Canada and Australia, rivals? Not in any traditional sense. The former is known for summer sports and cute animals, the latter for winter sports and strong beer. They’re also generally pretty laid-back cultures, which explains why the recent season of The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia is filled with relative harmony.
Coaches Patrick Cote and Kyle Noke pretty much set the tone with their professional disposition, and their teams have followed suit, but despite the amicability between the two teams, the season’s octagon encounters have been fiercely fought.
Noke says that’s because despite the lack of any real international tension between the nations, a certain patriotism comes out when you are flying your flag.
"There’s no rivalry at all really, but once you put two countries against each other, they’re going to compete whether they like each other or hate each other or not," he said during a recent interview at Jackson-Winkeljohn Gym. "It’s country vs. country, and you want to win for your country."
There’s no rivalry at all really, but once you put two countries against each other, they’re going to compete whether they like each other or hate each other or not.
While the season competition has not gone his way — three of the four finalists so far are Canadians — Noke gets the chance to have the last laugh when he faces Cote at a UFC Fight Night show on April 16 in Quebec City.
"It definitely motivated me, just the country vs. country aspect of this Ultimate Fighter," he said. "That’s motivation enough. It puts a little bit more pressure on me, but I think pressure is a privilege. It makes me work harder and train harder so I’m excited to get in there and fight Patrick Cote. Watching all the guys fight on the show was motivation for me, and I can’t wait to get in there. I’m excited."
The season has afforded Noke the greatest exposure of his career.
The 34-year-old first came to the fight world’s attention in 2008, in the short-lived but widely exposed promotion EliteXC, where he fought Scott Smith. But it wasn’t until he competed as a contestant on season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter when he broke into the UFC.
To date, Noke’s tenure with the promotion has been a bit rocky. He won his first three matches, then lost two in a row and followed that with a drop to welterweight. He captured his first match in the division, earning a TKO over Charlie Brenneman, but that was 19 months ago.
"I would have loved to have one or two fights before the show," he said. "It didn’t work out that way. They called me and asked me if I wanted to do it. Of course I’m going to say yes. I’m not going to say no to the opportunity. It’s been a long time. Just going through this fight camp has been hell. I can’t wait to get back in there and fight again and do what I love doing."
No rivalry, but fierce competition.
Noke couldn’t say no because the trip from TUF contestant to TUF coach brought him full circle and afforded him a high-profile match at the end of the journey.
Might his answer have been different if he got one more, important piece of information? Perhaps.
"When they first told me the thought didn’t cross my mind that they’d be filming in Canada," he said. "They said, ‘You want to do it?’ I said, ‘Hell, yeah, I want to do it.’ Go home to Australia. The sun, surfing between sessions. I found out later it was going to be in Quebec. I was pretty crushed. Especially because the snow. I hate the snow. It was brutal up there."
But by that point he was locked in. Making lemons out of lemonade, he spent quite a bit of time snowboarding, but mostly, the focus was on getting back to the cage.
He can finally do that in a few days in the night’s co-main event. It’s a fight that has somewhat gone under the radar, and doesn’t that make you wonder if Noke and Cote blundered by not creating more drama to drum up interest?
"Not at all," he said. "I think me and Patrick both had the same idea going into the show, that we’re going to make it about the fighters and not about us. We never really had any beef between us the whole time. I think we did a good job making it about the fighters instead of us."