Shayna Baszler says she's 'in a better position now' than if she won TUF 18

Zuffa LLC, Getty Images

It goes without saying that Shayna Baszler wasn't happy to be on the receiving end of one of the biggest upsets in Ultimate Fighter history.

But these days, the veteran competitor known as "The Queen of Spades" looks on the bright side of her submission loss to Julianna Pena in the first bout of TUF 18. Without the surprising defeat, she probably wouldn't be in the position she's in now.

Baszler is part of what's become known as "The Four Horsewomen," as she lives and trains in Southern California with UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir.

And if not for the loss to Pena, Baszler explained on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour, she may have never become part of the most notorious crew in women's MMA.

"I think I'm in a better position now than I would have been had I won the show," said Baszler, who makes her official UFC debut on April 16 against former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman. "Everything worked out in the end. I'm moved out to California, I'm living with Ronda and Jessamyn and Marina, and I think if I would have won the show I wouldn't have made so many changes, I would have been satisfied with where I am."

Of course, that doesn't mean 2013 wasn't without its challenges for the pioneering fighter from Sioux Falls, S.D. Baszler, who was Rousey's first draft pick, was considered almost a ringer to win the first women's TUF tournament.

But not only did she lose to eventual champion Pena in the first round, but she suffered a broken foot in training, which meant that at the end of all that time in the house, she also had to sit out the TUF Finale.

If anything, Baszler said the toughest part was enduring the show during its run time.

"When the show aired, it was like reliving it," Baszler said. "Then you have all those brave souls out there who are working at their whatever job that choose to get on the internet and be mixed martial arts experts who know everything that's going on in your head and who you are and whatnot, that kind of ticked me off."

Then there was the matter of having to keep her mouth shut while knowing the show's results.

"The part that did suck was the list comes out," Bazler said. "We're done filming, I was home July 4, the list comes out in September, everyone was, here's the list of the cast, who made it, everyone was talking about how I was one of the favorites to win the show and knowing I lost my first fight. A local club was like, hey we want to throw party for your episode. It was hard to get excited for that knowing what happened. That part was harder knowing I lost and everyone else being so excited and it had already happened."

Still, though, without her trials and tribulations, Baszler's opportunity likely wouldn't have emerged. What originally started as a quick trip to help Duke train for her TUF Finale bout with Peggy Morgan turned into a permanent SoCal relocation.

"Jess was like hey, ‘I have a fight on the Finale, do you want to come out here?' then they were like ‘hey guess what, we're keeping you.' In the end it all worked out. Ronda said that on the show, the best things come from the worst thing. At the time I thought it was the worst thing ever but it worked out in the end."

This brings us to Baszler's long-awaited return to official competition. In Kaufmann, she's not only facing a former world champion, but it's also a rematch, as Kaufman decisioned Baszler back in 2009.

The way Baszler sees it, being matched up immediately with a fighter of Kaufman's caliber is a solid sign.

"I'm surprised they're throwing me in the mix right away," Baszler said. "It's cool because it shows how highly they think about me. I'm not getting the girl from whatever country who is making their debut, Kaufmann used to have the world title. We fought before. Both of us think it's a great matchup. I'm stoked about it, I'd much rather win a fight that means something, then fight some girl no one has heard of from Timbuktu on an undercard Facebook prelim that no one is going to see, then have to work my way up. This puts me in the mix."

And a victory over Kaufman would put her even higher in the mix, which leads to an inevitable question: Would Baszler fight Rousey, her Horsewoman tag team partner?

"Ronda knows that if they called me tonight to fight her tomorrow, I would do it," Baszler said. "I tell her every day. Her and Jessamyn and myself, we all know we would fight each other if it came to it. We also know it would have to mean something. ... Ronda and I have even practiced trash talking to each other, we have no problems. You know, Ronda's the titleholder she knows it would be stupid of me to be in the sport and put in all this time just to say Ronda's going to have the belt and I have no intentions of taking it."

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