Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Las Vegas mansion can become a prison for residents on The Ultimate Fighter

(CP) - It may be a prison with five-star bars, but being cooped up for six weeks in a Las Vegas mansion with 15 rival mixed martial fighters is no picnic. "I hated it," said Travis Lutter, co-winner of Season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show. "I think it's the worst thing that I've ever done in my life, being in that house for six weeks.

"No TV, no Internet, no magazines, no books. When they take away all those sources of input, the boredom level is just incredible. And after the first week, you had all the same conversations. Nobody has anything new to talk about, because they don't have any input. And you've talked about basically everything that you're going to get out of them. And then what? You just start to lose your damn mind."

Factor in the omnipresent cameras and the stress level is high, which is of course what the drama-hungry show producers are after. Season 5 featured 14 fights in six weeks.

"It just never stopped," said Jens Pulver, a coach on Season 5 which begins Thursday (Spike TV, 10 p.m. ET). "It was cameras, cameras, cameras, go, go, go, work out, work out, work out."

Not knowing when or who you are fighting - or when you have to make weight - also ups the uncertainty fighters face on the show.

"All the stuff that happened was so unscripted, people will go 'No way, this had to be set up,"' said Pulver. "No, I'm telling you right now from the man's mouth, this is not scripted. This shit happens and it's insane. It is nuts."

Lightweight Kenny Florian, who lost to Diego Sanchez in the final of Season 1, says the key is to stay calm and focused.

"You kind of get weirded out by all the cameras and the fact that you're in there with all these fighters, all competing for the same thing," he said. "You really have to stay focused on your goal which is winning that show. And just learn as much from the coaches and just get better every day."

Season 4 co-winner Matt Serra says he saw it as a glorified training camp.

"I really didn't look at it and say 'Oh God, I can't do this, I can't do that.' I looked at it more as like 'Man this is six weeks of my life and it could really make a difference in me.' And it did. It worked out for me."

Serra, however, acknowledges his memories might be different "maybe if I got my ass kicked."

"Of course, I missed my girl, my family, whatever else, the outside world because you're kind of secluded and don't really do anything, but at the same time I knew it really was the experience of a lifetime."

Season 2 winner Joe Stevenson called his time in the house "bittersweet." He missed his wife and kids, but said the competition fuelled him.

"If you're competitive, it's going to bring out your A game, You have no worries whatsoever except (in) your own head. So if you are a space case, I'm sure you're going to lose your mind."

Tryouts for Season 6 are slated for April 10 in Las Vegas, with producers looking for welterweight (170-pound) fighters.

Would-be cast members have to be 21 or over and be able to live and work in the U.S.

The application form also asks if you have been arrested, charged with or convicted of a crime, used any steroids in the past year or any "illegal substances" in the last six months. Applicants are tested for drugs.

Applicants have to sign an eight-page document, that includes one worrying section titled "Potentially Embarrassing Material."

That involves the applicant agreeing to inclusion of material "which may potentially be embarrassing or emotionally trying; which may not be completely accurate in depicting my actual statements, thoughts, beliefs, motives, emotions, states of mind, health status, actions or ideas; or which may have the effect of reflecting negatively on me or my reputation."

When Season 2 competitor Rob MacDonald voiced his displeasure at the way he was shown on the show - suffering from a injury that eventually required surgery, he was ridiculed and portrayed as weak - the Toronto police officer was reminded by show producers that he had signed just such a contract and needed to shut it down. He did.


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