If it were a sports movie, the audience would write it off as corny. But what Michael Chiesa just accomplished on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter is very, very, real.
In the first season of TUF to be filmed and aired in real time, the 24 year-old Chiesa found out the tragic news of his fatherís passing just days after the show began. As a national audience watched with heavy hearts, Chiesa made the courageous decision to continue fighting in his fatherís honor, taking only a few days off to attend the funeral before returning to the cage.
Nobody wouldíve blamed Chiesa for losing his edge after what he went through. He couldíve easily lost any of his next several fights and still walked away a hero. But he didnít.
After surviving a tough decision against boxer Jeremy Larsen, Chiesa came in as the heavy underdog against top prospect Justin Lawrence, a man with over 100 amateur fights on his resume. After a devastating body shot in the second round, Chiesa appeared to have finally been beaten, but he made it through the round, forced a sudden death, and ultimately used his remarkable wrestling to TKO the promising Lawrence.
He did the same to dangerous striker James Vick in the semi-finals, earning him the honor to fight arguable the most polished fighter on the show, Team Faber training partner Al Iaquinta. With his mother and sister watching on, Chiesa quickly took Iaquinta down, secured his back, and promptly choked him out to earn the title of Ultimate Fighter.
After every single win, without fail, a teary-eyed Michael profusely dedicated his success to his late father and courageous mother. No producers could ever script a subplot so compelling.
And yet despite the incredible power of this story, the sad reality is that very few people were aware it was even happening. This season of The Ultimate Fighter was the lowest-rated in the showís history, even as Chiesaís incredible story played out in real time.
Once again, Mixed Martial Arts proved to be a showcase for the most incredible depths of the human spirit. Beyond the blood, sweat, and tears that these athletes pour out in training and in competition, there is the reality of what so many of them have had to overcome to reach the elite levels of the sport.
Michael Chiesaís story is remarkable, but itís not unprecedented. Many fighters have gut-wrenching stories of personal tragedy and triumph. They have not only had to overcome these challenges, they have often thrived on them. It is a key part of what makes this sport so special. If you didnít know this already, perhaps itís time to start paying attention.
Were you aware of Michael Chiesaís incredible story? If not, are you more likely to follow MMA now?