For the 16 cast members on Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, training through the pain is the only way to capture the spotlight.
Why anyone would choose the combative arts as a profession is as confounding as it is crazy. Opting for a life of busted shins, split brows and broken noses just doesn't seem like a rational decision. But the mind of a fighter functions on a different level. To him, each scar, each nagging injury, is a lesson - a tangible reminder of his vulnerabilities and an incentive to train harder.
And for the 16 mixed martial artists who make up the cast of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, each grueling, thankless day at the gym holds the promise of an escape from obscurity and the chance to be recognized as one of the world's top practitioners in the most venerable arena in fighting - the Octagon.
For seven seasons, The Ultimate Fighter has given its audience an all-access pass into the lives and training habits of up-and-coming fighters, all of whom are vying for a UFC contract worth up to six figures (more if you count the potential for lucrative deals down the road). But getting to that point requires six straight weeks of voluntary physical and mental abuse, all before the watchful eyes of millions of dedicated viewers.
Cast members, who enter the show in peak fighting form and have no idea when they might be tabbed for a bout, are subjected to two-a-day training sessions that include weights, plyometrics, insane conditioning and sparring sessions rigorous enough to warrant the presence of a full-time EMT.
For its eighth season, The Ultimate Fighter - which began Sept. 17 and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Spike TV - granted M&F an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the athleticism, ferocity and frailty of these hungry cage warriors. Time to head to Las Vegas.
In a remote cul-de-sac in northwest Las Vegas lies a 6,630-square-foot house on nearly an acre of property. This large, modernistic domicile comes complete with a basketball court and a pool, not unlike many of the surrounding homes.
The house's occupants, on the other hand, are very unlike any other on its street (or on any other street, for that matter). For six weeks, this is where the 16 hard-charging mixed martial artists of The Ultimate Fighter get their mail.
The cast members in Season 8 are divided into two teams - one coached by UFC interim heavyweight champ Antonio Nogueira and the other by former heavyweight champ Frank Mir - with each one having earned his way into the house by winning a fight on day one. They're a combination of upstart, young lightweights (155 pounds) and light-heavyweights (205 pounds).
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Antonio Nogueira & Frank Mir.
Image Courtesy Of Sherdog.com.
For the full story on how this season's fighters train, pick up the December issue of M&F, on newsstands now!
For a gallery of web-exclusive images from the TUF house and gym and an uncensored interview with UFC President Dana White, visit www.muscleandfitness.com.