serra had an easier go this time around. He spent the six weeks in a Las Vegas apartment with his wife.

''It wasn't as stressful, but there were different types of stress because you care about the guys on your team,'' said Serra. ''You have more responsibility. I had responsibility the last time but basically just my butt was on the line.

''With this, especially when you're coaching and the type of guy I am, I get emotionally attached to the guys. I want them to really do well. Now I'm the leader, I've got to make sure I do right by the guys.''

Stress can come from the smallest things.

Danzig is a vegan and judging from the first episode, his dietary needs didn't get much respect in the house as his fellow fighters eat everything they find in the fridge.

When you're a vegan, it's not like you make do with a burger, when someone eats your food, Danzig notes.

According to Spike TV, the new cast includes air force veteran Daniel Barrera and Paul Georgieff, who is working on a master's degree in structural engineering. Billy Miles is a youth correctional counsellor who has a master's degree in criminology. Roman Mitichyan is an Armenian who came to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting while George Sotiropoulis arrived via Australia.

Joe Scarola teaches jiu-jitsu at one of Serra's Long Island gyms. Tommy Speer fought in the World Extreme Cagefighting.

Richie Hightower reportedly lost 100 pounds since starting MMA while Blake Bowman dropped 70.

These titbits should be taken with a grain of salt, however. Canadian Patrick Cote was amazed to find out on Season 4 that his official show bio listed him as a nationally ranked badminton player. In fact, he had played in high school.

Danzig, 27, had an interesting route to the show. A former King of the Cage lightweight champion, he fought Japanese star Hayato Sakurai in February in Pride's Second Coming show in Las Vegas. Danzig lost and then found himself waiting on the sidelines after the UFC bought Pride and struggled to revive the ailing Japan-based circuit.

Joining the cast of ''The Ultimate Fighter'' eventually seemed like the best option to get on the UFC path. Danzig credits the show with re-energizing him, acknowledging that his enthusiasm had waned because of lost opportunities. Prior to Pride, a contract with another organization had prevented him getting into the UFC.

''Once I actually got on the (TV) show, it was good. It helped me, kind of kicked me back into gear, reminded me why I was doing this,'' he explained. ''It was such a good opportunity to be on, such a good opportunity to get my name out there and to actually start making a living with the sport, which is something that I could never really do before.''

Danzig is good friends with Ultimate Fighter alumni Andy Wang, Gray Maynard and Forrest Griffin. He also knows Tait Fletcher and Edwin Dewees, two other TUF veterans.

A native of the Pittsburgh area, Danzig moved to Los Angeles to train some five years ago.

Danzig normally walks around at 170 pounds and fights as a lightweight at 155, although he has had two fights at 170. Like others before him, he agreed to move up a weight class for the show so he wouldn't miss out.

And like others, Danzig had to sign a all-encompassing contract that essentially allows producers of the show to do what they want with the miles of footage.

Danzig, who is not allowed to comment on what happened on the show until it airs, admits how he might be portrayed was a concern. So he tried to be realistic about it.

''All they're going to show is what you did do,'' he said.

''You accept that when you go on the show you're under a magnifying glass,'' he added. ''If you do one thing that's kind of outrageous and it's about five seconds long, they're going to show that and they might not show the hours and days of tension leading up to it. They'll just show you doing it.

''And people at home will judge you for it and they'll think they'll know how you are and they'll think they know why you did it. And they don't.''

LOAD-DATE: September 18, 2007

Submissionist
09-19-2007, 08:50 AM
Good read.
Picking Danzig to at least reach the finale.

patas
09-19-2007, 03:42 PM
good threat and i think danzig will go to the finale he is much experience than the others in the show.

halozero
10-04-2007, 06:51 AM
i'm pulling for danzig too--it's good to see a vegan on mainstream media....