Cristiano Marcello reminisces about the longest season ever on The Ultimate Fighter
FEB 13, 2014 4:07p ET
The formula for The Ultimate Fighter has only changed slightly over the course of the past 20 plus seasons of the reality show.
There used to be team challenges to help determine fight picks and then fighters were required to actually fight to get into the house. In the old days, being eliminated from the competition meant you actually went home, and then there was also the wildcard format that allowed one losing fighter to re-enter the competition.
For one single season, The Ultimate Fighter changed dramatically when the UFC decided to take the packaged format for the show and revamp it as a live broadcast over the course of 13 weeks with a new fight taking place each Friday night. In every other version of the show, fighters would move to Las Vegas, live in a house for six weeks, and then at the end producers would edit all the footage together to make a series for television.
The Ultimate Fighter Live was the first and only attempt at filming in real time so the fights and the reality of the show lasted for just over three months with everyone including coaches Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz spending time away from home, their gyms and their families for the sake of the series.
Cristiano Marcello was one of those fighters who landed on Team Faber when the show started, and he was definitely in a very tough spot when he earned his spot in the house. At the time, Marcello was a competitor trying to earn his way in the UFC, but he was also a man in his mid-thirties who had a family at home and a gym in Brazil that depended on him. Of course, he has no regrets about doing the show because ultimately it led to his entrance into the UFC where he will compete again this weekend at UFC Fight Night against former housemate Joe Proctor.
“It was a great experience to do something that no one has done before.”
Still, it doesn't mean that The Ultimate Fighter Live wasn't a painfully long experience for everyone involved. The hardest part for Marcello was competing once the show was over, because they were all literally living together in Las Vegas until a week before the finale, where they would all inevitably fight each other for a spot on the UFC roster.
"It was a great experience to do something that no one has done before. Every time you do something as a pioneer, it is a good thing. But the only thing that made the experience challenging was having to fight one week after leaving the house," Marcello told FOX Sports. "It was a challenge because we trained 13 weeks to get into the house, then we trained another 13 weeks while in the house, and then another week we trained immediately after we left the house to fight on the Finale. We had no time to rest, recharge, or work with our regular coaches back home."
At one point while filming the show, the cast of fighters got so stir crazy they decided to play a trick on the producers by letting them believe one of participants had slipped off and escaped the house. Leaving The Ultimate Fighter house when not approved by the UFC is a big no-no and fighters have actually been kicked off the show in previous seasons when it's happened.
"We had one time close to the end of the season where everyone was bored to death. So one of the fighters in the house decided to do a fake escape to play with the production staff," Marcello explained. "The fighter hid on top of the roof that was above the jacuzzi for 3 hours. The production team was going crazy because they thought he had escaped from the house and gone AWOL. We were all laughing and were in on the gag.
"It was priceless humor for us because we had been in the house for so many weeks at that point."
When it was all said and done, Marcello was still glad he did the show because it's earned him a place in the UFC and all told his cast produced a ton of fighters still competing in the Octagon today. There are still 11 members of the cast fighting in the UFC today with two others that were eliminated from the competition's opening round that also eventually earned contracts with the promotion.
Marcello believes that's the real testament and legacy for the single season of The Ultimate Fighter in a live format – the success seen by those involved with the show.
"I don't regret the experience because we are all in the UFC and I love challenges," Marcello said. "I think from our season we have 11 or 12 fighters still in the UFC. Like Burt Watson always says, "it is harder to stay in the UFC than it is to get into the UFC." We have a very strong contingency of talented guys from our season, and we all remain good friends. Priceless experience."
“Joe and I are going to try to take each other's heads off.”
Strangely enough, Marcello has to face one of his good friends this weekend in Brazil as he faces Joe Proctor at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Mousasi. While they were on the show together, both Marcello and Proctor were under coach Urijah Faber so they trained and sparred together on a daily basis for 13 weeks.
"The thing about fighting old training partners is that you know the other person's game. I have fought a few friends now since being in the UFC. And what I have learned is that we are forced to evolve and learn new tricks when fighting guys that we have worked with in the past. For me this was a good experience because I have put new tricks in my game in this camp. I am excited to show them to the fans," Marcello said.
"Joe is a very nice guy, and he is a professional athlete. He will prepare himself well for this fight. It will be a great show for the fans. I am sure we will both put it on the line."
Just because they are friends now and were training partners on the show doesn't mean that with both Marcello and Proctor coming off of recent losses that they are going to take it easy on each other. Because they know one another and are both in need of a win, the past work they've done together will only push them to gun for the finish that much harder.
"A fight is a fight but the prediction I have is that Joe and I are going to try to take each other's heads off," Marcello said. "So don't blink and buy your popcorn early."