Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | midnight
Everybody knows who Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz are.
But with the premiere of the eleventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter" in the books, the Las Vegas Sun would like to offer a closer look at the 14 cast members who will train under the two coaches and fight to earn a UFC contract.
Quotes used in these bios are from private interviews before the show went into filming.
Age: 32 Record: 7-3 Hometown: Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Attonito first was exposed to MMA as a wrestler at Hofstra University, where he worked out with Phil Baroni and Jay Hieron. Attonito watched both his teammates turn their wrestling backgrounds into MMA careers and finally allowed himself to start formally training for the sport two years after leaving college. He now works as a head trainer at the American Top Team.
Age: 24 Record: 7-2 Hometown: Coconut Creek, Fla.
Blanchard is a two-time all-state wrester with self-described "great takedowns" and "vicious ground-and-pound." He also fought in more than 20 amateur boxing matches and briefly considered turning pro. He's no stranger to Las Vegas, as he's a die-hard poker fan whose strategy is to grind out a big stack over hours of playing. His favorite spots to play at are Bellagio and Wynn.
Age: 29 Record: 10-0 Hometown: Tulsa, Okla.
Bryant's transition to MMA from wrestling happened basically overnight. Although a strong wrestler in high school, Bryant didn't attend college to compete and was introduced to MMA when a few of his lifting partners at a fitness center encouraged him to start training. "One minute you're on the couch saying this stuff is cool and the next you're in the gym saying this stuff is awesome," he said. "And I could do it too." Bryant has trained and cornered former UFC veteran David Heath.
Age: 23 Record: 11-3 Hometown: Lakewood, Colo.
Camozzi has lost to two TUF alums in his career already: Jesse Forbes and Jesse Taylor — but the two losses couldn't be more different as far as Camozzi's concerned. He lost a unanimous decision to Taylor (who he calls 'the blanket') in 2009, in a fight he said Taylor refused to exchange with him and simply outwrestled him. His armbar loss to Forbes, though, was a war. "It won fight of the year in 2008 for HD Net," he said. "It was voted as the bloodiest fight of 2008. We both went at it. I slipped in blood at the end right into the armbar."
Age: 23 Record: 4-0 Hometown: Ocala, Fla.
Hammortree was a standout linebacker at Webber International before giving up football for MMA. As a firefighter back home, Hammortree competed in the Florida Firefighter Games and won the gold medal in the heavyweight class. After that, he won the heavyweight title belt at the 10th Annual World Classic Amateur Kickboxing Championship in Orlando.
Age: 26 Record: 3-0 Hometown: Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Henle holds an undefeated record in his young MMA career and gets the brunt of his training at Big John McCarthy's MMA gym in Valencia, Calif. One of his true talents, however, is storytelling. During his interview, Henle told half a dozen stories, including ones about how he almost fought a coach while on the tennis team his freshman year of high school, his former interest in "aggressive rollerblading," breaking down into tears when he had to leave one of his favorite wrestling students and putting drunk patrons into guillotine chokes during his years as a bouncer.
Age: 28 Record: 5-0 Hometown: Dumfries, Va.
McCray was born into a military family, growing up in Germany until he moved permanently to the U.S. in 1999. He followed his father's footsteps, serving in the Army Reserve for eight years. He's a submission fighter, with four of his five professional wins coming by way of first-round submission.
Age: 25 Record: 9-1 Hometown: Orem, Utah
Before McGee became a mixed martial artist, he had fallen into a serious drug addiction that began when he became addicted to pain killers after shattering his collarbone when he crashed his mo-ped. He hit rock bottom when he overdosed on heroin in a friend's trailer and had to be rushed to the hostpital, where at one point he was deemed clinically dead. "I think I was born with alcoholism," he said. "I was into some pretty gnarly stuff: cocaine, drinking at work, drinking on the way home from work. I harmed about everybody I came into contact with." The young fighter has broken his addiction and says that fighting in the UFC is his ultimate dream.
Age: 27 Record: 4-2 Hometown: Orlando, Fla.
McKinney is a product of Jungle MMA in Orlando, the same gym that TUF alum Tom Lawlor calls home. McKinney is a black-belt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter but has posted only one submission win his career, with all the others coming from his striking abilities. Five of his six professional fights have ended in the first round.
Age: 29 Record: 16-4-1 Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.
Noke has one of the most interesting backgrounds of any fighter who has competed on TUF. As a former resident of Mooloolaba, Australia, Noke's former occupation was bodyguard to "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. "My coach at the time used to work for him and they were looking for someone else and Steve loved MMA," he said. "Steve wanted to get another MMA fighter who he liked and who he could train with. He came and watched one of my fights, he was impressed with my fight and asked me to work with him. I think it was more so he had somebody to train with. He could handle himself; he didn't need bodyguards."
Age: 30 Record: 11-0 Hometown: Calgary, Canada
Ring has over 30 kickboxing fights in his career but was pushed to switch to MMA because of the "purity" of the sport. He's an interesting character in that he admits to being extremely lazy. When asked what jobs he's worked, Ring responded, "Any real jobs? Come on have you seen me? I'm lazy, I can't hold down a job." Lazy, maybe, but Ring also is crafty. To keep himself afloat financially, Ring saved all the money he earned from kickboxing and bought a six-bedroom house which he turned into a boarding house for the rent money.
Age: 22 Record: 4-0 Hometown: Las Vegas
Tavares is the youngest contestant on the show this year and just moved to Las Vegas from his hometown of Hilo, Hawaii, late last year. As a high school student in Hawaii, Tavares was a standout football player, track-and-field athlete and paddler, which he says is a popular sport there. His biggest reason for wanting to get into MMA? Street fights. "Fighting in the streets," he said. "I used to get in a lot of fights, and I knew that sooner or later I would get into trouble with the police or seriously hurt somebody. I loved fighting so I figured I might as well get paid for it." Living in Las Vegas, Tavares has joined up with the Tapout gym and is working under Shawn Tompkins.
Age: 28 Record: 18-15 Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
With more than 30 professional fights, Uscola is well-known to hardcore MMA fans but never has been able to break into the UFC. The closest he came was trying out for the fifth season of TUF. Uscola works out with WEC star Urijah Faber and considered himself a favorite at the start of filming. An interesting storyline to watch for with Uscola: His first-born son was due Feb. 14, right in the middle of the filming period for this season. The reality series rules dictate that fighters are not allowed to contact with the outside world, meaning Uscola wasn't receiving day-to-day updates on his girlfriend's condition. Just two days into filming the show, it was already bothering him. "It's going to be tough. Every time I think about it I can't get it out of my head," he said. "It's starting to play with my head. If they don't tell me what's going on I'm going to go ape-(expletive)."
Age: 25 Record: 2-1 Hometown: South Pasadena, Calif.
Yager had a sink-or-swim experience with MMA. Originally just training for fun, Yager got the opportunity to fly to Atlanta be on BET's "Iron Ring" show which was a chance for amateur fighters to build a name for themselves with the exposure of national television before turning pro. When Yager got to Atlanta, however, he found out that all the other contestants already were professional fighters. "I got out there and everybody was a pro and I had no amateur fights," he said. "I was out there with no coaches and no corner, but I went ahead with it because it was a great opportunity. I fought two fights and went 2-0. After that there was no turning back. I wasn't going to back to amateur fights after getting that kind of exposure."