While the majority of fighters who competed on past seasons of The Ultimate Fighter wouldn’t likely do it again, Ricky Turcios seemed to flourish in that environment.
Turcios earned a split decision victory over Brady Hiestand at UFC Vegas 35 this past Saturday to become the TUF 29 bantamweight season champion. It was the first time the reality show returned to the airwaves in nearly three years.
After the victory, Turcios was awarded his black belt by his team, which just added to the memories he gained throughout the process.
“It’s been very cool,” Turcios told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I’m glad I got the win on Saturday and it’s a dream come true. The last couple of days, I’ve just been relaxing because I’m sore. I’m super sore right now: my neck, my back, and we did a lot of grappling. But I’ve just been hanging out with family, kicking it, got back to the gym to teach my classes and it really warms my heart to inspire my students, the young ones throughout the world.”
Despite the long layoff, not much has changed in regards to the structure of the show. Coaches Alexander Volkanovski—the current UFC featherweight champion—and upcoming challenger Brian Ortega were tasked with guiding the bantamweight and middleweight competitors who shared a home without any contact with the outside world, and very little to entertain them.
Turcios found a strange sense of calm within the chaos.
“That was the toughest part was being cut off from society and the isolation,” Turcios said. “That was a very unique experience in itself but I’m glad it happened. It was tough when we were doing it, but whenever we got that pressure, it creates diamonds so it’s all good. That’s the thing that I’ll take with me forever.
“One of the things I did enjoy about the isolation was you learn about yourself. You have that alone time, you don’t have to deal with any of those [outside] distractions. Literally, all I had to do was focus on one thing, and one thing only, and that was the martial arts.
“I did a lot of meditating, diving deep into my thoughts, writing into my journals wondering, ‘What am I really about?’ So that alone time, it was great in isolation, but it’s important for life, too. It helped me forever.”
It was a second opportunity for Turcios to earn a UFC contract as he competed on the first season of Dana White’s Contender Series, dropping a unanimous decision to Boston Salmon in July 2017. Since then, “Hadouken” has gone 3-1, with the lone loss coming to current UFC bantamweight Mana Martinez in November 2018 at Fury FC 42.
Now that he has gone through the harrowing journey that is The Ultimate Fighter, Turcios doesn’t seem to be in a huge rush to get back inside the octagon.
“We’ll see what happens,” Turcios stated. “I’ll leave it up for the mystery. But I don’t have anything lined up yet. I always feel that blood pumping deep into my heart but I’m just focused on the healing process at the moment.”