Not even the sum total of all my experiences was enough to prepare me for the 6 weeks that have now passed, nor was it enough to soften my landing back to the life I knew before TUF20.
An opportunity of a lifetime. A gift and a blessing. A most unique, awesome and unparalleled experience, so challenging that completing it yielded rewards of equal greatness. Life on The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 took me for a ride and put me into situations that I would never have chosen for myself, yet it presented me with fresh and invigorating perspectives that made me a better fighter in the end.
16 women living together for 45 days, isolated under one roof and by the same daily routine, all pursuing the same ultimate goal that only one would achieve – The women’s UFC Strawweight World Championship title and belt. I’m certain that the actual experience was something that none of us had expected. From the moment the teams were determined, alliances were formed and yet nearly every woman seemed to carry herself with a strong sense of focus and professionalism. I got the feeling that women, whether as individuals or in the collective, friend or foe, are all about efficiency. The things that mattered most – food organization, sleeping arrangements, and storage for personal items – were addressed immediately and without much fuss or argument. Everything else just fell into place naturally. Getting started and situated came with surprising ease.
As we navigated through the preliminary fights, there were a number of instances that threatened the balance of Team Melendez, but it was still too early, and everyone too steady, for anyone to be derailed. We clung to our team for a sense of identity–supporting those who won and encouraging those who lost to keep faith for another opportunity.