"I was very down on myself when I first got out of the house," McDaniel admitted to MMAFighting.com. "I really was. I was down on myself, and I was not liking the way I finished the show. I did consider myself something of a [favorite]. I'm in [Jackson's MMA] giving these guys hell everyday, and going in and underperforming, of course I'm going to be down on myself.
"Now I'm back to a point where I'm feeling positive again. And if I didn't feel positive going into this fight, man, why am I still fighting? So I have to get back to being the guy that I was walking into the other fights. I was on a nice fight win streak before I got into the house. Technically I still am, but in my own head I'm not. I've got to rebuild, and that's what I've done. I've rebuilt. I went and talked to a sports psychologist. I've had to get myself back in tune with the person I want to be when I fight."
It was tough for McDaniel, a teammate and sparring partner of coach Jon Jones and once one of the favorites of the show. McDaniel entered the house believing himself to be an alpha, and left a shell of his former self following a string of increasingly disappointing performances.
McDaniel's new sports psychologist, Dr. Keith Wagner, is an old friend from his days at Wichita Falls. Wagner put McDaniel back in tune with the man he was before the show, and the 29-year-old fighter glows as he speaks of it. "I had to re-find the animal that I want to be in a fight," McDaniel said.
Today's world is a strange place. Someone you've never met, someone halfway across the world, can not only form an opinion about you, but then tell that opinion to you directly, with whatever variation of colorful language they manage. The public can be merciless, even if what it sees on TV isn't always representative of how events occurred in reality. In the case of TUF 17, miles worth of footage was left on the cutting room floor, most of it far more flattering to McDaniel than what ended up on television.
But ask anybody who knows him and real life, and they'll tell you. McDaniel is a likable guy. He jokes, he laughs, and for the most part, he's not bitter at the experience, despite how he was portrayed on the show.
"Am I happy all the way around?" McDaniel asked with a chuckle. "No, of course not. But I'm portrayed on the show as somebody that got a lot of airtime, and a lot of people understand the hard aspect of being a guy that's supposed to go in there and perform well and then not [doing it]. I feel like that all day long. I didn't perform well. These people that are seeing the fights, they're like, ‘You suck!' And I'm like, ‘You're right. That sucked.'"