Nordine Taleb: The third time’s the charm
When the UFC released the names of the competitors for The Ultimate Fighter season 19, one particular participant had everyone raising their eyebrows.
Nordine Taleb was set to be part of the cast of 32 fighters vying for a shot to get into the TUF house with coaches Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn . The reason for the curiosity, however, was the fact that Taleb had just finished a stint on The Ultimate Fighter Nations — a series focused on teams from Canada and Australia.
It wasn’t the first time a fighter had attempted to make it onto TUF on two occasions, but never before had a hopeful actually been on back-to-back seasons of the reality show. As it turns out, Taleb actually tried out for and fought in the elimination round for TUF 19 before TUF Nations started filming. The two shows were running almost simultaneously and because Taleb had the best fight of the entry bouts but came up short in the decision, the UFC opted to give him another go at it.
"I tried out first for TUF 19 so that was first," Taleb told FOX Sports. "I passed all the tests and the tryouts and everything and I fought against Mike King. I loved this fight, it was a pretty tight decision, it could go either way on both sides. I lost and went back home and I was pretty much disappointed because I put everything on this opportunity and maybe four or five days after the UFC called me and they offered me the opportunity to go on TUF Nations because a candidate had a problem or something. So I did it."
Taleb was an early favorite to win the season as part of the TUF Nations cast, but once he finally got a chance to compete, it was another barnburner of a fight and once again he came up short. Taleb lost a controversial decision in three rounds to Australian Tyler Manawaroa, while breaking his foot in the process. The injury healed, but the anguish from that loss still haunts Taleb to this day.
It was completely crazy, but it was very hard for me mentally. After two losses like that, in some parts of my head that was completely devastating. I thought they would never give me a third opportunity
— Nordine Taleb
"I’m very, very pissed about this fight. It’s still boiling inside me today," Taleb said. "For me, I won this fight, that didn’t even need to go to the third round. I hurt my foot also in the first round, so it made things more complicated. But even with that I think that I won the fight."
At this point, Taleb was 0-2 in elimination fights on The Ultimate Fighter and as he headed home from TUF Nations, he was convinced that he truly blew his shot at making into the UFC. Two chances on two reality shows and he couldn’t get past the first fight in either of them.
It was a hard pill for Taleb to swallow, but he knew that other competitors who didn’t make it to the UFC by way of The Ultimate Fighter still had a chance to make a future with the promotion. So he got back into the gym and started working towards his next fight.
Little did he know that the UFC would once again come calling for his services.
The promotion offered him a fight on the TUF Nations Finale card against Australian Vik Grujic, and Taleb promised himself at that moment that there would be no third loss while he was fighting in the Octagon.
"It was completely crazy, but it was very hard for me mentally. After two losses like that, in some parts of my head that was completely devastating. I thought they would never give me a third opportunity, I’ve never seen that," Taleb said. "I knew they are pretty tight with everything even if you give good performance. Those things were running in my head.
"But I kept calm and I just kept believing. One day they came back to me and I had good feedback from them and they liked my fight style and they want to see me again. I couldn’t wait for what’s next."
Nordine didn’t disappoint either as he put on a one-sided beat down of Grujic to officially earn his place on the UFC roster, albeit by some of the strangest circumstances that have ever happened for a fighter. Now that it’s all past him, Taleb can look back at two Ultimate Fighter shows as a learning experience, because he’s now a UFC fighter and no longer just a hopeful.
"I felt like the sky is the limit, like nothing is impossible. I just proved that I was right to keep believing and staying focused on another opportunity. It was amazing to win in the real show on the big stage. It was worth the two losses," Taleb said with a laugh.
"Being a UFC fighter is like a dream come true. Now the story begins for me."