Note: All quotes and material were obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report through a one-on-one between Luke Harris and Bleacher Report's Riley Kontek.
This episode was eventful and starts with a conversation between Matt Desroches and Richard Walsh discussing their fight. Got to love the mutual respect of these guys. You don’t really know someone until you fight them. These guys are both class acts, good people and have great sportsmanship.
Nudie runs also started becoming more frequent. I never really understood why, but I guess it gets a bit boring in a house with 16 guys. Pretty much if you lost a pool game, you needed to strip down and run around the house naked while getting snowballs thrown at you. Some guys were all too eager to strip down and run. I’m not saying any names.
Chad Laprise writing that contract for Richard was both funny and smart. We had a lot of confidence in Olivier Aubin-Mercier beating Jake Matthews, so Chad wanted to ensure that he wasn’t matched up with one of his training partners in the semifinals. Not only are Kajan Johnson, Olivier and Chad on Team Canada, but they all do their fightcamps at Tristar. Kajan caught wind of Chad’s strategy and looked to fight Richard as well.
It might look like they’re taking Richard lightly, but it’s more a strategic approach to not fighting teammates. Richard seems like he’s getting hassled, but ultimately, the choice lies in his hands. Just wait until you see how this escalates.
Lots of talk of injuries this season, which is always a huge factor in this competition. I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think there's a guy in the house who isn’t injured. Some try to hide it, and some play it up a bit. I know Kajan probably had one of the more serious knee injuries in the house, and you could tell by the way that Dan Kelly was hobbling around the house that he had some injuries. He was still very eager to fight as a result.
It was really cool to see a bit more on training in this episode. We spent the bulk of our time at the gym, so it’s nice to see what the other team was doing. Izzy seems like a great coach. He’s got great wrestling skills, and I like how he motivates his guys and pushes them to work hard. In this sport, it's a war of attrition and hard work will always prevail over talent.
The dynamics have changed in our practices a bit with pretty much Elias Theodorou and I mainly training together, as Nordine Taleb has an injured foot and Sheldon’s knee is banged up. Welterweights are also in an interesting position, and I sense that Chad and Kajan don’t really want to train together. Olivier is indifferent and will train with anyone. Same with coach Patrick Cote, as he’s always a great training partner, but I think the coaches are struggling with how to deal with the imminent welterweight situation.
This week's fight is Sheldon vs. Dan. I’ve got to say that although I’m on Team Canada, I have a huge deal of respect for Dan.
I’ve been intentionally not talking to him much because I know we’ll get along great. We have quite a few mutual friends in the judo community, including one of my very good friends and four-time judo Olympian Keith Morgan and former coach and two-time Olympic medalist Nicholas Gill. Dan is a four-time Olympian in judo, which is no easy feat. That’s 16 years of competing at an elite level. I admire his ambition to step out of his comfort zone and pursue MMA.
Trust me, there aren’t too many people who have drive like this guy. Win, lose or draw, Dan has my respect for just being here.
Weigh-ins went smoothly with both guys making weight. Sheldon didn’t have to cut being a natural welterweight, which is really a huge advantage as this competition progresses. The guys who are big middleweight like myself, Dan and Elias are having to starve ourselves to keep our weight down.
We were surprised and thrilled when we got back to the house. The TUF producers and UFC were throwing a party for us, and we got to watch UFC 167. Pretty awesome as there was not TV, music or books in the house.
It was also a blockbuster card with both Rory MacDonald and Georges St. Pierre fighting on the card. So much good food, but unfortunately, I couldn’t eat any of it. I was trying to maintain under 200 pounds, and it is almost impossible for me, as I'm normally a lean 215 pounds. I felt a bit bad for the guys fighting the next day, too, but it can be a good distraction to keep your mind off your fight.
Rory lost, which was disappointing to Team Canada, but GSP had a very close fight against Hendricks. Initially, we thought he had lost the fight, but we were happy to see he was awarded the decision. In my opinion, you really have to beat a champ to take his belt. It can’t be a close decision. Hendricks put on a hell of a fight. It was team Canada vs. Australia in the main event, with the Aussies siding with Hendricks. The house was a disgusting mess after the party.
Next was Sheldon vs. Dan. Sheldon rushed in and got the takedown. He then secured a quick arm-triangle choke when the fight hit the ground. I’m glad that Canada got the win but really felt bad for Dan that he wasn’t able to show his skills. That’s the sport, though. Kill or be killed, and Canada regained control.
Dan looked like he injured his knee in the fight and looked devastated. You can’t help but feel for the guy. He has a kid at home with health problems, and he just opened a new gym before coming here. He just put too much weight on his shoulders. It kills me to see him cry. Fighters put so much on the line; it’s crushing to lose.
Producer Mike Wetmore is shown taking Dan to the hospital to get his knee checked out. I really can’t say enough good things about TUF Nations producers. They really went the extra mile to ensure our safety and comfort. They really are some incredible people.
The episode ends with the Aussies confronting Elias and Kajan about their cheers after the fight. Emotions were running high, and I think some things were really taken out of context. Brandon talks about fighting Kajan on the finale, but don’t be too quick to count Kajan out!
Next up are two of my picks for the best prospects in the entire sport of MMA! Jake and Olivier!
**Tune in next week to hear Luke's thoughts on the continued tension between teams, more in-depth stories from the house, and his thoughts on the fight between Jake Matthews and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Follow Luke on Twitter@HayabusaHarris and follow his gym @Hayabusa_TC.