Please conduct ALL of your discussion in regards to Rich Attonito facing Jamie Yager in this thread. All threads made in regards to this fight will be merged into this one.
LAS VEGAS – "The Ultimate Fighter 11" contestant Rich Attonito (7-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) appeared primed for a deep run in the Spike TV series' 28-man tournament.
After a convincing decision win over Lyle Steffens to earn his way into the house, Attonito looked sharp early in his fight with Kyacey Uscola before "Ice Cold" was disqualified for a pair of illegal knees.
It was an unfortunate end for Uscola, but it also signaled the end for Attonito, who suffered a broken hand in the bout and was forced to withdraw from the competition.
Despite the setback, the American Top Team fighter now has the opportunity of a lifetime in a Saturday night bout with "TUF 11" villain Jamie Yager (2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale in Las Vegas.
"The unfortunate thing happened with the hand, but it's important, like anything in life, that if you get faced with something that could be a negative, you've got to turn it into a positive or make the most of it," Attonito told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "You can't allow that to get you down or have you lose an opportunity or a situation just because things didn't go your way – whether it be an injury or whatever.
"I'm just glad I impressed the right people and they felt like I should get the opportunity to fight in this event – and then not only in this event but on the main card against the guy everybody wanted to fight the worst."
That guy is Yager, the brash Team Ortiz fighter that often became the center of controversy with his free-wheeling, free-speaking style.
Attonito said he doesn't have a personal problem with Yager, but "The Chosyn 1's" personality does make it easy to fight him.
"I kind of wanted to beat him up," Attonito said with a laugh. "Jamie's not a bad guy. I actually got along with him, but there's something about him where you kind of want to crack him once or twice just to straighten him out.
"He's got a big ego, but he beat two guys from American Top Team on the show, so I feel like I've got the pride of the team to carry in there with me and set things straight."
Yager will enjoy a significant height and reach advantage in the matchup, and Attonito will need to rely on that newly healed right hand. Despite some initial concerns, the appendage didn't require any surgical procedures to heal. Attonito said he's also conquered the mental challenges that a broken hand can bring a fighter, and he'll be ready to throw it with vengeance on Saturday night.
"It was nine weeks until I started doing some grappling," Attonito said. "I started slowly back with technique and everything. It was probably about 13 weeks after I originally broke it that I started slowly coming back to punching with it, but I've been cracking the pads and everything full on.
"Obviously in the beginning, you don't go in there punching real hard right away, then as you pick it up sometimes you catch it a little funny. It's just bone pain and stuff. As you get past it, that eventually goes. You've just got to get past the mental barrier of, 'Oh, man, my hand was broken. Is it OK?'"
Losing semifinalists Josh Bryant and Brad Tavares have bene relegated to The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale's preliminary card, while Attonito, who was forced out of the "TUF 11" tournament before even competing in the quarterfinals, has been given a chance to impress on the evening's Spike TV-broadcast portion of the card.
Attonito believes his hard work is what earned him the second look, and he looks forward to showing the world what he would have accomplished had he not suffered his dream-ending break.
"I think I'm in this fight because in the two fights I did have in the house, I showed complete domination of both opponents," Attonito said. "My first fight in the house, I grinded the guy out for two rounds. It wasn't a flashy, quick finish, but he didn't do anything to me. I dominated him the whole time. My second fight in the house obviously didn't end the way anybody wanted to see it end, but again, I showcased my skills.
"I have striking skills. I have vicious ground and pound, and I have jiu-jitsu skills. I feel like I showed myself as a real frontrunner after that fight – as somebody who would really be a force to be reckoned with in that competition."
Court McGee stepped in to Attonito's spot in the tournament and earned a spot in the "TUF 11" finals against Kris McCray. While that was the spot in which Attonito had hoped to find himself, the New Jersey native has still been blessed with a chance to show what might have been.
"I have no regrets," Attonito said. "If I had to do it again, I would. I'm really excited that I had the opportunity to do the show and the things it's been bringing about for me, and I'm really excited to be here now with the UFC and to have this opportunity in front of me.
"You've got to win, and I want to do it convincingly because that's the only way I guarantee myself a future in the UFC."
LinkLAS VEGAS – He wasn't exactly Junie Browning, but "The Ultimate Fighter 11" competitor Jamie Yager (2-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) certainly wasn't the sentimental favorite to earn the title of "the next ultimate fighter."
Yager's verbal conflicts with fellow castmates became a recurring theme in life at the "TUF" house, and many viewers of the Spike TV series began to see the wild-haired middleweight as a villain who needed to be dealt with.
While Yager doesn't deny that he was involved in his share of conflicts, "The Chosyn 1" believes fans have yet to see his true personality. Nevertheless, his spot on Saturday's The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale main card proves that the end justifies the means.
"Everybody in the house kind of got into it with everybody, but they just kind of chose me as the one guy to be shown time after time after time," Yager said. "The end justifies the means, and I believe that because of the editing process, like it or love it or leave it, it's kind of gotten me to where I'm at, and that's on the main card, so I'm definitely happy with that.
"America thinks they know who you are based on a short amount of time. We film 24-7 for six weeks straight, and they show 12 hours – not even 12 hours – 44 minutes every week. That's a ton of taping to put on a minimal amount of airtime. It doesn't clearly depict who I am."
While Yager was portrayed as a troublemaker, the 26-year-old insisted nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, the Californian says he's a genuine person who simply refuses to back down when challenged by others.
"Anybody who's had a chance to meet me personally knows I'm a stand-up guy," Yager said. "I'd open up the doors to my house to any friends, family. Anybody who's genuine, I'd put them up and give them a spot to stay.
"I'm genuine, but at the same time, I don't take [expletive] from anybody who's bringing trash my way or anything like that. I'll stand up for myself."
Yager's housemates didn't exactly see that side of him. Instead, more than one of his "TUF 11" castmates were hoping to get a hold of him inside the cage.
In the finale, that honor will fall to Rich Attonito (7-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who has admitted he's looking forward to punching Yager in the mouth. Yager said he's used to those types of challenges, and Attonito should probably be thanking him for the main-card slot in which he'll be fighting.
"It's really easy for the couch potatoes who sit at home – guys that don't really train and don't know too much about MMA – to be like, 'Yeah, this guy's negative,' or this, that and the other, but after six weeks of stress and a bunch of guys talking trash and continually the fingers getting pointed in one direction, I'm going to continue to stand up for myself, regardless," Yager told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). "Seeing all those guys wanting to pick me off is nothing new. Back home in Pasadena, that's how it always is. People always want to get at the guy who's kind of walking to his own walk. That's definitely been me on the show.
"I'm excited to have all these guys want a piece of me. If nobody wanted a piece of me, then I wouldn't be on the main card. I'm excited that all these guys are calling me out. If it wasn't for me, I don't think Rich would be fighting on the main card. I think that everybody wants a piece, all the hype around me, the hair, the image, the look, there's a lot of things that I bring to the table. Because of that, I'm excited that a lot of people want a piece of me."
As any successful mixed martial artist will tell you, competition is just part of the sport. Marketing yourself is imperative as well. Yager has already successfully ingrained himself in the mind of MMA fans, even if many will tune in just to see if he fails.
Yager knows that, and now is the time to prove he's more than just hair and hype.
"I'm not approaching any opponent lightly," Yager said. "I think being in the house, I had two knockouts – one by feet and one by hands. I've proven that I've got the power in my legs and the power in my hands. Now it's time to prove that I'm a good fighter, and I'm here to stay.
"I'm not taking anybody lightly, but I'm coming with a sold gameplan. I think that's what this league, this organization, is all about. It's about top fighters who are able to put their body, their mind and their soul together to go out there and get wins."
And when the cage door closes behind him, the critics won't be a factor. Yager said he has nothing to prove to anyone.
"I think it's more about going out there and getting a win – just go out there and win," Yager said. "Find a way to win. It doesn't matter how you win, just win. Squeak it out, or take it by landslide. Any way you get the win, as long as your hand is in the air at the end of the night and you put on an entertaining fight for fans to see, that's what's going to count."