When the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) organization announced last fall that they would be holding tryouts for their "The Ultimate Fighter 13" television show, approximately 400 welterweight MMA fighters showed up in Las Vegas to earn one of the 14 spots on the show's roster.
Among those hopefuls was Indy's own Shamar Bailey, who made his way through the tryouts and was selected to be one of the competitors on "The Ultimate Fighter 13".
"During the first round of tryouts they look at your fighting record and have you take part in wrestling, ju-jitsu and boxing sessions," Bailey says. "After that, you do an interview with Dana White, president of the UFC and the television production people. Then you go home and wait for the phone call inviting you to the second part of the tryouts."
According to Bailey the second phase of the tryout consisted of just an interview and a physical. By that time, the field of 400 fighters had been reduced to 50.
"We didn't know who would get the call after that so each of us hoped we made a good enough impression on the producers of Spike TV. That was it. Those of us that made it got the call that we were on the show like three days before it was time to fly out to Las Vegas, so we had to be ready!
"They don't tell you what it is that they like about you," Shamar points out, "but I believe that my having studied to be a minister, and then becoming a firefighter and having a brother who was in prison was the kind of story that they were looking for."
The format of "The Ultimate Fighter" features two coaches who work with the members of their respective teams as they prepare to compete in matches throughout the six weeks. The fighter who wins the season finale fight will be offered a contract with the UFC. This season's coaches are Junior Dos Santos and former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
Ten episodes are shot during the six weeks that the fighters are in Las Vegas where they are sequestered, filmed at all hours and forbidden from outside contact with friends and family.
Before he headed out to Vegas, Bailey received advice on taking part in "The Ultimate Fighter" from his friend Chris Lytle, who is also an IFD firefighter and MMA competitor. Lytle was a finalist in "The Ultimate Fighter 4" in 2006.
"Chris told me to 'remember who you are and be yourself' while I was out in Vegas," Bailey says. "The fact that the camera is on you constantly during the six weeks can make you forget those things."
Bailey added that Lytle also told him that it would be to his advantage if he fought early in the competition because the team whose fighter wins a bout gets to choose who they want to face in the next fight.
"When you are competing as a MMA fighter you usually get two months to prepare for a fight. On 'The Ultimate Fighter' you don't have that luxury because you could be fighting with only a week's notice. In fact, when I was chosen to compete in the first fight on this season of 'The Ultimate Fighter' I had one full day to prepare: I was chosen one day, trained and took part in the weigh-in on the second day, then fought on the third day."
Spending the six weeks in a house with the thirteen other competitors under such strict guidelines gave Bailey the opportunity to focus on the task at hand – compete for a contract with UFC and receive guidance from two of the sport's top fighters.
"The other competitors were pretty easy to get along with," Bailey says. "We were all there trying to win a contract with the UFC and at the same time learn from our coaches. I didn't always agree with what the coaches told us, but I decided to be open-minded and respectful when it came to dealing with them."
While he cannot divulge the outcome of "The Ultimate Fighter 13" Bailey did say that he is trying to integrate some of the things that he learned in Vegas into his training regimen.
"I know that I have to work on my transitions between the different disciplines (wrestling, ju-jitsu and boxing) so I can compete at a higher level in the sport."
On the first episode of this season's "The Ultimate Fighter" Bailey and the 13 other finalists were introduced to Dos Santos and Lesnar. After a two-hour training session under watchful eyes of Dos Santos, Lesnar and other coaches who will assist in the training, the teams were chosen.
Obviously impressed with Bailey's in-ring intensity and fighting abilities, Dos Santos made Shamar the first choice for his squad. Bailey was later chosen to represent Team Dos Santos in TUF 13's first bout where he faced Nordin Asrih from Team Lesnar.
It was clear from the onset of the fight that Bailey was the superior wrestler, as he kept Asrih grounded for most of the two five-minute rounds. Bailey was the winner of the fight by unanimous decision.
"The Ultimate Fighter 13" airs on Spike TV Wednesday nights at 9 p.m.