THREE Sutherland Shire based fighters will compete for a chance to join the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) after being chosen to contest The Ultimate Fighter: Australia versus UK series, showing from tomorrow night.
Battle to come: Robert Whittaker (left), Manuel Rodriguez and Richie Vaculik are all part of the latest series of The Ultimate Fighter.Picture: Chris Lane
Much like the famed The Contender boxing reality-television series, The Ultimate Fighter pits 16 Australian and British fighters to live with and fight each other.
Robert Whittaker of Menai and Manuel Rodriguez from Cronulla will fight in the welterweight category, while Caringbah-trained Richie Vaculik is in the light-weight class.
The Australian team is trained by UFC fighter George Sotiropoulos.
Former Menai High student Whittaker, 21, entered the house as the youngest welterweight, giving some of his rivals a start of up to 10 years.
“The try-outs were pretty rigorous,” Whittaker said. “There were multi-levels of interviews and it was quite tedious.
“The experience of the house was one you’ll never get again and I’m glad it was once-in-a-lifetime.
“It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park.”
Cronulla barista Rodriguez, 27, said he relished the chance to dedicate himself to mixed martial arts.
“It makes you wonder how much you want it,” Rodriguez said.
“It’s hard in Australia to live off fighting but to get a taste of what it would be like to live as a fighter is definitely awesome.
“I think I’ve got the potential to be on the world stage.”
Vaculik entered the show as Australia’s most experienced light-weight having nine wins from 10 fights.
His only loss came at the hands of Matt Jaggers, who fought in a preliminary fight in a recent The Ultimate Fighter series.
“It was a lot harder than I expected,” Vaculik said. “I knew the training was going to be hard but I really missed home. It was harder but more rewarding than I expected.”
The winners will fight on a UFC card in Australia in December.
The show premieres at 7.30pm tonight on the FX channel, pay TV.
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