Ultimate challenge

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

Manitobans will have someone to root for when the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter debuts next Wednesday night on Spike TV.

Winnipeg's own Krzysztof (The Experiment) Soszynski is one of 16 light heavyweights on the reality show, which pits mixed martial artists against each other in a single-elimination tournament. The last man standing wins a six-figure, multi-fight contract from Ultimate Fighting Championship, North America's most recognizable MMA league.

The show was taped in Las Vegas earlier this summer, so Soszynski already knows if he's made the final or not. If he spills the beans, however, he would be staring at a $5-million lawsuit from the show's producers.

"It's weird, because you gotta be really careful with what you say," said the 31-year-old, a former football player at Maples Collegiate.

Soszynski, whose family emigrated from Poland when he was 10, has been striving to land a UFC contract for the last six years. He sacrificed a lot in the first three years of his quest, working part-time as a houseman at the Fairmont Hotel (earning $11,000 a year) so that he could spend the rest of his time training.

"All I did was put all the money in my savings, try to save as much money as possible, because I knew that this was what I wanted to do," he said.

Soszynski also went on an MMA mission of sorts, travelling to California and Las Vegas to seek advice from heavy hitters in the sport like Randy Couture, Bas Rutten and Shawn Tompkins. Soszynski eventually got some fights in minor MMA leagues and then landed with the well-respected Team Quest Fight Club in Murrieta, Calif., about 100 km southeast of Los Angeles.

Soszynski actually moved to California in January to work full-time at Team Quest, where he teaches kickboxing, jiu jitsu, MMA and fitness classes, and also fights under the Team Quest banner.

Then his wife, Genevieve, picked up the family's video camera and started shooting. Little did both of them know that the impromptu film session would make such an impact on their lives.

"She goes, 'OK, let's start filming. This is your interview for The Ultimate Fighter. Here is the application form. Fill this out.' So she did it all for me," he said. "We sent it out at the last minute, too."

Good thing they beat the deadline. He was selected as one of the 50 finalists and then in April was chosen as one of the 16 who would appear on the show.

"I didn't think I was going to make the show, first of all, having 30 fights under my belt and being 31 years of age," Soszynski said. "Usually with The Ultimate Fighter, it's younger guys who have two, three, four, five, six fights ... kind of like the younger generation.

"So I was very shocked when I got the call, but it was definitely a great feeling."

Even if Soszynski doesn't become The Ultimate Fighter, he would still have a shot at the UFC because it often hires fighters who appear on the show.

"If everything works out, I'll be the second Manitoban in the UFC (after Joe Doerksen), which would be pretty cool," he said.

The first two episodes of the program will feature the 16 fighters squaring off, with the winners moving into The Ultimate Fighter house. They will split into teams of four (coached by UFC veterans Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir) and live in the house for six weeks, even if they lose in the quarter-final or semifinal rounds.

Thanks to a full bar in the house, the drama kicks into high gear when fighters who have been ousted decide whether or not to help their teammates who are still in the competition.

"Are these guys going to be your training partners, or are these guys going to booze it up and get drunk every day and wreak havoc?" Soszynski said.

The show's live finale is Saturday, Dec. 13, when the two finalists will meet in the Octagon at the Palms in Las Vegas.


Videos

Photos