Status: "Pain dont hurt"
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: New Jersey
| | Ultimate Fighter: Team Hughes Profile - Blake Bowman
Ultimate Fighter: Team Hughes Profile - Blake Bowman |
By Thomas Gerbasi
Ask Blake Bowman what was the biggest thing he took away from his time on the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and like any good comedian, he doesn’t miss a beat.
“I took away a pretty attractive limp,” deadpanned Bowman, whose one fight on the show ended in anti-climactic fashion when he blew out his knee and was stopped moments later by Richie Hightower. He would go on to have a full ACL replacement eight weeks ago, and is now forced to the sidelines until Spring of 2008.
Yet despite not making it to the show’s finale on December 8th, the Georgia native did make an impression with the coaches on Team Hughes and with the fans for his humor and offbeat personality. In other words, this was a guy made for reality television. And that’s not the first time he’s been told that.
“I’ve heard it, but I don’t see it,” said Bowman. “And my personality really didn’t get a chance to showcase on the show because (TUF 6 housemate) Joey (Scarola) missed his girlfriend.”
Unlike Scarola though, Bowman stuck it out for the six weeks of filming, and even trained with his injury.
“(Coach Matt) Hughes didn’t care,” laughed Bowman. “He said, “You can ride the bike. If one of you is sweating, all eight of you are sweating.”
Truth be told, that wasn’t a problem for the 26-year old, who went from being a .500 amateur with no standup and a decent ground game to a well-rounded fighter who not only has the tools to compete, but the belief that he can win on the UFC level.
“Going on the show I never had any formal standup training,” said Bowman. “Everybody says things and uses percentages to exaggerate, but (assistant coach) Matt Pena probably increased my striking ability 300% on that show without a doubt. In the past, I trained with boxers but I’ve never been shown how to box by them. My standup has been whatever I figure out while I’m sparring with these cats that know how to spar.”
“And just the way I felt even going into that fight with Richie, which was just two, two and a half weeks into the show, I felt like a fighter instead of a guy that wasn’t scared to scrap, which is how I always felt before,” he continues. “I was a guy that knew some grappling and wasn’t scared to scrap, I bounced bars in Atlanta and Auburn and wherever, and if a dude wanted to scrap I would do it until I could choke him, but going into that fight, I felt like a fighter. In all the interviews before the show, I was like ‘I’m just here to train and get better and I don’t really know how far I’m gonna go,’ but by the time I fought, I was really saying to myself that I could beat anybody in this house. It changed that quick.”
Even the no-nonsense Hughes felt that Bowman had a great chance to beat Team Serra’s Hightower, and the Carrollton native delivered early with a solid kick to the midsection and some good knees to the midsection before his knee gave out on him.
“Playing it back in my head, I really felt like I was in control,” Bowman recalled. “But now I’m like ‘why didn’t you just take him down?’ I would have tapped him because he’s not that strong on the ground. He’s a brand new Blue belt and he knows tricks, but he doesn’t know fundamentals, so I would have schooled him on the ground. Then again, if I would have done that, then the knee probably would have blown out when I was walking out of the gym. Who knows what’s gonna happen, but it would have been nicer to have won the fight.”
For now, Bowman will have to live with those ‘what ifs’ as he goes through a grueling rehabilitation process on his knee that consists of two and a half hour sessions four days a week.
“It sucks, but its part of the game,” said Bowman, who makes no bones about it – he will be back, and he credits another of Team Hughes’ assistant coaches for some words of wisdom that he took to heart when the show was over.
“Marc Fiore told me, ‘You know everything now – you know what your injury is, you know what you can do, and you know you have a choice. You can either be a guy who came out here, gave it his best, and got a career-ending injury, or you can be a dude that came out here, got hurt, and then came back from a really bad knee injury and shocked the world; it’s your choice.’”
Bowman made the choice to continue, and he plans on moving to Florida to train with his buddy Cole Miller and the renowned American Top Team as soon as he gets a green light from doctors.
It’s a decision that has met with hot and cold reactions from family and friends.
“Oddly enough, my mom has done a complete 180,” said Bowman, 3-3 in amateur MMA. “She’s always been a huge part of my life, but she never watched me wrestle in high school, never saw a judo match, and never saw a jiu-jitsu tournament, but when talks of this show came up, she said my son’s willing to sacrifice everything he’s worked for to make this happen and she’s kinda gotten into it and is completely supportive. But I’ve had the same best friend since I was seven, and he’s on the other side of the spectrum. Now he’s got a wife and a baby on the way, and he’s always been my backer. But I’m moving to Fort Lauderdale to train with American Top Team whenever I’m cleared to train again, and he’s like ‘no, no, no, I support you dude, but I’ve got a baby coming; I need you here.’ But I can’t do that; it’s not what’s best for me and I’ve got to do what’s best for me for a change. It’s weird.”
What may be even weirder is how Bowman came to the sport. He wasn’t the star athlete in high school or college, and wasn’t a martial artist since he was a child. He was basically bored.
“I started doing this just to have something to do,” he chuckles. “I wrestled in high school and never really tried that hard. I did judo just for fun, and I started doing grappling just to do it, just to have something to do to kinda piss off the girl I was living with at the time, basically. But then I made some friends, obviously the most notable would be (The Ultimate Fighter 5’s) Cole Miller. I’m “Cole’s boy Blake”, that’s my role in society. (Laughs) And I was cornering a lot of Cole’s fights and our trainer was like, ‘you won that grappling tournament, I can get you a fight this coming week.’ And I was like, ‘whatever, fine.’ That’s what it was like in the beginning. We were loading up in a car and going on these roadtrips. And I never had a brother growing up, so it was kinda like that male bonding thing. It was a fraternity-like atmosphere and we just happened to fight whenever we got to where we were going.”
It was still simply a recreational activity for him though until that fateful day when he stepped into The Ultimate Fighter house and into the nation’s living rooms on Wednesday nights. Now he sees that fighting can be something more; it can actually be a career. But when it comes down to it, that’s not why Blake Bowman fights.
“Nothing ever really made me happy to the point where I said ‘that’s what I want to do with my life,’” he explains. “But this is the one thing where I’ve never been unhappy doing it. Even when I’m getting the #$%$ kicked out of me, I feel satisfied. It is the most primal and basic feeling of being alive. You’re out there and if you lose, you lose by yourself, and if you win, it’s because your team helped you get to where you needed to be to win. It’s the ultimate exercise in humility and this is something that I finally decided to do no matter what. In high school I wrestled and I was in the band and I was on the scholastic bowl team, so I would kinda half-ass everything because I was a jack of all trades. But with this, I told myself, ‘you’re gonna do this until you’re done doing it’, and it’s been the most rewarding experience of my life seeing this through to the end, and I’m not done yet.”
I like Blake... He seems like a down to earth dude. Hopefully his ACL rehab goes well. Tearing that sucks big time. I give him credit for sticking through the rest of the training. That had to be painfull.
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