In previous seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, the last fighter chosen has often used the fact that they were left standing solo when teams were being picked as motivation as they entered the competition.
But not Bobby Maximus.
“If I’m speaking really honestly, I would have picked me last, too,” he said with a laugh. “I’m 43 years old and I haven’t fought in 13 years.”
Indeed, Maximus, who was the final selection by Team Pena and squares off with Team Nunes’ first selection Eduardo Perez this week, has not stepped into the cage since February 2009, nearly three years after he made his UFC debut following his first stint on the long-running reality TV competition, back when he was still known by — as he puts it — his “government name,” Robert MacDonald.
The now 43-year-old Canadian, who resides in and fights out of Salt Lake City, Utah, was a contestant on the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, competing in the heavyweight competition alongside the likes of Keith Jardine, Luke Cummo, and eventual winner and future 205-pound champion Rashad Evans.
After suffering a gnarly injury on the show, he eventually made his promotional debut at UFC 58, and competed an additional five times, including twice more in the UFC, before hanging up his gloves.
So why come back now?
“One, I retired too early,” said Maximus, who earned a win over future TUF competitor, UFC fighter, and current Elevation Fight Team coach Eliot Marshall in December 2007. “I retired in 2010 and the reason I retired was to be a better dad to my kid. I was the primary caretaker, and I didn’t think I could fight professionally and raise him the way that he deserved to be raised.
“I think that being a father is an incredible responsibility, a gift, and a privilege, so I wanted to give him all I could give him. But over the years, there was this little voice in my head saying, ‘You can still to do this! You can still do this!’ and this became the opportunity.
“The second reason was we live in a world today where people are miserable,” continued Maximus, who operates Gym Jones in Salt Lake City and is a regular writer for Men’s Health Magazine. “If you look at the last five years arguably in this country, in this world, people are unhappy, people are unfulfilled; they are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, hate their jobs, hate their lives, and sometimes you’ve gotta have some courage and be brave and take a chance to go after your dream.
“Part of it for me was to inspire people to blow up their life a little — go after your dream. You’re never too old. You’re never in a situation where you can’t go after what you really, really want, and no one has the right to tell you no.
“Me sitting watching UFC pay-per-views and wishing that I could still do this, it makes me kind of a hypocrite for telling people to blow up their lives and go out there and chase it. So I want to lead by example and go after what I really want, win, lose, or fail.”
While Maximus understands his being the final selection heading into the season, he is positioned as a strange wild card inside the house and an outlier from most previous cast members.
In addition to having already been through the experience once before and therefore being familiar with the beats of being involved in the filming of a reality television competition, his appearance on Season 30 isn’t necessarily about chasing down the next item on the list of career goals he set out of himself upon entering the sport as it is for his housemates.
He’s already stepped in the Octagon, registered his first UFC victory, and can return to a tremendously successful life outside of fighting when the season comes to an end.
He’s essentially playing with house money, and that always makes things a little more interesting.
“(Being on the show before) benefits you on two fronts,” he began. “People don’t understand the enormous media obligation and stress that you’re under — cameras in your face all the time; microphones; not having your standard scheduled practice. Making a TV show, there are there are things that go into it that are really hard for guys to deal with. It’s incredibly physically grueling, so the fact that I’ve been through it before, it obviously is an advantage.
“The other thing is that with age — and I say this all the time — I don’t need this; I wanted to do this,” he added. “I have a great job. I make lots of money. I’m successful. I have nothing to prove to anybody. This is fun for me. I want this. I chose this. Some of these other people, this is their ticket; their one big chance, and that’s a lot of pressure.”
As much as he’s here to test himself and do his damnedest to advance through the competition, it’s also clear in talking to the articulate and contemplative veteran that just getting the opportunity to do this again and make a new batch of memories inside a different house, with a different cast of hopefuls chasing their dreams, is a pretty satisfying rewards for the former Robert MacDonald.
“Enjoyable is not even the word,” he said when asked to describe his second experience on the show. “Extreme gratitude, love, fulfillment; enjoyment doesn’t cover it enough. You’ve got to understand that there are millions of people all over this world that would give anything for this opportunity, and here I am, and I not only got to do it once, but I got to do it twice.
“If you look at the history of the TUF series, Julianna Pena was on it and she’s a world champion. Kamaru Usman was on it and he’s a world champion. Some of the best fighters — Nate Diaz came from the TUF house — so what an incredible experience to be able to live with these other 15 people while this thing was filmed.
“In five years, I might look back on this and think, ‘Man, I was friends with the world champion. I fought the world champion. I trained with the world champion.’ Just to have that opportunity is unreal.”