This season of "The Ultimate Fighter" was filmed in a matter of six weeks, about half the shooting schedule of last season’s live show on FX.
Not that Colton Smith needed long to realize a clash between him and TUF finale opponent Mike Ricci was inevitable.
“We are very different,” Smith told FOXSports.com in advance of Saturday’s event that can be seen live on FX at 9 p.m. ET/PT. “Our upbringing is very different. I come from a single-parent household. My mom raised me. She did her best and we didn’t have all that much, but all I really needed were my shoes and my headgear.”
And for Ricci, a Canadian the show has portrayed as being somewhat image-conscious?
“He likes to flash his money and flash just about everything else he has. I’m not like that. I could make a million dollars tomorrow, and I’d be the same guy as yesterday.”
Smith’s path further diverged from Ricci’s when he reached adulthood. Smith enlisted in the military, served two tours in Iraq, became an Army Ranger and was promoted to staff sergeant. Smith, 25, also wrestled for Army.
He’s currently based at Fort Hood, Texas, and has about two-and-a-half years left on his current commitment to the Army. Just to get enough time to film TUF took some sacrifice along with the backing of the Army.
“I didn’t take leave the past two years,” said Smith, who is married with two children. “I had 30 days saved up. I didn’t go on any family vacations. I tried out for TUF (15) and didn’t make it. So, I just kept saving up.
“My wife understands my dream, which is to be a world champ someday. She’s been really supportive. She understands that this is my passion.”
Smith didn’t have much of an MMA résumé before TUF. He only had four fights, just one more than the minimum necessary to appear on TUF. In those fights, Smith won three times, all in first-round submissions. His loss was by a second-round KO.
Once TUF started, short matches became a thing of the past. Smith beat Jesse Barrett, Eddy Ellis, Igor Araujo and Jon Manley via decisions to earn a spot in the final.
“For sure, I’ve had to make sure my cardio and everything else has been good,” Smith said.
Now away from the TUF house, Smith has had to reacclimate to the norms of life in Texas.
“For me, it was pretty much come back, spend time with my family and my wife, my kids, but also get right back on the bandwagon of training with Tim (Kennedy) and Andrew Craig,” Smith said on a conference call earlier this week.
And what about the fame that comes with being on "The Ultimate Fighter"?
“Before we left the house, (UFC president) Dana (White) sat us down and said, ‘Before you came on this show, remember who your friends and you family were and just keep them,’ ” Smith said. “You know, don’t worry about all the new people coming into your life.”
In regards to Ricci, it seems like Smith has seen more than enough.
“He’s a very precise striker,” Smith said. “He’s a tough kid. I feel like I can break him. My breaking point hasn’t been found yet. I’ve seen it in some of his fights live, and it looked like that he almost reached his breaking point a few times. I just want to put on the pressure.”