UFC lightweight Ramsey Nijem made a major impression in 2011 after running through the competition on The Ultimate Fighter 13 as an undersized welterweight while also keeping fans interested outside of the Octagon with his sense of humor and humble approach to competition. However, just because Nijem spent time on TUF doesn’t mean his appreciation for the reality show has been spoiled.
In fact, Nijem was an interested viewer last week when The Ultimate Fighter 17 debuted on FX. Fighters.com had a chance to catch up with the 24-year old to get his thoughts on what he saw, as well as some insight on how the process affects a young mixed martial artist’s development, how contestants should approach post-TUF fame, and much more in this two-part interview.
As far as the slicker, more stylized approach to taping on TUF 17, Nijem had nothing but good things to say and admitted he wouldn’t have minded having his friends/family in town to watch his qualifying fight.
“It was really good. The production quality was great,” said Nijem. “To be honest, I was a little jealous like, ‘I wish I had that.’ You get locked in a hotel room for two days without any idea about what’s going on. That’s one of the worst parts of the whole thing – sitting around, nervous, not talking to anybody. To bring in family and friends, it’s cool. It lets people relax a little bit better and probably fight a little bit better. A lot of times the fights to get into the house aren’t that great because people are so frickin’ nervous.”
“And, as a common fan watching the show, I was really connected to the characters,” Nijem continued. “You get to know their family, their backstory. You’re like, ‘I really want this guy to win. I want him to win for his family.’ You connect. I thought it was great.”
“We’re all fight fans and, even if we don’t like to admit it, people need to connect with the fighters,” he concluded, admitting some of his own success was based on the personality he displayed to cameras.
Nijem went on to say he enjoyed watching the action that unfolded on the episode, with a single bout in particular standing supreme. “The one guy I was really impressed with was Uriah Hall. The guy he fought was really good but he got the worst match-up possible. He was really mature. He displayed himself like a real martial artist. He was really calm. I liked him. I think he should do really well.”
However, as composed as the New Yorker appeared to be, Hall didn’t enter the show with a ton of experience. The 7-2 Nijem can relate to the situation as a fighter who still has less than ten total fights to his credit. But he says that’s one of the things up-and-comers have to deal with if hoping to make a splash in the UFC.
“One of the hardest things I had to overcome was only having five fights. I did really well and, Dana White, afterwards, told me, ‘You’re in a tough position, kid. You’re gonna have to learn to fight in the UFC,’” explained Nijem, seeing the proposition as a positive rather than some sort of overwhelming challenge.
“It’s kind of cool, someone like Matt Riddle, who has all his fights in the UFC. So people get to watch him grow in the UFC, kind of like me,” admitted Nijem, adding that he sees the trend continuing as MMA keeps evolving. “I think we’re gonna keep seeing younger and younger people coming in. And I think it’s a sport that favors youth because you haven’t had the years of abuse on your body yet.”
Check back tomorrow when Nijem offers advice to the current crop of contestants, talks about the plusses of being part of the Ultimate Fighter experience, and reveals the one misperception fans have of what it’s like to live in a TUF house…
Fans can catch up with Nijem on his Twitter account (@ramseynijem)…
PHOTO CREDIT: UFC