On Saturday night at The Pearl At the Palms in Las Vegas, an army veteran will fight a martial arts trainer and a bricklayer will fight a bouncer at the Ultimate Fighter Finale, with the winners of the two fights earning six-figure contracts to fight in the UFC.
The four fighters -- DeMarques Johnson
(pictured), James Wilks
, Ross Pearson
and Andre Winner
-- spoke to the media Thursday to promote their fights, and they came across as more or less ordinary guys who just felt lucky to be there.
"Fighting, in my life, has always been there, since I was in the military and I got into Brazilian jiu jitsu," Johnson said of his background. I had some friends fighting and I just followed it that way, and then I met up with a great camp and started training."
The British Wilks represents Team UK on the show, but he's done most of his MMA training in the United States, and he said he worked several years as a martial arts trainer before deciding to dedicate himself completely to fighting in the cage.
"I moved to the States in 2000 and have been training and teaching martial arts," Wilks said. "I was fighting sporadically, I'd have a couple years and then have a year off, and I didn't really dedicate myself to it. But then as I got older I started taking it more seriously and fighting was something I wanted to pursue. I'd been teaching martial arts, which I really enjoy, but now I'm really just focused on the fights."
Pearson built up an 8-3 professional MMA record fighting on various shows in England, but he said it wasn't until he was selected for The Ultimate Fighter that he was able to make MMA his one and only priority.
"I was a bricklayer back home, pretty much working Mondays through Saturdays, training when I could, all the way up to the show," Pearson said. "I was juggling building in with training."
In some ways, Winner might have had the job that most prepared him for fighting for a living: Winner was a bouncer at a club, although when asked for his title, he made it sound a little more professional than that: Winner pronounced himself a professional "Door supervisor."