The competitors on The Ultimate Fighter 19 certainly didn’t ingratiate themselves to UFC president Dana White once the show started airing earlier this year. The talent on the show seemed like a homerun, but once the fights actually started taking place it was nothing but foul ball after foul ball.
The season was so panned by White that he eventually called it the worst in the history of the show. Given the brutal nature of his comments there was no telling how many — if any — of the fighters would get second life in the UFC outside of the finalists who fought two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
Mike King was very happy to get the call back to fight again while also facing a fellow teammate in Cathal Pendred at the upcoming UFC Fight Night card in Ireland. King stole the show in the elimination round with his battle against Canadian Nordine Taleb, but disaster struck when he got a finger in the eye midway through his bout against eventual show winner Eddie Gordon in the quarterfinals and their fight landed on the pile of forgettable moments from the show like almost every other bout during the season.
King knows there was a lot of talent on TUF 19 and maybe because everyone was so evenly matched, that’s why the fights ended up being so abysmal. No matter what the cause, the Ohio native is dedicated to proving to the UFC president and anyone else who was critical of the season that he belongs on the UFC roster.
"I didn’t read any of the media stuff, because they don’t really know us as people. We had a talented group of guys from top to bottom," King said when speaking to FOX Sports. "I feel like this is my opportunity to go into his hometown, take a win from him, he’s already a celebrity in Ireland and I feel like I can go out there and prove to Dana and the uppers at the UFC that I belong here and I will be good for the UFC in the future."
When I saw (Eddie Gordon) win I said I definitely want to fight this guy again
— Mike King
It’s a difficult pill to swallow when you hear things like you were a part of the worst season of the Ultimate Fighter through 20-plus versions on television, but King didn’t get discouraged once the show finished airing. Without sounding like he’s making excuses, King thinks the reality show is a much different animal once you show up and get locked away for six weeks, away from home, but more importantly away from the trainers and team that got you there in the first place.
King says a case in point were the performances turned in by Eddie Gordon and Corey Anderson at the TUF 19 Finale — both won by knockout in less than two minutes time. The two finalists came out and looked better than ever before after spending a few months at home with their own trainers and coaches.
He expects the same out of himself and Pendred this weekend.
"I think a lot of the issues inside of the house were that a lot of the guys were already pretty professional about what they were doing. To throw all of is into a scenario to break us away from our own training camps and our own routines, you see a big difference in the way they perform," King said. "Then you saw what happened when you let them go back and work with their own coaches and their own camp and the kind of performances they can have and the kind of fighters they were.
"I think you’ll see that with me and Cathal as well — two different guys with the proper kind of training around them and two different guys than what you saw on the show."
As far as his own time on the show, King still has one sticking point that he would like to resolve one day after his debut against Pendred is finished in Ireland. He still has unfinished business with Gordon following the eye poke that left him blind for days following their quarterfinal round matchup.
King would love nothing more than to earn the rematch with Gordon to see not only who should have won their first fight, but maybe who really was the best middleweight on The Ultimate Fighter season 19.
"When I saw him win I said I definitely want to fight this guy again," King said about Gordon. "Not only to kind of boost my reputation, but also because I feel I may have won those first two rounds anyways and a third round wasn’t really necessary.
"That said, Eddie did a great job, he took advantage of the opportunity he was given and he went out and won in the finale and he made his dream come true and I’m proud of him for it."