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'The Ultimate Fighter 27' blog, episode No. 9: Laughter is the cure

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I’m back, people!

Proving hard work pays off, it’s not shown much on the show due to the time restraint and format, but from the day I lost to Bryce Mitchell, I became obsessed with having my hand raised in the “TUF” cage. Losing highlighted to me everything I was there to do and everything I could gain from the experience of being on the show. It’s funny how the human psyche works like that: You never appreciate what you have in front of you until it’s taken from you.

I was carrying a couple of injuries following the Bryce fight, but like most people, I kept it to myself. The difference between me and the others – and the reason I believe I was selected to return – is that I kept my head down and worked hard every day, whilst others who had also been knocked out of the tournament started to unwind and their motivation started slipping. I suppose that’s normal for some people, but for me, every morning I woke up in the house I approached the day as if I was going to be the next guy fighting. Every day I pushed myself hard in training. It was always my time to fight.

My motto, #CantBeBeat, was something I kept on repeat in my mind, never letting it slip, never allowing myself to become beaten in my mind. The true meaning of failure is not depicted by a single action – or in this case fight. It’s just a test of your courage to continue and push forward. You only truly become a loser when your mentality changes. I can’t be beat in life. I’m always moving forward. that’s why I was chosen to return and show the world my passion and self-belief.

Before we get to witness the return of the “Mellow Fellow,” we have the one and only John Gunther!

Like myself, John showed a great attitude following his loss. He asked no questions and got on with his training but … you could tell John’s focus wasn’t always there. As most can tell on the show, John is a strange character. Sometimes he’s there, and sometimes he’s off in a world of his own, running around with alpacas in his mind and maybe even dancing with them. Haha!

Physically, John has superhuman strength and is a real handful when he is on top of you. His striking, on the other hand, is not the greatest, and John tends to take five strikes for every takedown attempt, which is never the best idea against someone like Mike Trizano.

The greatest thing about this sport is you can actually be great friends and still take lumps out of each other. Mike and John’s relationship was very unique. A real building block of their relationship was the forming of “mini” John Gunther Haha! Obviously John was the brains behind it, but this duo would have never been the same without Mike Trizano. Who knows? With a performance like that, they could come out of “TUF” and be too busy touring with Mini Gunther to ever have time to fight in the UFC. But for now, the double act have to put their potential star-studded careers to one side because it’s time to throw down!

Both guys have a ton of respect for each other, but we all know when it comes down to picking a winner, I had to go with Mike Trizano, and not just because he is my fellow Italian brother! Breaking it down technically, Mike always comes out on top.

Having trained with both guys, I have a great understanding of who had the superior skillset. I was never counting John out completely – this guy has one big attribute that’s very hard to find in most fighters. A lot of people have heart and determination, but not many can take a beating and keep coming forward the way Gunther does. He is as tough as they come, and he wrestles alpacas. I mean, come on! How do you prepare for a guy like that? Haha!

Obviously being cooped up with 16 other fighters, things can get very stressful and mundane. Finding entertainment in a house with no internet, TV, music or mobile phones became challenging after a few weeks, so someone suggested we did a talent competition. I believe it was Bryce Mitchell who had the bright idea, and what a great idea it was! With me as your host what could go wrong? Haha!

From crazy flips to homemade William Tell and Mini John Gunther, it went down as a great success. Well, maybe not to the viewers, but it certainly was successful in entertaining us. One thing I truly believe is that laughter is the biggest antidepressant you can find, so with plenty of broken dreams lingering around the house, and with the dark cloud of loss overshadowing a host of athletes that entered the house as undefeated prospects, we were in need of some comic relief. The show really improved the house’s atmosphere, and by the end of the night, everyone had a big smile on their face. What highlighted the need for it to me was even Richie Smullen had a giggle. As you can imagine, he wasn’t in the best place, still suffering from leg cramps, so seeing him smile was a great moment.

It’s weigh-ins, and John’s there with his big serial-killer eyes popping out of his head. Mike Trizano is trying to keep his game face on, but that’s a hard task to pull off, especially with people chanting for John to do his best alpaca call, which sounded something like Stipe Miocic trying to sing a Whitney Houston song. Mike Trizano could not contain himself, and he failed miserably, but all jokes aside, you could see both these guys were ready to throw down – Mike Trizano hungry for the finale and John Gunther looking for redemption.

We are now entering the semifinal stage of the competition, which means a full three five-minute rounds, whatever the score is after the first two rounds. As expected, John Gunther comes in and fights his heart out and shows he is one tough (expletive). Mike Trizano had to work extremely hard for the victory. John’s game is simple: It’s all about pressure. If you’re not in shape, you feel this pressure slowly taking over as you start to fade. Mike certainly had his work cut out for him in the first round, but once he weathered the early onslaught, you could see Mike had turned up in superb shape and started to take over.

It wasn’t too hard to keep one step ahead of John. He became very predictable, with Mike landing jab after jab, nasty elbows, and some solid uppercuts and knees, he really punished John’s face. But John staying true to who he is, he showed great heart and determination, constantly pushing forward and never giving up. Unfortunately, he just couldn’t put anything significant together that could change the dynamics of the fight. Like John said to me after the fight, “At least I got to have a proper fight,” and that’s what I admire about John – he never claimed he was the most talented fighter, but he loves it, and all he wants to do is fight.

Now my main man Mike Trizano is in the finale, and I’m absolutely buzzing for him, and I really believe he can go on and win the whole thing. I cannot wait to see it July 6 in Las Vegas.

Now I’ve gotten to know everyone in the house and see everyone fight. Every fight in the semis are exciting, and I’m super pumped for next week with teammates Brad Katona and Bryce Mitchell facing off. A lot of people are leaning towards Bryce for this fight. I, on the other hand, am very torn between both fighters. Both guys have the skill to finish each other, and I think Brad has the wrestling ability to deal with Bryce, and it being over the full three rounds, we can see if Bryce can keep up his pressure that he used against me in the quarterfinals. I kind of want Bryce to win so I can smash through Tyler, get to the finale and seek my revenge!

Jay Cucciniello (8-0), an English featherweight on “The Ultimate Fighter 27,” blogs about the season each week exclusively for MMAjunkie. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMelowFelow or Instagram at @mellowfellowmma. New episodes of the show air each Wednesday night on FS1.

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