George Sotiropoulos is an Australian mixed martial arts fighter who competes in the UFC's lightweight division. He was a contestant on 'The Ultimate Fighter' and a coach on 'Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes'.
After appearing on The Ultimate Fighter as a contestant in 2007, people were telling me that one day I'd return as a coach on the show and that I'd be suited for the role, but I didn't believe it would happen. In fact, Ray Longo used to joke about me winning the belt and then going back on the show. He thought it was all mapped out for me.
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Of course, when I heard the UFC was planning on hosting The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes in Australia in 2012, I did start to think I may have a chance of being a coach. It seemed to make sense. I was a fighter familiar to the Australian fans and had also done a fair bit of teaching and coaching in my years as a mixed martial artist.
From a coaching perspective, it definitely helped that I'd been on the show before. It gave me a head-start and a few ideas too. I knew what these guys needed to do in order to survive and succeed on the show and I basically just wanted to help them all maximise their potential. In order to do this I made them train all the time, regardless of whether they won or lost their fights. I didn't want guys sitting around getting lazy.
I also didn't want them to be spending two or three days desperately cutting weight before a fight. I wanted the weight loss to be a gradual process. I saw too many guys crashing the weight when I was on the show and it didn't sit right with me. They were spending valuable time putting their bodies through hell when they could have been working on technique and properly preparing for the fight.
It was all about establishing a certain mentality and then sticking with it as the show progressed. Unless my guys were really banged up and hurt, and were therefore unable to train, I was going to make sure they trained and helped out as much as possible. I didn't want them to get lazy and take anything for granted. Even when they lost, I treated them the same. They were still asked to train like they'd won. Some of them didn't feel the greatest after a defeat, and were worn down physically and mentally, but to their credit they stuck with it and believed in what I was telling them. This helped create the right environment and made the whole experience so much more enjoyable.
In truth, I was always going to enjoy being involved in The Ultimate Fighter. I very much see myself as an old-school martial artist and somebody who enjoys this sport as a lifestyle. If you put me in a training environment on a daily basis, I couldn't be happier. I don't just train because I have a fight coming up, I train because I love training. Also, I don't do mixed martial arts because I have to make a living and pay the bills, I do it because I simply love doing it.
UK team coach Ross Pearson and I are probably quite similar in that sense. I'd never spent any time with Ross and I'd never had a conversation with him before we met on the show, but I knew of him. I'd seen him around UFC events from time to time and had watched him compete plenty of times. I'm a big MMA fan as well as a fighter, so I'd seen most of his fights. We were also both in the lightweight division, so I knew there was a distinct possibility we could one day fight each other.
At first, the dynamic between us on the show was quite light-hearted and jovial, but over time it became a lot more competitive and tense. Given how the show was set-up and given we were both coaching teams, this was probably always inevitable. The sport itself is very competitive and any time you put two teams of passionate fighters up against each other, you're likely to see a lot of arguments and disagreements.
Everybody on the show had a goal and, in many cases, the goals were the same. My goals were to first lead my team to victory and then defeat Ross Pearson on December 15.
Australia’s George Sotiropoulos meets Ross Pearson in the main event on Saturday, December 15 at UFC on FX SOTIROPOUlOS vs. PEARSON, live from Queensland, Australia. Tickets available at Ticketek
Follow George on Twitter @georgesots