My name is Leah “Nidas” Letson. I’m competing for a six-figure UFC contract on this season of The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters on FS1, and this is the first installment of my weekly behind-the-scenes TUF blog for UFC.com.
First, thank you for joining me here. Competing on The Ultimate Fighter is a dream come true, and I’m loving every minute of it. I’m also very happy that I get to share my experience on this platform with you, and I hope you enjoy both the show and my blog.
Second, I’d like to take a minute to introduce myself a bit more. I did taekwondo and karate from the age of five to 17. When I was a student at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and preparing for basic training for the Air Force, I decided to try a cardio kickboxing class so I could get in better shape for serving overseas. One thing led to another and I made my MMA debut on very short notice about a month after I began training.
I’m now 4-1 as a professional fighter, which I’ve balanced with serving overseas. I’ve now been in the Air National Guard for six years, and was recently serving in the Middle East for seven months before TUF filming began earlier this year.
When I’m not a few thousand miles from home, I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and train at Pura Vida with a few faces you may be familiar with, like UFC fighters Zak Ottow and Montel Jackson. I’ve had the opportunity to train with quite a few UFC fighters, but it was pretty surreal first entering the TUF gym. It didn’t exactly help that you were standing shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of people you’re not only going to live with for the next several weeks -- but ultimately you’re going to fight them as well. It was awkward, a little tense, and really cool at the same time.
We’re back, and bigger than ever! The Ultimate Fighter Heavy Hitters premieres this Wednesday, August 29th on @fs1. Team @robwhittakermma vs Team @KelvinGastelum, y’all ready? pic.twitter.com/wpBYQ7rB19
— The Ultimate Fighter (@UltimateFighter) August 27, 2018
After a few days, you accept the fact that you’re going to be fighting your friends in the house, and really it just becomes a business transaction in the Octagon. But the first few days were a little odd, to say the least.
At first, I was a little offended to be selected second. I thought I was being overlooked, but ultimately I was really happy to be selected by the champ, Robert Whittaker. After that, I got a whole lot happier stepping into the famed TUF house for the first time. I live in the ghetto of Milwaukee and have never been wealthy, so it was another surreal experience walking into a massive mansion.
There’s a beautiful pool with a waterfall and an awesome hot tub in the back. Coming from where I’m from to stepping into that type of glamorous lifestyle was one of many odd experiences from the first week. But it was also very motivating. I wouldn’t be on the show if I didn’t believe I could win it, but seeing this type of luxury pumped me up even more for the competition.
Thank you for joining me for the first week of my blog. I’ll be back every Thursday with a behind-the-scenes look at this season of The Ultimate Fighter: Heavy Hitters on FS1.