Q&A with Ultimate Fighter contestant Bubba McDaniel
While most aspects of Tuesday night's The Ultimate Fighter: Season 17 premiere are under wraps, SI.com knows this much for sure: Few, if any of the fighters in this season's cast, will have the Texas-sized personality of veteran mixed martial artist Bubba McDaniel. The Wichita Falls, Texas, native has compiled a 20-6 record with appearances on circuits like EliteXC and King of the Cage. McDaniel, 29, gave SI.com readers his backstory to tonight's episode, airing 8 p.m. ET/PT on FX. Some answers have been edited for clarity.
On learning the difference between a Toughman and a mixed martial artist. . .
I'm from Wichita Falls, Texas and I started training at the Youth Opportunity Center in Wichita Falls, where a group of local tough guys who'd been trying to become familiar with MMA. There was a guy named Jason Maxwell who had knocked out Jens Pulver and was the reason I went to the gym to try to find out where they were at to try to do MMA. I had done Toughman contests previous to that. [At the Toughman contests], in three one minute-round fights, there's not the best fighter who wins it, it's the guy who can stand there and slug the longest and take the most shots. That's not really a scientific anything. That's just getting out there and throwing as many punches as you can, hoping you land first. I wanted to get into an actually skill set of fighting.
Past that, I trained for many years with those guys. They gave me 90 percent of the skills I still use in fights. Then I moved off to Indiana to learn to wrestle a little better with Team Wolfpack. I was up there and that's when I started my good run into MMA. I started fighting the top fighters. I fought for EliteXC, for King of the Cage pay-per-views. I went up to Canada and fought former guys who'd been on the show. I fought two times with Johnny Rees. I beat him in under a minute in his hometown in Indianapolis.
Moving to Albuquerque to train at Jackson/Winkeljohn's MMA. . .
I wound up in Albuquerque because of my buddy, Hunter Tucker. When I was in Indiana, I got to a point where I'd become the best fighter I could be in that area. I needed to move on. Tucker was in Albuquerque for the last couple of years and had already gotten himself in the mix and people had respect for him. So he vouched for me, I stared making my way down there. Coach Greg [Jackson] accepted me with open arms.
I went to Albuquerque to get ready for a fight on HDNet. I ended up getting a broken rib and was kinda at a bad spot. I thought I was going to have enough money from the fight to be able to suffice myself down there and I couldn't. [Jackson/Winkeljohn's gym manager] Ricky Kottenstette actually let me go into the dorms [above the gym] without paying because I gave my promise that I would get a job and pay him. I went back to the job I knew I could get. I went back to bouncing. I've been bouncing since I was 19 years old, just different things to keep myself able to train during the day; I work night jobs.
When you don't succeed try, try, try again. And if that doesn't work, just show up uninvited. . .
This is my third time to try out for the show. It's one of those processes, they see what they want at the time and they go with it. I guess it wasn't my time any of the other times. It's one of those things, you just can't give up on the goal of wanting to be on the show. I see this as my way into a possible UFC contract. That's the way I was going with it. Obviously, everybody wants to be in the big leagues.
The first [tryout] I did would have been just fine. I had an issue, another [undisclosed] issue that kept me from it. I had the perfect record to just go in there and just romp the season that I didn't get on. At the time, I had other issues and other things going on so that The Ultimate Fighter didn't fit in my life at that time.
When [tryouts for Season 17] were announced. I started getting myself in shape. The thing of it was, in other seasons, they've just called people and said, 'I want you to come and tryout.' I didn't get that call. I just kinda went on my own again. I'm pretty confident in myself. I'm definitely a personality that the world will definitely love. Besides the fact of being a great fighter, I would be someone they'd love to have on their show and I think that they'll feel as lucky to have me as I would to be there.
This time it's my time to get on there. I've got everything squared away and I'm in the best camp. I'm the best fighter I've ever been. It's my time.
The premier episode, just being there for that, was a great experience itself and I don't think it's anything anybody's going to want to miss.