Chris Holdsworth's time in the gym isn't spent like most TUF prospects. Instead of training alongside unknown names and unheralded up-and-comers, all he has to do is gaze around to see a slew of top-10 UFC contenders hard at work within the walls at Sacramento's Team Alpha Male, affording Holdsworth a vibrant image of what life could be like if he devotes himself to his craft.
"I don't think there's any added pressure," Holdsworth said. "Me being around all these top-level athletes and like-minded individuals with a lot of the same goals, it kind of just helps me put things in perspective, and see how those people get ready for huge UFC fights, title fights.
"We got four guys fighting on the December 14 card in Sacramento, so all of us have been peaking together and training together, and it's been going great."
While Holdsworth's teammates prepare for UFC on FOX 9, the No. 1 pick of Team Tate focuses on his own first step, as he'll take on Team Rousey's David Grant to determine The Ultimate Fighter 18's male tournament winner at Saturday's live finale. Holdsworth began the season known as a jiu-jitsu specialist, but surprised many by showcasing a deft array of striking skills en route to three first-round finishes.
"In a lot of my previous fights, I just didn't really get to showcase any of my stand-up skills because I saw opportunities, and when I see an opportunity to finish, I'm going to go after it," Holdsworth explained. "I'm one of those type of fighters, every time I see a finish, I'm going to try to do that. I'm not going to try to just go for one thing, or have something set in mind. I'm just always looking for the finish and to get the fight over with as fast as possible."
Like his Alpha Male teammates, Holdsworth credits his development in part to head coach Duane Ludwig, who has seemingly flipped the team of wrestlers on its axis with a string of vicious knockout wins since his arrival in late-2012.
"He's a great pioneer in the kickboxing world and he has a lot of experience," Holdsworth said of Ludwig. "He got the fastest knockout in UFC history, and he's brought a lot to our team. I've gotten the chance to get a lot of time in with him getting ready for this finale.
"I've been in this game for quite some time now, and we've got a lot of guys peoples don't know about yet that are doing big things in the gym and coming up on the smaller circuits and stuff. But I just think it's my time."
Unlike a few of his castmates, Holdsworth managed to sidestep the constant drama that surged throughout this season, instead staying focused on the task at hand. Nonetheless, he believes fans are getting the wrong idea about Ronda Rousey due to her uneven portrayal on the show.
"She's very competitive, and she's going to show that," Holdsworth said. "She likes to play little psychological games and get under people's skin and always win, but I got the chance to see her bubbly side as well. She got to come to the house quite often, we got to talking. She's a really cool, down to earth person.
"I remember Ronda back when she was first starting and I've always been a big fan. To tell you the truth, I wanted to be on her team. I think all the guys did. But once I got talking to Miesha and found out some of her coaching staff and stuff like that, I was comfortable with and I'd worked with before, I was happy to be on anyone's team and just be given the opportunity to make history and get on this show with the women."