Writer Beau Dure of USA TODAY attended the auditions for Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter" season 14. On his own blog, Dure details the tiny window of opportunity and introduction fighters receive when they pitch themselves to UFC President Dana White, matchmaker Joe Silva and Spike's producers.
The largest takeaway for me is the process by which Spike distills the large crowds into a single cast. Often fighters of high caliber are passed over for talent that has little business competing in the UFC. It's easy to chalk that up to some perceived ability to turn up the heat on the production end of things, but even that seems to fall through. It's an interesting read with the auditioning criteria coming off as something short of capricious, but still nebulous. To wit:
One rule of thumb is that the interview, which is closed to the media, is by far the most important part of the process. But it’s just a couple of minutes long, just enough to get the idea that fighters can string together a few words. I spoke with one fighter who said he only heard one question, and it related to something on his application.
More likely, the application is essential, and some fighters had an advantage (or long odds) before arriving in Newark. The 20-30 names White read after the grappling phase weren’t necessarily the 20-30 best grapplers in the room. Some guys who barely held their own advanced; some who made their opponents tap more than once didn’t get the call.
Before reading the names in each group, White stressed that the people who didn’t make it were usually those with inferior records. After hearing a few polite protests in the first group, White launched a pre-emptive strike in succeeding groups: "If you’re telling me and Joe these other guys padded their records, pad yours, too."
Some fighters didn’t grasp the situation. One fighter did a lengthy interview with a TV crew, calmly but pointedly griping that he was more of a striker than a grappler but didn’t get a chance to show his punches, knees and kicks. But if your record shows a long line of knockouts, how are you going to enhance your status by making a few loud pops on some pads? Silva and company probably knew he could strike and figured that wasn’t enough. That’s a life lesson: If you’re interviewing for a multifaceted job, be prepared to answer questions on the parts you haven’t clearly mastered. A job interview that fails to progress past "Hey, tell me more about your awesome typing skills!" is not a good interview.