The Ultimate Fighter is a petri dish of all the ugly components mixed martial arts has to offer, with some fights sprinkled in to create the façade that it’s a show more about fighting than the personality clashes that are fostered there. They create an environment that’s conducive to hostility and discontent, and they get what they create, every single season.
Today’s post is a look behind the curtain from my time on the show, and the little things that chipped away at my self-esteem. I’m in a much better place these days, but there were some dark days during and after the show.
Going into The Ultimate Fighter house was really hard for me because all the girls had their preconceived notions about me. I had been one of the most experienced ones going in, and had established a large fan base long before going on the show, so it was easy to see why they would.
Heather Jo Clark was another factor. We’d had problems in the past stemming from her talking so much shit on me before our first fight, and even after I beat her, and we were heading into the house, she was still running her mouth and stirring the pot.
When I was there, I didn’t want to do or say anything wrong that could be misconstrued in any way. I was continually walking on eggshells. I even let people bully me to avoid conflict. The last thing I wanted was to be caught in an argument and have the editing team only show me arguing, but it ended up happening anyways.
I was bullied in passive aggressive ways to the point where I felt like I had to stand up for myself. Carla (Esparza) and I took a stand, and we ended up looking bad. That’s exactly what I didn’t want.
The fighting stopped being fun because I was worrying about so many layers and elements of the fight game. Every fight turned into drama—always drama. If you know me outside of fighting, I am so drama-free. I don’t gossip. I don’t spread rumors. I have good relationships, and I don’t keep toxic ones around for more than a second.
I was cast in this light, ‘Felice is all drama’ or ‘Felice is a shit talker.’ I’ve only ever defended myself. I’d read a headline for a story about one of my fights, and it would be, ‘Felice Herrig said this dastardly thing,’ or something, but really, I was just defending myself from something that was said about me, something the media would ask me directly about.
I remember when we were doing the first days of media around the TUF show, and Ariel Helwani said to me (I’m paraphrasing here), ‘So, I asked all the girls who they hate most in the house, and you were the favorite to be hated on.’
Those things bothered me. I’m human, and I think because I’m outgoing, people assume that I’m not sensitive to things like that. I’m confident in myself, but that’s the kind of thing that can zap that confidence into dust.
There were a lot of articles that came out saying I’d gotten into a fight on my very first night in the house. That didn’t happen. They kept putting me in this negative light and painting a picture of somebody that I’m not. This person they’re talking about isn’t even me.
It’s frustrating because I’ve always been a very genuine, truthful, honest person. It’s very hard for me having people see me in such a negative light—seeing me as a person that I bear absolutely no resemblance to.
Following the TUF experience, I was a mess of anxiety and frayed nerves, and my next fight bore the fruit of the seeds that were sown both in that house and in the immediate aftermath.
After taking a long break, and getting myself situated with professional help, I’ve been facing my demons daily, and while I won’t call it a battle won, I will say it’s a battle I keep fighting; willingly, confidently.