Hot damn! The UFC summer camp started off with a bang.

Walking into The Ultimate Fighter gym and seeing the pictures on the wall of current and former UFC fighters, I felt like I was in a dream. We lined up at the gym and got a message from [UFC President] Dana White since he could not be there to talk to us in person. He spoke via video, and [coaches] Justin [Gaethje] and Eddie [Alvarez] talked to us, but I kept looking and thinking, “Am I really here? Is this just a dream?”

After introductions, we went to the locker rooms and changed for evaluations to pick teams. We were split into two groups of eight, and I felt like it was the first day of school — excited and kind of nervous. My group of eight were with Team Alvarez first and they told us to warm up, as we were going to spar. Alrighty then, captain. Go big or go home — sparring it is.

We then switched and went with Team Gaethje. We did some bag work and wrestling, and then it was one-on-one interviews with Gaethje’s head coach. It was an amazing feeling being on these mats and in the TUF cage. It’s hard to describe, because it took years and years of work to get here and after the rough year [I had], this was just what I needed. After personal-life issues, injuries and the death of my father, I can’t believe I had made it here, to be part of this.

We lined up back on the mats after the coaches talked to their groups and figured out their picks. The coin flipped and Coach Alvarez won. He chose to make the first team pick, and his No. 1 pick was Barb Honchak. Not surprising one bit. She is a tough competitor and was the long-standing Invicta flyweight champion. She’s someone I had admired for her toughness and skill. What was a bit shocking to me was that she was seeded No. 2. The No. 1 seed was none other than Roxanne Modafferi, who just so happened to be the first pick for Team Gaethje. Pick after pick happened and I flashed back to my childhood, being the fat kid getting picked last for dodgeball. Then, finally, I got picked for Team Alvarez. Yes! After seeing the other team’s picks, I was so excited. This was definitely the team to be on.

Since Eddie got the first team pick, Justin got the first fight pick. He chose the No. 1 seed Roxanne to face the No. 16 pick, Shana Dobson.

We were then shuttled to the mansion. Amazing! Walking into the house, the other girls ran to rooms and I just sauntered to the back of the house. I got my room and, dang, this place was beautiful. I knew this might be the only time I got to live in a mansion, so I told myself I was going to soak it all in. First things first, though — I had to jump in the beautiful pool.

Team trainings were awesome, because I knew we had a great group. I felt like we clicked and had a great dynamic from the start. We needed to get Shana ready, in a limited amount of time, for Roxanne. Shana is a very good fighter and excels on her feet.

I’ve fought Roxanne before — she’s been fighting a long time — so I knew it would be a great fight. Roxanne is great. She gets my weirdness and even called me weird at tryouts (something I took as a compliment). However, I was sticking with Team Alvarez and Shana all the way.

Fight day arrived and I went with Shana to her fight. She was looking great in the locker room. I couldn’t believe it was the first fight of the season already. Eek! Exciting… and nerve-racking. I hadn’t known Shana too long, but I always get anxiety seeing my friends fight, and I definitely had those nerves watching her walk to the cage. She looked great on her feet, cutting her angles. She hit hard and got some great shots off, but Roxanne was able to get her to the ground and secured mount. After some elbows, Roxanne earned the first-round stoppage.

It sucks to see your friend lose, and I felt terrible for Shana, but I was happy to see how far Roxy had come since the last time she was on the show. Shana went out and did her best and there is no shame in that. She fought the No. 1 seed and gave her a giant goose egg on her noggin. Props for that, buddy. But hey… I have a loss to Roxy, too.

Next up was the next fight announcement! Thankfully, it was Eddie’s pick this time and, guess what, I already knew it was gonna be me! We lined up on the mats and announced it officially. No. 4, little ol’ me, against No. 13, Karine [Gevorgyan]. We did our stare down and, of course, I couldn’t look her in the eyes and take myself seriously, so I whispered sweet nothings to her and made goofy faces. Then, in true DeAnna fashion, I petted her hair. It’s an awkward-person thing… if you don’t get it, you probably never will and probably shouldn’t try. Haha.

Well, that’s all for this week. Next week, that’s where there will be awkwardness and awesomeness a plenty. Stay tuned.

About The Author

DeAnna Bennett
TUF 26 Blogger

DeAnna Bennett is a mixed martial artist competing on the 26th season of The Ultimate Fighter. The show will crown the UFC’s inaugural flyweight champion. DeAnna is a former Invicta FC title challenger who trains out Four7 Training Center in Provo, Utah.

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