Friday, March 2, 2007


By Charles McCarthy

Real thoughts from a real fighter…

My fingers and toes were tingling. As I slowly awoke from deep sleep, my dreams began to blend with reality. I opened my eyes staring up at the sky and realized that my worst nightmare had come true.

It was September 9, 2005, the day I was set to face Trevor Garrett in the main event of Atlanta’s Fight Party Productions. That morning I had received a call from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and I knew that I was on my way back to the big show. Or so I thought.

It was not until later, watching tape of the bout, that I realized how long I had been choked unconscious from a tight, powerful guillotine choke applied swiftly in retaliation to my double-leg shot. The crowd had gone silent, almost in awe. I was the favorite to win, at least in my own head, and here I was less than a minute into the bout choked completely out. I sat up and thought, “This is it. It is time to move on.” I had a great run but losing in the minors has surely shut out any chance I had to get back in the big show.

Fast forward four months to April 2006. I was newly married, enjoying life fresh off a honeymoon cruise and living large - so much so that I was 40 pounds from my fighting weight of 185. The idea of fighting seemed almost a distant memory. I was not sure if I would ever step back in a ring or cage.

I was in my office at American Top Team, where I was working as the Director of Marketing, when my phone rang. I looked at the screen to see something I had not seen in months: “Joe Silva Calling.” While I am always excited to hear from Joe, I did not think much of it as I have been managing rising star Cole Miller and I knew he was on the brink of making it to the big show.

I talked to Joe briefly about the upcoming season four of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He mentioned to me the new format and as I listened it slowly dawned on me that he was asking if I would like to be a part of it. This season would gather sixteen veteran fighters competing to win a shot at the title. The recipient of a highlight reel spinning backkick loss courtesy of David Loiseau at UFC 55, I fit the criteria for a comeback.

Never one to second guess an opportunity, I immediately told Joe I was in. I hung up the phone and felt suddenly alive again. I was recovering from a torn LCL and was fat, but nothing would deter me from being on the show. I never had interest in being on television but this provided me the opportunity to take the next step in my life. With the money and notoriety from winning the show I knew I would be able to afford to buy a house, have a child and build a life for my family.

Shortly thereafter, I was on a plane to Las Vegas along with 80 other UFC veterans to interview with the producers of the show. I was tested for drugs, given a MRI/MRA, CAT scan, EKG, and blood-tested, given multiple eye exams and basically poked and prodded in almost every which way. After all the testing and interviews were done I was sent back home to wait. I felt I had interviewed well and soon came the call to confirm my feeling; I was on the show!

My knee was almost completely healed and I had lost almost 30 pounds. I was ready to seize the opportunity. I was going to win “TUF 4” and revive my career. As far as I was concerned, it was meant to be.

Everyone has their own perception of what life is like living in “The Ultimate Fighter” house, but unless you have lived it you can never really understand and appreciate the experience. No television, no telephone, no radio, no books, no magazines, no music, no outside input of any kind. The staff is not allowed to talk to you nor you to them. The ceiling is lined with ultra bright lights which are on around the clock. The temperature in Las Vegas reaches 120 degrees and the air conditioner is constantly broken. The power and the running water in the house go out almost every day. The house is a mess and the personalities in the house are over the top – perfect for a TV series but not necessarily conducive to your day-to-day sanity.

The first two weeks went by almost in a blur. Imagine sitting down and having an in-depth conversation with Matt Serra in which he stands on his hands and farts in the air. Then imagine looking across from you to see Jorge Rivera cracking up and all this while getting ready to go train with Randy Couture. As a fan, it was a dream come true.

However, as time passed, I began to miss my life more and more. It was around this time that my personality traits became extremely apparent to both myself and those living around me. I don’t ever hold my tongue and I wear my emotions on my sleeve. Because of that I probably offended everyone in the house at one point or another and when they fired back at me; they could see that they could affect me with their actions. This led to four weeks of becoming more and more isolated from everyone in the house – the birth of “Captain Miserable” captured on video for the world to see.

The third week in the house, it was my turn to fight. I was slated to face Pete “Drago” Sell, a tough brawler with good jiu-jitsu. Stylistically, it was a fight I felt I could win and while he was one of the tougher guys in the house, I felt good about my chances.

In the first round, I was taken down by Sell and while working a leglock, I reinjured and tore the LCL in my knee. I screamed out in pain as I felt it pop and turtled as Drago began firing on me. I absorbed all the punishment he could deliver and made it through the round.

The second round I shot in and was put in a guillotine not unlike the choke that put me to sleep in my last bout against Trevor Garrett. “There is no way I can lose to this choke again,” I thought. Tapping never entered my mind and eventually I found my way out of the choke and evened the score going into the final round.

The final round would be Sell’s though, eliminating me from the tournament I had banked on winning. My shot at redemption, my shot at reviving my career suddenly felt so far away.

Charles McCarthy returns next week with part two here at
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