By Laura Lennie, News Staff
Josh Hill is about to make his reality show debut.
The 26-year-old House of Champions mixed martial artist and Saltfleet District High School graduate is one of 32 contestants on The Ultimate Fighter beginning Sept. 4 on Sportsnet.
The show, which is in its 18th season, features professional MMA fighters living together in a Las Vegas mansion and follows them as they train and compete for a prized six-figure contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
While Hill is sworn to secrecy over the show’s outcome, he says the experience is one he’ll never forget.
“It was an awesome experience; it was really intense,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of people, which was really cool. No matter what the outcome, it’s definitely a positive experience.”
The first episode features 16 male and 16 female contestants from around the world. This is the first season that both men and women are competing on the show, though not against each other.
The male and female 135-pound fighters first battle it out against their respective opponents in preliminary round action at the UFC Training Center for the chance to earn a place in the coveted mansion and score a shot at The Ultimate Fighter male and female titles.
Eight male and eight female fighters make it into the mansion, where they train and compete in quarter-final, semifinal and final round fights over the course of 11 episodes, culminating in a live finale event in November in Las Vegas.
Hill auditioned for the show in April.
He holds a pro MMA record of 9-0 and is considered the top bantamweight in Canada.
“It worked out time wise because The Score (its fighting series) had just folded and I was looking for fights,” Hill said. “I couldn’t find any opponents that would do me good to fight. Then the tryouts for the show came up, so I travelled to Las Vegas and went through the process.”
Hill was No. 121 out of 300 male fighters trying out for the show.
The audition included a weigh-in, minute and a half of grabbling with a random opponent, two minutes of hitting a bag, two interviews and a medical.
Hill made it through the segmented, elimination-style process.
Then he waited for about a month and a half for a call to say whether he’d be invited back to fight in the preliminary round.
Hill said waiting for that call was excruciating.
“When the audition was over, they said, ‘Go back home, train like you’re going to be fighting and we’ll call you and let you know whether you are or not,’” he said. “I trained hard and hoped I’d get the call to go back and fight, but not knowing 100 per cent was really hard. When I did get the call, I was happy, I was pumped.”
Hill went back to Vegas at the end of May for the preliminary round at the UFC Training Center.
He said taking part in the experience was “cool.”
“I got to meet so many different people,” he said. “I got to meet a bunch of fighters that I’ve looked up to for a long time, all the top end guys at 135 right now. I’ve watched The Ultimate Fighter for years, so it felt pretty surreal to be fighting at the UFC Training Center.”
Hill said viewers tuning into The Ultimate Fighter’s first episode will be impressed with all the contestants.
“There’s a lot of talent this season,” he said. “For the 32 contestants fighting to get into the mansion, it could have easily gone either way for the guys and the girls. There are a lot of upsets, a lot of people that you thought would win the whole show that didn’t get into the mansion and vice-versa.”
Hill has always dreamt of fighting in the UFC.
Asked if he’s any closer to fulfilling that dream, he said, “You’ll just have to tune into the show and see.”
People are invited to join Hill for The Ultimate Fighter premier on Sept. 4 at Tapout training centre in Burlington and the show’s second episode on Sept. 11 at Buffalo Wild Wings in Stoney Creek.