Although “The Ultimate Fighter” is currently in its 21st season, the state of Maryland has been woefully underrepresented on the show. Only one fighter from the Free State has actually made it on the show – Zach Davis, from Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg. Davis looked to be one of the early favorites on the show’s 13th season before an unfortunate eye injury forced his withdrawal from the competition.
However, another Maryland fighter tried his hand at fulfilling his dream of fighting in the UFC – Robert Sullivan, from Baltimore BJJ and Method MMA and a veteran of multiple Shogun Fights events. Sullivan recently auditioned for an upcoming season of TUF that will feature lightweight fighters.
Sullivan typically fights at bantamweight, but considers featherweight “the best weight class for me,” he told me during a recent interview. Sullivan flew to Las Vegas, Nevada, with his Method MMA coach Eddie Abney and had his audition in a casino banquet hall.
“The first day, you’re seeing fighters eyeing each other up,” Sullivan said. “But I was laughing about it.”
After weighing in, lightweight and welterweight fighters engaged in a basic grappling competition to give the evaluators in attendance an idea of their skill set. Sullivan was part of the second group that competed and described that part of the audition as “like a jiu-jitsu tournament – you’re just waiting for your number to be called,” he said.
The fighters were advised not to go too hard with their grappling and Sullivan went against his opponent for one 90-second round.
“I had a lot anxiety,” Sullivan said. “My head and heart weren’t on the level. It was definitely a weird experience, but not bad.”
Following the jiu-jitsu portion of the tryouts, fighters displayed their pad work for evaluators before being selected for an interview. Oddly enough, the fighter Sullivan defeated in jiu-jitsu was chosen for an interview over Sullivan, letting him know that he was eliminated from the tryouts.
“Some guys get cut because they know you think you’re too good for this,” Sullivan said. “But there were some guys who blew my mind that they weren’t chosen.”
Despite feeling that he is just as good and well-rounded as fighters that were chosen to continue the audition, Sullivan harbors no hard feelings and considered his TUF tryout as a positive experience.
“I’m definitely happy I did it,” he said. “I know what I’m getting into if I try it again. If they do a featherweight season, I would try it one more time.”