Ramsey Nijem remembers his reaction when he got a call from the UFC asking him to return to be a part of “The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption.”
Needless to say it wasn’t exactly exuberant.
“[Expletive] you. That was my first reaction,” Nijem told FOX Sports. “Initially, I was like [expletive] that! Go back to that torturous house? Sit there with all those crazy ass people? It took me a little while to wrap my head around it.”
Nijem left “The Ultimate Fighter” behind him after appearing on season 13, where he stepped onto the show with five professional fights, but made quite an impact by finishing all three opponents before making it to the finale against Tony Ferguson.
Following his stint on the reality show, Nijem amassed 10 total fights in the UFC but after suffering a heartbreaking split decision loss to Andrew Holbrook in 2015, it appeared his career with the organization was at an end.
Nijem was utterly frustrated with the judging in the sport, not to mention a less-than-cordial relationship with former UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and it all added up to his exit from the promotion. At the time, Nijem wasn’t even all that upset about it.
But after signing with another promotion and then sitting on the sidelines for months just waiting to get a call for a fight, Nijem started to miss the sport more than he realized he ever would. As much as those past situations still bothered him, Nijem started to remember how much he just enjoyed competing and why he got into mixed martial arts in the first place.
“I was kind of sitting away from fighting for a minute after that last fight. I kind of had a bad taste in my mouth,” Nijem explained. “The whole judging thing just has so much effect on your personal life. You can go out there and beat the crap out of someone but then you get a bad judge’s call and it affects just so many different things. It was frustrating and I was getting caught up on the wrong part. That is frustrating and I still think it’s bull [expletive] but that’s not why I compete. I was missing fighting.
“A lot of my grievances were with Joe Silva and he kind of wasn’t doing me a lot of favors on the matchmaking side.”
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
They say time heals all wounds and while it may sound cliché, that’s exactly what made Nijem pick up the phone when the UFC came calling to offer him a spot on the new season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
As much as he wanted to be back in the UFC, Nijem was still hesitant to accept a slot on the reality show because he already lived through that once before and never had a desire to do it again.
It was also tough decision because Nijem had found closure during his time away from the UFC to the point where he was satisfied with the body of work he put together while competing there for several years. He picked up some big wins, had plenty of memorable fights and at the time that was enough for Nijem to feel satisfied with what he did during his career.
“I had to think long and hard about it. It wasn’t an easy decision. I really enjoy my life now and when I went on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ the first time, I was super young, I was working night jobs, training when I could. The first time I was just so happy to be there. The second time, I was there for a reason.
“This is a second chapter. I could walk away from the sport and be happy with what I accomplished the first time. Had a ton of fights in the UFC, beat some of the top guys in the sport and do it at the age it I did, I could walk away and be totally happy with what I accomplished. Then to get this second chapter, it’s crazy how it all happened.”
With new owners at the UFC, a new matchmaker in place, plus a $250,000 grand prize on the line and a real shot at redemption by returning to the UFC, Nijem found all the reasons he needed to return and now he’s entering the competition with a fresh outlook and a renewed perspective on the sport.
“There’s new owners and the new owners are just about dollars and cents. It’s straight up, you do a good job, you move the needle, you get paid. I believe that’s better. So that’s what I’m excited about. I’m excited to work with Sean Shelby,” Nijem explained.
“I’m really excited about my second chapter. I went through a lot of [expletive] in that first one.”
The new season of “The Ultimate Fighter” kicks off at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday night on FS1.