Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Berube Grapples With New Challenge

By Anwar S. Richardson

TAMPA - There are probably many things in life Allen Berube cannot accomplish. Berube just does not know of any.

It explains why after watching a mixed martial arts match in Tampa last year, Berube signed up for jujitsu lessons. He thought if people saw him fight, it could bring more customers to his Monstah Lobster restaurant located in South Tampa.

Berube's self-confidence also explains why he tried out for season five of "The Ultimate Fighter" show in December after he began fighting professionally in June 2006, compiling a 2-1 record. Berube's lack of experience did not prevent him from being selected to participate on the popular reality television show.

"The Ultimate Fighter 5" will debut on Spike TV tonight at 10. UFC president Dana White hosts the show that pits 16 lightweight (155 pounds) mixed martial arts fighters against each other with one competitor being eliminated each week. In the season finale June 23, UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver and former UFC welterweight champion B.J. Penn, who are both coaching separate teams on the show, will fight against each other live in Las Vegas.

"Somebody told me the Ultimate Fighter TV show was having tryouts in Miami and maybe I should go. I thought, 'Cool, I've seen crazier things happen,'" Berube said. "I definitely wasn't one of the best down there. I'm a short, scrappy guy, but I had only been doing it for a little while. I didn't have high expectations."

He had the same realistic expectations after once trying out for Donald Trump's show, "The Apprentice." Berube advanced to the final round of cuts, but was not selected to be on the show.

Once again, Berube, 32, found himself in a similar situation during tryouts in Miami.

Despite his limited fighting experience, which only included a few amateur boxing years as a teenager, Berube was one of four fighters selected out of 1,000. A few weeks later, Berube was in Las Vegas competing against 50 other fighters for the 16 spots on the show, and after clearing that hurdle, began taping the show Jan. 22.

"There was a point I started thinking maybe I had a chance at this thing because after I made it through Miami, I figured there had to be something about me that they liked," Berube said.

The judges likely saw a determination that has helped Berube persevere.

Berube is originally from Maine, and when he would visit friends in Tampa, they always asked him to bring lobsters. Eventually it inspired him to open up Monstah Lobster in Carrollwood nearly eight years ago. The restaurant originally only offered take-out services, and in 2002, Berube opened a dine-in establishment in South Tampa.

"Then I got a little bit cocky. I went up to Northdale and opened up a 4,500-square-foot restaurant, but closed down my little take-out that was doing great. The big one survived about a year and then tanked on me. I went bankrupt," Berube said. "I was in so deep. I owed so much money in taxes and bankruptcy that I had to keep going. Even if I didn't want to be in the business, I couldn't sell my South Tampa store to anyone because what kind of price could I get if people knew I was bankrupt?

"I'm not getting rich, but I'm not going without. I have to be thankful for what I have because it's more than a lot of people."

Berube is extremely thankful for his opportunity to spend six weeks in Las Vegas filming the reality television show, which averages two million viewers a week. He is currently under contract as a UFC fighter, and spends his time away from Monstah Lobster seeking sponsors.

The risk-taker is not allowed to say how he finished, but Berube hinted he hung around a lot longer than tonight's season premiere might indicate.

"At the beginning I thought it would just be great advertising for my business, but in the end I started thinking I might have something here," Berube said. "I had trouble keeping up with everyone at first, but as time went along, I really improved and was able to keep up with those guys. I tell you, there are some crazy things that went out in that house and it's going to be a great show to watch."


No comments: