Following the action at UFC Fight Night 35, we got our first glimpse as eight Canadians and eight Australians begin a new season of The Ultimate Fighter. TUF Nations: Canada vs. Australia pits Ultimate Fighter alums Patrick Côté and Kyle Noke against one another as they coach their squads of welterweights and middleweights. Each week this season we'll be joined by Team Canada welterweight Chad Laprise. Undefeated at 7-0, the 27-year-old Ontario native splits his time training with Team Tompkins and Tristar Montreal.
Laprise joins us in our weekly Thursday morning Q&A, where he'll break down all the action that took place inside the TUF house, both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes.
If you have any questions you'd like to ask Chad please let us know in the comments below and he'll answer you next week. Rec'd comments will get first priority. Now with that said, let's get things started.
St. Martin: What were your initial reactions to the UFC gym?
Laprise: It was awesome! That was really the first time it really sunk in. Right when you walk through the door you're like, 'oh, this is real now.' Once I got to the gym, saw everything, I knew I was probably going to be fighting in the next few days. That's when it really hit home for me.
St. Martin: It's kind of a different setup, not the typical UFC gym we've seen over the years. Were you at all disappointed not to be training in the famous Vegas gym?
Laprise: Not at all. I actually didn't even really know much of anything. They didn't even tell us where we were headed. They told me to be on this flight to Montreal and that's really all I knew. When we first got there they took us right to the actual building. If anything, I thought it was nicer than the other gym.
St. Martin: So you had no idea where you'd actually be living and training for six weeks?
Laprise: I had no idea, at all. I had no idea where it was being filmed. All I knew was that it wasn't going to be filmed in Australia, which I was thrilled about. There was no way I wanted to fly all the way over there and have to fight.
St. Martin: So there must have been quite a bit of comfort in not having to travel too far. Same time zone, same hemisphere, all that good stuff.
Laprise: For sure. I was already spending time training in Montreal at Tristar. I had a fight booked that was actually supposed to take place right when we started filming the show, so regardless I was either going to be fighting or make The Ultimate Fighter. I was in Montreal when I got the call. I went home for a week then it was just an hour flight to head back. Much better than flying half way across the world like the Australians.
St. Martin: What was your first impression of Patrick Côté? A guy who fought for the title and had been through TUF himself. Had you ever trained with him?
Laprise: Yea, I had a huge advantage with the coaches going into the show. Like Pat, he doesn't train at Tristar but he trains in Montreal. I've sparred with him before and we already had a relationship. He knew who I was from training with guys like Mark Hominick at Team Tompkins back home in Ontario. Everyone grew up fighting each other. Our team was friendly with his team. I also had my head striking coach from Montreal, Kru Ash, there as well. There was really no feeling out process.
Cote sat us down the first day and was like, 'I've been through this. I know exactly what you're going through.' Knowing that he'd been there, done that, really helped. It's not like Brock Lesnar, who didn't really care. Pat said we'd be homesick and missing our families. It's normal.
St. Martin: Not even just coaches, but it seemed like Tristar and Team Tompkins were pretty well represented on the cast.
Laprise: Yea half the team was from Tristar or an affiliate gym. We had a few Tristar guys just in my weight class alone. I'm at Team Tompkins full time but I go up to Tristar for my training camps so it was great to work with guys I've trained with in the past. So I came in with teammates. The other guys, I knew who they were just from the local scene.
St. Martin: There was a segment where a few of the Aussie fighters sort of came downstairs to tell off the Canadians. I guess they were hearing some remarks about their pro records?
Laprise: Yea, I wasn't in on that. I was sleeping. It played out pretty much exactly like in the show. Some of the guys were saying some stuff about them being 'weekend warriors' and they just came down to say, 'hey, we're here to fight. We're not scared of you guys.'
St. Martin: So you got the sense that some of the Canadians were kinda big timing the Australians?
Laprise: Yea for sure. You can see in one of my interviews that I didn't really feel that way. I said, 'these guys are going to bring it.' I wasn't taking any of them lightly.
St. Martin: This episode really centered around 'Ragin' Kajan Johnson quite a bit for obvious reasons. I used to train with a guy named Dave Kaplan who was a top pick of Frank Mir on TUF Season 8. He was totally no nonsense in the gym, then he goes on the show and it was like watching a complete stranger. Did you get the sense that Kajan or others were trying to play it up for the cameras?
Laprise: Yea I know Dave, too. He used to train with Tompkins a bit. That's the way Kajan is every single day. He's a big personality. That's Kajan, 100 percent. All the guys I knew, how they acted there was how there were back in the gym, as well. Nobody was being fake. For sure. Kajan got quite a bit of camera time, but that's the way he is everyday.
St. Martin: You picked Kajan to beat Brendan O'Reilly by submission, which worked out for you.
Laprise: Yea I think rear naked choke. 100 percent. I knew he'd win that fight by submission.
St. Martin: I thought he might have hit that kneebar or heel hook before getting the choke.
Laprise: That kneebar was tight! I cant believe Brendan didn't tap from that. That was super tight.
St. Martin: I sorta got the sense things weren't going well for O'Reilly about a minute in.
Laprise: Yea, Kajan's been a brown belt in BJJ under Bibiano Fernandes for like five years. He's a super slick grappler. That's one of his things. I didn't know anything about Brendan. I just knew his record and I was pretty confident Kajan would lock up the rear naked choke. He's got 10 or 12 [actually 11] submission finishes in his career.
St. Martin: Yea it seemed like Brendan had a pretty noticeable drop in his work rate. How much of that was jetlag?
Laprise: To have to fly across the world, make weight and fight? That's a huge disadvantage. The first two minutes he came out hard. He'd only had five professional fights [5-0-1], right? You could tell it played with his mental game. He came out hard and gassed out. 100 percent, the jetlag was real.
St. Martin: Then there was that weird moment where he came into the Team Canada locker room after the fight.
Laprise: Yea that was super awkward. He just kinda walked in and was like, 'we're not scared of you guys.' Dude, I never said you were. I think he just had a bad performance and wanted to validate himself a bit. He got in there and fought his heart out. I'm not going to complain about anything.
St. Martin: It looks like we've got Elias Theodurou vs. Zein Saliba next week. Is there anything you can say about it without getting us in trouble?
Laprise: They were just ready to go right off the hop at the staredown. Elias is coming in as one of our highest rated prospects. He's undefeated, 8-0, never lost a round in a fight. He's definitely a favorite for the middleweights on Team Canada and I think that's why Pat picked him to fight first.
The fights are sick this season. I'm telling you man, the fights are awesome. A lot of good, talented fighters on this show. No bums. There are no Junie Browning's.
St. Martin: I'm liking the little format changes. The less dudes lounging by the pool, the better.
Laprise: I don't know how casual fans are going to like it, because it's not as much house drama, but anyone who has trained even a little martial arts is going to love it.
Do you have a question for Chad Laprise? Ask it in the comments below and he'll answer you next week. The Ultimate Fighter: Nations airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. Portions of this interview have been edited for concision.