This is the first in a series of articles examining the experiences of local fighters and coaches on “The Ultimate Fighter,” whether in past seasons or the current. The current season, “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” airs Wednesdays on Fox Sports 1, featuring Glendale-trained champion Ronda Rousey.
Before his days at Glendale High were through, Edmond Tarverdyan was already running his own gym.
Tarverdyan began running his gym at 16, and now, roughly 16 years later, he has certainly made a name for the Glendale Fighting Club. Still, nothing could quite prepare him for taking part in “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Of course, helping Ronda Rousey coach her team of 16 aspiring fighters wasn’t uncommon.
“I’ve done that for so long,” said Tarverdyan, who led the Team Rousey coaching staff during “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” which is currently airing every Wednesday on Fox Sports 1.
While training fighters is nothing new, taking part in a reality show with cameras surrounding you every day, while contending with a rival team, takes its toll.
In addition to Rousey, the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight champion, Tarverdyan was joined by Manny Gamburyan, Marina Shafir and Andy Dermenjian on the staff, as the group was in Las Vegas for the taping of the show from the last week of May to the first week of July. They opposed Team Tate, headed by Miesha Tate, Rousey’s archrival rival and championship opponent on Dec. 28, along with a coaching staff that most noticeably includes Bryan Caraway, a UFC fighter and Tate’s longtime boyfriend.
For Tarverdyan, his stay on the show was both long and short, and it is something, ultimately, he would never do again.
“I’m glad I did it, it was an experience, but I wouldn’t do it again,” Tarverdyan said. “I was really, really happy to get back [home].”
With a team of eight male and eight female 135-pound fighters, Tarverdyan said the coaches’ goal was to get the best out of their fighters in a short period of time, electing not to try to overwhelm them with new techniques as much as furthering the skill sets they already had.
Admittedly for Tarverdyan, though, it takes him a while to open up.
“It took me a little bit to understand them and get to know them,” Tarverdyan said. “They think maybe I’m a little bit cold. Ronda says I’m intimidating a little bit.”
It didn’t stop Tarverdyan from completely giving himself and his efforts to his fighters, something he demands in return.
“That’s what I want, that’s it,” Tarverdyan said. “If I’m there as a trainer, they have to work.”
With nearly 30 fights taking place during the tapings, Tarverdyan said it makes for an emotional roller coaster, which was clearly evident at the conclusion of the recently aired second episode “Ladies First,” when Team Rousey No. 1 pick Shayna Bazler was upset by Team Tate No. 1 pick Jessica Pena. During her testimonial interview in front of the camera, Rousey was emotional regarding Bayzler, a longtime veteran, losing.
“You give your heart to them, you give your knowledge to them. It’s them, them, them; it’s not about you,” Tarverdyan said. “Every week we had fights, we had wins, we had losses. It was hard emotionally. This job is very tough. You have to realize its part of the job.”
If nothing more, Tarverdyan believes the experience on the show is most invaluable for the cast of fighters, who are all striving to win a tournament and a contract with the UFC. Whether they’re victorious or not, they do get roughly six weeks of training in a world-class facility with world-class trainers.
“When the show is over, win or lose, these kids learn something,” Tarverdyan said.
He also said that Rousey learned a bit more about what Tarverdyan experiences as a coach and the emotional toll it takes when investing in a fighter.
“She came to me after the show and said, ‘Edmond, I can’t believe what you do, now I understand that,’” Tarverdyan said.
Hence, the stay was too short to really get too much into developing his new crop of fighters, but the time away from his family and the time spent seeing Tate and her team proved to make the days very, very long.
Following the second episode, a teaser for Wednesday’s upcoming episode shows Rousey and Tate arguing and Tarverdyan later having some heated words. Reports about the tapings have long said that the two rivals and their teams were constantly heated with each other.
Tarverdyan said he knows that he and Rousey might come off as “crazy,” but it was in response to Tate and Caraway being “disrespectful” and “two-faced.”
Overall, Tarverdyan said the drama and the fights combined to make for a very interesting season.
“All of it is entertaining,” Tarverdyan said. “It was exciting.”