One of the best parts throughout the history of The Ultimate Fighter is seeing the many different walks of life the competitors that make it to the show come from. In season one, Josh Koshceck entered the series as one of the most unknown and novice commodities on the show, but with his tremendous background in amateur wrestling, which included an NCAA championship, he made it to the semifinals and eventually had an extremely successful career in the UFC.
Former professional football players like Matt Mitrione made their name from being on the show, while the expansion into international markets has allowed competitors from Brazil, China, Australia and from all over the globe make it to the UFC by way of The Ultimate Fighter.
This season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America opens up an entirely new market, with half of the contestants coming from Mexico and the other half from countries along the borders of South America. From Bolivia to Argentina, the cast list is diverse, but one name that stood out almost immediately when the show was announced was 2008 Olympic wrestler Fredy Serrano.
A profile written on Serrano in 2013 reveals why his entry into MMA was so special. You see, athletes in Colombia have never really taken up fighting as a primary sport, much less an Olympic-level wrestler transitioning to fighting well past his 30th birthday. But with the UFC's expansion on television in Colombia and its continued reach into new territories, Serrano took the opportunity to learn a new art form, and with the outstanding success of wrestlers in MMA already, the move seemed to make sense.
Serrano has been successful in his young MMA career, but he's also lacking any big fight experience so the move to The Ultimate Fighter could be as much of a help as it is a hindrance. Serrano is 2-0 as a fighter, although both of those matches came in unsanctioned bouts, which means they don't actually count on his official record. While his wrestling pedigree stretches back decades, Serrano is a rookie when it comes to MMA and though he has all the potential in the world to be a shining star for the future of fighting in Colombia, a win or a loss in his upcoming fight on The Ultimate Fighter could be a major influence in which direction he goes next.
On the other side of the cage this week stands Team Velasquez fighter Alejandro Perez, a far more experienced competitor with a 13-4 record who is training out of Aguascalientes, Mexico. Perez is a well-rounded fighter with wins in several different ways during his career with the ground game and submissions appearing to be his only real weak spot. Part of that could backfire against a wrestler like Serrano, who may not have the same kind of in-cage experience as his opponent, but he has a powerful equalizer in his grappling game.
As motivated as Serrano is to go out and win this fight for his career and for the people in Colombia, Perez has a more personal attachment to advancing in The Ultimate Fighter tournament. While he's living in Las Vegas training with Team Velasquez and attempting to win the competition, Perez's girlfriend is back home, pregnant with their first child. Perez certainly isn't the first fighter to come on to the show with a child on the way, but there's no denying the kind of motivation and pressure it puts on him to go out and win. Fighting may seem like an individual sport, but there's always somebody depending on the person in the cage - and in this case it's his girlfriend and his unborn baby, who will arrive a couple months after he gets home.
To amp up the intensity this week, the fighters welcome a famous television and film star to the house from Mexican television while preparing to watch UFC 173, which took place while they were filming the show.
If you need a refresher - UFC 173 was the night one of the biggest upsets in mixed martial arts history took place as T.J. Dillashaw ran roughshod over bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Dillashaw battered Barao for over four rounds and then finished him in the fifth to claim the UFC bantamweight title in a performance for the ages.
While the fighters living in the house would probably be glad to just see anything after being trapped with no television, phone or internet for weeks, this kind of bout could serve as the perfect example that anything is possible with proper preparation and motivation.
With Team Werdum down in the competition and a reputation to uphold, Serrano certainly has plenty riding on the line for him to win. A baby on the way adds a whole new level of motivation for Perez, but no amount of mental preparation may be able to get him ready for the kind of work ethic and tenacity an Olympic level wrestler will bring him in the fight.
Can Team Werdum secure their first victory thanks to Serrano? Or will Team Velasquez continue their dominant ways with Perez coming out on top?
The only way to find out for sure is to tune into the new episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America this Tuesday on UFC FIGHT PASS.