So what do 16 fighters do after spending seven weeks cooped in Las Vegas on the set of a reality TV show?
Pretty much as you’d expect.
Champagne popped after Canadian Mike Ricci knocked out Neil Magny in the second semi-final of Season 16 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in the episode — taped in mid-September — that aired last Friday.
The 26-year-old from Montreal takes on American Colton Smith (5-1) in the live finale Saturday night in Las Vegas. The main event on the card at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino features heavyweight Roy (Big Country) Nelson (18-7) and Matt Mitrione (5-1).
After Ricci’s semifinal win at the UFC Training Center, the fighters were briefed on what they could and couldn’t say during airing of the show.
Then they returned to the camera-equipped mansion that had been their home for more than six weeks, other than trips to the gym to train and fight, to collect their belongings. Ricci slept in a room with four other fighters during the show.
The taping over, the cast was shuttled from the house via “party bus” to the Palace Station Hotel where UFC president Dana White picked up the tab for dinner before pulling out his wallet again for a trip to a nightclub.
Fighters were joined by coaches, staff and even members of the production crew.
“It was a night out and a great night I’ll never forget,” recalled Ricci, who was riding the high of his win earlier in the day.
Leaving reality TV for the reality of home was a different matter, however.
“I came home and I was different, the experience had changed me a little bit,” Ricci said of his return to Montreal. “And I had some readjusting to do. I wasn’t comfortable in social scenes like I thought I would be. it took a lot of time.”
Even being with his girlfriend was different after being around only men.
“You think it’s seven weeks so it’s not that long but it was such an intense experience. We crammed so much in that seven weeks. We literally stripped ourselves of everything that goes in the outside world. So affection was hard for me, being in social scenes was hard for me, even people being nice to me felt weird. Because I was just used to people being mean and aggressive towards me.”
Ricci (8-2) recalled seeing a friend on his mother’s balcony when he got back home.
“In the [fighters’] house, it’s so weird. Everyone’s always looking for weakness and I was looking for weakness in my friend. And he’s a fighter so when I went towards him I said ‘Hey what’s up.’ And he backed up for a second and he said ‘Something different about you, man. Why are you sizing me up?’ And I said ‘What are you talking about?“’
“I slipped up here and there with little things like that but eventually I slowly got back to normal.”
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