Once on different sides of the reality TV show, Australian welterweight (Filthy) Richard Walsh trained with Canadian coach Patrick (The Predator) Cote. Heck, the Aussie spent the last week staying chez Cote.
"I've got a lot of time for him. He's such a good guy," Walsh said of Cote.
"Super super nice guy," said Cote.
The two, along with fellow Canadian cast member Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou, also went to Thailand to train.
"He's my bestie, man," said the affable Theodorou.
After spending six weeks with the 15 other fighters during filming in a lodge in the woods about an hour outside of Montreal late last year, Walsh is happy to be back in Canada.
"I love this place," he said. "People are so friendly. And I like to see snow now and then. We don't get that in Australia."
He saw plenty of snow during filming of the TV show, which wrapped in December. And he got a little more this weekend as winter refused to leave the Quebec capital.
Fans who tune in to Wednesday's TUF Nations finale card will see Walsh sporting his impressive fight beard. The Aussie shaved it off on the TV show after losing his semifinal bout to Canadian Olivier Aubin-Mercier.
He has no regrets about his time on the show.
"For me, losing wasn't such a bad thing," he said. "I'm back here. I'm in the finale. This is the best thing that's happened to me in my life."
The winners of the show's welterweight and middleweight divisions will be decided Wednesday in all-Canadian finals at the Colisee Pepsi.
Aubin-Mercier faces Chad (The Disciple) Laprise at 170 pounds while Theodorou takes on Sheldon Westcott.
The winners will be the first Canadians to be crowned The Ultimate Fighter. Cote was a finalist on Season 4 back in 2006, when he lost to Travis Lutter.
The 25-year-old Walsh, meanwhile, takes on Australian teammate Chris (The Savage) Indich (6-1).
After filming finished on the show, Walsh (7-1) went back to Australia and chilled.
"I took a month off, had a few beers," he explained. "Kind of took it easy around Christmas and New Year's."
Thinking he might get a slot on the finale card, he returned to the gym and started training. Finding out that he was fighting a fellow Aussie hasn't fazed him.
"I love the guy, he's great guy, he's done a lot for Australian MMA," Walsh said. "But I don't have any problem punching him in the face. Because on the night, we're not really going to be mates. We're fighting for our future."
Walsh watched the show, saying he had no issues with how he was portrayed other than he has a better sense of humour than the show suggested.
"I'll take it," he said. "They didn't make me look bad."
And while he had no problem seeing himself on TV, he said he didn't like hearing himself.
"Watching yourself, you see yourself in the mirror every day," he said. "Unless you don't like looking at yourself and then maybe you've got a few problems. But listening to yourself, that's something you don't get a chance to do often, so that was a bit of a wig-out."
Walsh, who lives in Sydney, said life has not changed much for him since taking part in the show. He attributes that to MMA still facing an uphill battle in Australia.
"I'm hoping guys like myself, Chris can kind of grow that sport because in the last five years it's kind of taken a spiral downwards from what it was when I first started."
Australia, he says, needs top-flight fighters like Canada has had in Georges St-Pierre and Rory MacDonald.
Walsh has other options than fighting for a living. He studied construction property at the University of New South Wales, finishing his degree at Georgia Tech and started studying law in Australia before quitting a semester later to pursue fighting.
A year later, the former rugby player was on the UFC TV show.
"For me it's not about the money," he said. "It's like the furthest thing from the money and the glory and stuff. It's just something I like doing and I set a goal long ago that this was something and I've kind of followed through on that.
"I've had to kind of buck a lot of trends, parents telling me I should get a job and all that kind of stuff. Because I come from a good family, good parenting, good education. So this was harder for me I think in a lot of ways than it was if I didn't have the choice. I had so many other things I could have been doing: making money, using my degree, travelling ... but I chose this path.
"It was a little bit harder I think, but it's a lot more fulfilling."
Having made it onto a UFC card has proved to family and friends that his dream was worth chasing, he said.Suggest a correction