September 17, 2008
Is Fishkill's Brian McLaughlin the Ultimate Fighter?
Arlington grad debuts on Spike TV tonight
By Phil Strum
Brian McLaughlin would love to be considered the ultimate fighter.
Starting tonight, he'll have his shot.
McLaughlin, a 24-year-old Fishkill native, is one of 32 mixed martial artists who will compete on the eighth season of "The Ultimate Fighter," which begins tonight on Spike TV after UFC Fight Night Live. The winner of the competition gets a guaranteed, multi-fight contract in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the top North American MMA promotion.
"This season is some of the highest level of competition you're going to see," said McLaughlin, unable to reveal whether he was one of the competitors to fight his way onto the show out of the original 32. "Everyone is well-rounded. Some of the lightweights have already defeated UFC veterans. In my weight class, everyone deserved to be there."
The coaches on this season of "The Ultimate Fighter" are UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. On Dec. 27, Nogueira and Mir will face in a title match that will also have a co-main event with the light heavyweight title match of Forrest Griffin vs. Rashad Evans, both former champions of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Of the 32 men to start on the show, 16 make it onto the reality show. This season has light heavyweights (186-205 pounds) and lightweights (146-155 pounds). McLaughlin is a lightweight. The finals of the show are going to be live on Dec. 13 and will have an undercard featuring fighters on the show.
"All the guys there whether they made it far in the show or not, those guys are still fighting," said McLaughlin, an alum of Arlington High School and SUNY New Paltz. "The good thing about the show is that you get some marketability even if you don't get the UFC contract."
Yahoo! Sports mixed martial arts writer Dave Meltzer has covered the sport in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter since 1993 and said "The Ultimate Fighter" is the means for getting into MMA, but it isn't a guarantee that you'll be a star like Griffin, Evans or former UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Serra.
"It can skyrocket the career," Meltzer said. "If they do really well, it's a door opening for you, but you still have to perform."
Meltzer added that most of the money in the three-year contract the winner gets are in bonuses and that the winner is really only guaranteed about $100,000 over three years. The good fighters, obviously, can do much better.
"As long as you're on the show and you don't make a complete fool of yourself, you can get booked on the final show, unless you can't fight at all" Meltzer said.
Although he lives in Fishkill and owns Hudson Valley Jiu-Jitsu in Fishkill, McLaughlin, whose professional record is 5-0 is listed on the UFC Web site as being from Tampa. The reason for this is that he trains at Gracie Tampa under Eastchester native Rob Kahn. Kahn received a jiu-jitsu black belt under former three-time UFC champion and MMA pioneer Royce Gracie.
"He's honestly one of the best submission grapplers in the country," Kahn said of McLaughlin. "Brian's beaten some of the best in the country already and has kind of made a name for himself. In 15 years of doing this, I don't know if I've worked with anyone with more drive than him. He's the hardest-working kid I've ever seen."
Kahn feels that even if McLaughlin did not make it onto The Ultimate Fighter, he still would have been under consideration to get some fights in the UFC, especially after he won the Ring of Combat Beasts of the Northeast Tournament last November.
"He turned a lot of heads when he did that," Kahn said. "He's part of that first generation who started as a kid and grew up with it. He's really ahead of the curve. Not even 24 and already a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He's still got so many years of competing."
McLaughlin said that his training philosophy for competing is simple: To constantly surround yourself with people who are better than you, so that you're always challenging yourself.
"It's night and day," McLaughlin said of his skills in boxing and wrestling, as opposed to his vast experience in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "I look at my first fight and my skills back then going, 'If I could fight myself now, it would be a nightmare.' It's so challenging and so much fun. It's a new way of challenging myself and expanding my range of combat.
"It's made training more exciting," McLaughlin continued. "More exciting, more humbling. You're never the master and always the student."
McLaughlin tried out for the fifth season of "The Ultimate Fighter," but was ultimately rejected. This time though, plenty of friends knew about his tryout, but once he made the cut, he was not permitted to tell anyone he made it onto the show - until the UFC made it official.
"I had to come up with this whole phony story," McLaughlin said. "I had to disappear for six weeks and I couldn't tell people where I was going. And they couldn't get in touch with me. I told them I was leaving the country. I told them I didn't make the show, but when I was leaving was around my birthday, so I said my parents gave me a trip to Brazil. Some people actually bought it."
One thing McLaughlin said he would love is to fight a little closer to home. Mixed martial arts is banned in the state of New York and the closest he gets to fight is in Atlantic City, N.J.
"Every year, we get our hopes up," McLaughlin said. "It's always been a dream of mine to fight in the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. I would love to fight in my hometown. Ignorant minds are dictating the future of the sport."
McLaughlin said that in one meeting of New York lawmakers, he was told, that one asked if there was a referee present in the MMA bouts.
"If you're going to hold the future of the sport in your hands, McLaughlin said. "at least watch one of the shows."
Meltzer said while the launch of "The Ultimate Fighter" has been good for many MMA careers, it's not a guarantee.
"It made the sport and it made careers," Meltzer said. "But it's not a lock. When you're on guarantees you a place in the sport. From there, you either need to win or look good losing."