Amanda Bobby Cooper is a strawweight contestant on Season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs Team Claudia. This season Cooper has signed on to write weekly blog posts that offer the inside scoop on life in the house as well as previewing what’s ahead.
Finally, this week, the ladies would go to war. In this matchup, it would be the two No. 1 picks from each team competing to start things off. Tatiana was my teammate, so I had the advantage of knowing her strengths and weaknesses from mat time versus speculation and what I knew coming into the show. She is a very credentialed wrestler with a well-versed knowledge of Jiu-jitsu to compliment that skill. All of us as a team felt that Tatiana would be able to beat any of the women on the opposing team.
We felt as a team that JJ Aldrich would be an easier matchup simply because of the physical and wrestling skill difference. JJ brings a well-rounded skill set, she’s tough, and aggressive. However, Tatiana is a true specialist in a certain aspect of the game and we felt that she would be able to implement her game plan effectively and neutralize the advantages JJ would have. The biggest factor I felt was a legitimate threat to Tatiana was the fact that JJ is a southpaw.
Tatiana’s biggest weakness, in my opinion, from training with her and knowing her previous bouts, was the fact that she does not take being hit well. She also struggles more against southpaws and tends to get desperate if shots start landing consistently. With all of this being said, I felt that no one on the opposing team would have an answer for the wrestling of Tatiana.
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One moment that vividly stands out in my mind when I recall Claudia Gadelha from this season, was when she had the ability to pick the first female fight, and didn’t pick Helen Harper. Joanna had shown in the first bout selection that it was a cutthroat game by selecting Cory, who had suffered a badly injured foot and was forced to compete very quickly because she had noticed his weakness. Claudia had the ability to select Helen, who had been struggling with being sick, yet she chose to be honorable and select a matchup between the No. 1 girl from both teams. Claudia was approached by a team member and asked, "Why didn’t you pick Helen, you know she has been struggling and sick.” This was a moment that Claudia really earned my respect to another degree because she responded with, "I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me, so I’m not going to do it to her.” Cory had already shown, even while injured, you can still come out on top and we didn’t feel we needed to play dirty to win.
On another note, I felt very grateful that I had not been selected to compete first for the female competition. Although my fight to get in the house was quick, I hadn’t built a level of trust in the coaching staff or found the level of mental strength necessary to know I would be at 100 percent when I stepped into the octagon.
As we neared this female fight, the tension between the coaches began to increase and that was the only rift between the two teams. Before the issues between Joanna and Claudia became as evident, there was a harmony in the house that was surprising, and to be honest, very appreciated by both teams. At this point, no one seemed to have a major personal issue or dislike towards anyone on the opposing team, it did slowly begin to feel as an “us versus them” later on in the season. At the start we were all too busy training, being thankful for the opportunity, and maximizing our gains from this experience to get caught up in the stress.
The other factor I was dealing with in the house was getting used to the different training methods, techniques and strategies. I normally train with my boyfriend, who has been my coach for almost five years, but I made a commitment that I would come into this experience with as much of an open mind as possible. I tried to not bring any predetermined thought patterns and let myself become as much of a blank page as possible, to see what I could add to my arsenal from this experience. I wouldn’t necessarily say I prefer one method or the other, but can say that the aspect of training which had been taken away were the car rides home after training with my boyfriend, where him and I discuss what I’m doing well, what our next goals and focus areas are, and about life in general. This has always been one of my favorite parts of my daily routine and during some of the toughest time in this sport, it has kept me moving forward.