Seven years since Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar changed the sport, TUF franchise goes downsunder with a special season of TUF Smashes: Team UK vs. Team Australia. Filming began on July 19th, as the TV launch date of the show is yet to be revealed.
This time the coaches are Ross Pearson (UK) and George Sotiropoulos (Australia). Borth fighters are familiar with The Ultimate Fighter format - Sotiropoulos competed on TUF 6: Hughes vs. Serra, and made it up to the semi-finals, while Ross Pearson won TUF 9: USA vs. UK, coached by Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping. Team UK won both Lightweight and Welterweight brackets of TUF 9.
Sotiropoulos is well-known for his amazing record in the UFC Lightweight division. The Greek-Australian went 7-0 inside the Octagon, before losing a decision to Dennis Siver at UFC 127, and then getting stopped by Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 132. G-Sots is expected to fight Ross Pearson in a traditional Coach vs. Coach bout, with sights on getting back on track in the UFC.
We had an opportunity to speak with George Sotiropoulos, who revealed some interesting information about Team Australia, and his expectations from the fight with Ross Pearson.
Feel free to follow George Sotiropoulos on Twitter @georgesots.
Hello George, what can you tell about your TUF: Smashes experience so far?
It’s a really good experience. It’s very positive, and I’m happy to pass my knowledge to all the great fighters we have on our team. More than anything, I really feel like I’m representing my country.
Do you think fighters today have different goals on TUF than 5 years ago, when you were fighting on TUF 6?
No, I see the same competitive mentality. I think that’s something we all do the same. People are still coming on this show to make their breakthrough; they want that chance to break into the top 5 percent of Mixed Martial Arts competition.
What can you tell about Team Australia / Sotiropoulos?
We have a lot of talent on our team. I think the fans will be surprised by how competitive is this season. There are some fighters with pretty good records. You guys definitely won’t be disappointed.
I think there’s such thing as “Gym culture”, you can really see it when fighters coming from different gyms – they have their own habits, and often seem to have different mentality. How do you make sure everyone is loyal to Team Sotiropoulos?
Well, basically, I can’t really point my finger at something negative. It’s all positive – my team has a very good mentality, and they train hard. That’s despite the fact that they are all coming from different gyms. As a coach, I do everything I can to help those guys to get in the UFC, and fight on TUF Finale. They are sparring together, working together – yes, they’ll probably face each other, but it’s still a very positive environment.
So, you are not required to take any disciplinary measures as a coach?
It’s not like I’m gestapo or anything like that. Everyone is equal on our team. Everyone wants to get better, and have their chance to get in the UFC. None of them are playing-up or doing anything stupid. They are respectful, humble, competitive, and to be honest – nothing like that has ever crossed my mind.
What do you think about Ross Pearson’s coaching style?
There’s not much interaction between us. I just see him in the hallway and that’s it. Our teams are not training together at the same time.
How do you feel about fighting Ross Pearson? Are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, I’m absolutely looking forward to fight him. Yeah, there’s a lot of pride on the line in this fight. I represent my country on this show, so beating Ross Pearson is definitely on my “to do” list.
Do you think this coaching role on The Ultimate Fighter will have a significant impact on your career in the UFC?
I think it raises my profile. More people will become familiar with my character, and I’m very excited about demonstrating my coaching style as well. I think it will help me to become a household name in the UFC. This season of the Ultimate Fighter will be aired in Australia; so many fans will jump on board. It will grow the sport. Also, I think it’s great that global fans will also become more familiar with what I do as a fighter.
Finally, what fans can expect from TUF: Smashes?
I think they can expect exactly what the name says – TUF Smashes. The name says it all.