Chuck O'Neil went from alternate on this season's of The Ultimate Fighter to a semifinalist, while impressing many, including UFC President Dana White, with his toughness and never-say-die attitude. Now that filming has concluded, Chuck opens up on his experience and his future plans.
Q: For six weeks, you had to live in a house with strangers who were all fighting for the same prize, with cameras pointing in your faces all the time. Describe the experience.
A: It was an awesome experience. Outside of the fact I was living my dream, I got to escape society for six weeks and really clear my mind. It was awesome to be away from my phone, Internet and TV. I hardly ever watch TV anymore, so it's refreshing.
Q: How important was it to have Charlie Rader being on the show together with you? (Charlie and Chuck were teammates before the show began.)
A: At first I knew Charlie made the show and I was an alternate, and we were both let down. Once I got there and saw we were both on the same team, as well as having beds and dressers next to each other, we were both pumped. Made the time so much more enjoyable to go through it with such a close friend. Clay [Harvison] and I were good friends at that point as well.
Q: Were there any incidents that were not shown on television that were particularly noteworthy?
A: There were a ton! This season was kind of rushed, which sucks, but it is what it is. Like one point we all moved Chris' [Cope] bed out onto the lawn along with his nightstand. Charlie and I egged Len [Bentley] out in the yard. I'd constantly pull pranks on a lot of the guys and or get them to work against each other. I got Mick [Bowman] to put tuna in Javier's [Torres] bed and then follow that up with throwing it in the pool. Best unseen thing was Ramsey [Nijem] getting into the bathtub naked with Mick as Mick was taking a bath and they fed each other nonfat yogurt (ha ha).
Q: What was it like working with Brock Lesnar and his group of coaches?
A: Brock was very interesting at first. I don't think he had ever coached a group of fighters before, so it was definitely a different environment for him. Around the time of my wild card fight Brock really turned things around and became a much better coach, overall becoming a lot more involved with day-to-day practice and game plans. It was fun messing with him. I'd call him Unky Brock, and he started getting a kick out of it.
Marty [Morgan] was a good addition to the team as well as Eric Paulson. Eric always had crazy awesome stories for us to keep us entertained. My favorite coach he brought in was Comprido Rodrigo Medeiros. He's an amazing BJJ black belt, and we worked together a lot!
Q: Now that filming has concluded, which of the guys on the show do you still keep in touch with?
A: In April I went to visit Charlie down in New Orleans along with Clay. We spent a few days down there enjoying everything and training. Then mid May Zach Davis came to train with me for a couple days as well as Charlie. I became real good friends with Ryan [McGillivray] and stay in touch with him a lot!
Chris and I were heavily in contact with each other until we found out about the fight, which made things weird, but he's a good guy. My fellow alternate Justin [Edwards] and I became great friends and stay in touch a lot as well. Only guys I never hear from are Mick and Len really. Made a lot of lifelong friends.
Q: You lost a unanimous decision to Chris Cope on The Ultimate Fighter Finale. How does it feel to fight a teammate, and what went right and wrong for you in that fight?
A: Fighting Chris was weird for both of us. Chris had a hard time with it as well as he viewed me as a good friend. He definitely had gotten a lot better since the show and went out took care of business and earned the decision win over me.
As for what went wrong, the answer to that was everything besides the weight cut and re-hydration process. I froze up and had some kind of neurological problem out there. I couldn't get a rhythm and looked super flat. I was completely embarrassed by my performance and need to make up for it as soon as possible! As I said the only thing that went right was my weight cut and re-hydration process. I have a great sponsor with smartpowders.com, and they were out there taking care of everything for me.
Q: You have several tattoos. Discuss the origins of your tattoos and what they mean to you.
A: I have two tattoos. First I have the Irish flag with a shamrock in the middle on my back. I got that when I was 16. I had the vision of it in my head from a very young age, and my mom decided to sign a waiver to let me get it. The other is a Celtic cross on my arm. I'm not super religious; however, I do want to believe there is a higher power or a god figure. So I view that tattoo as my connection to that higher power as I'm not practicing any religion.
I want to get one more tattoo, but it's a pretty big job (kinda). It's a half sleeve into a chest plate with an Armageddon scene battle of heaven vs. hell, signifying the internal struggle I have to do the right or wrong thing on a daily basis.
Q: Judging has been a contentious issue recently. What do you think about the general judging standard in MMA?
A: I think they need to give more points to a fighter working hard off his back. Take the [Clay] Guida vs. [Anthony] Pettis fight for example. Guida was just holding Pettis down all fight and doing nothing for damage. Pettis looked fresh after the fight. But Pettis was going for subs and landing strikes from the bottom. He should've been awarded more of the judges' decision for being more active and more so trying to finish the fight.
I'm hoping changes get made soon. Wrestling control is over taking MMA, and there are less and less finishes because fighters take the safe route.
Q: What is your current contract status with the UFC, and what are the future plans for Chuck "Cold Steel" O’Neil?
A: At the end of the show all the fighters signed a four-fight deal with the UFC. I still haven't heard one way or another what is next from them after my fight with Chris. I'm praying I get one more chance to prove I belong and how I can really fight. But I will say one way or another I will be back to the UFC!
As for future plans for me...I'm planning on making a move to north of Boston to train more specifically with one of my main training partners Jimmy Quinlan and changing up my camps a little bit. Need to focus in on a few points and need to hammer them home. Also with the help of Smartpowders.com I'm looking to add a little bit on muscle onto my frame and gain some explosiveness. So regardless of where my next fight will be, I will be a much-improved Chuck O'Neil!