TUF: Meet the Fighters Part 1

Matt Arroyo
Age: 24
MMA Record: 2 – 1
Hometown: Cobleskill, NY
Trains in: Tampa, FL

Matt Arroyo left the cold winters of Cobleskill, New York, behind after graduating from high school in 2000, attending the University of Tampa on a baseball scholarship. In 2003, he began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Rob Kahn of the Gracie Academy in Tampa. Fascinated by his new interest, Arroyo quit baseball and, by the time he graduated in May of 2005, he had already achieved a purple belt in BJJ.

After college, Arroyo worked as a life insurance agent for about a year and a half before dedicating himself fully to the sport of MMA. He now teaches the sport for a living in the Tampa area. Arroyo thinks living in the house will be difficult without being able to contact his family or attend church. The self-confessed computer nerd will also miss MySpace. However, Arroyo thinks the ability to work with the world class coaches more than make up for that sacrifice in his quest to become The Ultimate Fighter.

Daniel Barrera
Age: 26
MMA Record: 1 – 0
Hometown: Rupert, ID
Trains in: Radcliffe/Elizabethtown, KY

Born and raised on a farm in Rupert, ID, Daniel Barrera excelled as a wrestler at Minico High School, making it to the state championships in 1999. Upon graduating, Barrera enrolled in the Air Force, taking up boxing and compiles a 15-3-0 record including a hard-fought loss to and lost 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward. After being transferred to Fort Knox in Kentucky, the lack of a boxing gym in the area turned Barrera to hand-to-hand combat training with other soldiers, and an MMA career was born. Upon his honorable discharge in 2005 after a tour in Pakistan, he moved back to Idaho with his wife and began training while working for the Rupert Fire Department. Barrera says the two things he’ll miss most while on the show are his wife, and going to church. A man of exceedingly strong faith, Barrera is out to prove that hard work and devotion, to one’s family and one’s religion, can make all things possible. He is currently pursuing his degree in criminology, but has put that on hold while pursuing his dream of becoming the next Ultimate Fighter.

Blake Bowman
Age: 25
Mixed Martial Arts Record: 4-3-0
Hometown: Carrollton, GA
Trains in: Carrollton, GA

Bowman graduated from tiny Cleburne County High School in Heslin, Alabama in 1999, where he wrestled and manned third base for the baseball team. After high school, he attended West Georgia University, graduating in 2004 with a degree in psychology. It was here that martial arts first piqued Bowman’s interest, enrolling in judo classes. Bowman let his weight balloon to 240 pounds in college and a promising athletic career was in jeopardy. It was at this time, he met The Ultimate Fighter 5 alumnus Cole Miller while spending time in Griffin, Georgia, and Miller’s work ethic inspired him to commit himself to MMA. Losing 70 pounds since then, the 25 year old Bowman is looking to establish himself as a top welterweight on The Ultimate Fighter.

Away from the gym, Bowman is an avid Auburn football fan from his days in Alabama. He lists The Big Lebowski as his favorite movie, and also enjoys the work of directors Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino. A music aficionado, Bowman’s tastes are eclectic, but having played jazz trumpet for twelve years, he really enjoys the classics – Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane.

Mac Danzig
Age: 27
Mixed Martial Arts Record: 17-4-1
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Trains in: Los Angeles, CA

Of no relation to the famous lead singer of The Misfits, this Danzig is by far the most experienced combatant on The Ultimate Fighter, with over twenty professional matches under his belt. A 1998 graduate of Plumborough High School near Pittsburgh, Danzig’s first love was skateboarding, and he was a sponsored amateur during his teenage years. In 2000, Danzig traded in his skateboard for the mats of Casey Leonard’s gym in Pittsburgh, achieving a blue belt under his tutelage. A year later, he left the Steel City behind to fight on the amateur circuit in Iowa before moving to California in 2002. He recently joined the Legends Gym in Los Angeles, home to fellow welterweight contender Karo Parisyan, as well as The Ultimate Fighter 5 finalist Manny Gamburyan, and hopes that living and breathing MMA while in the house for six weeks with no distractions will reinvigorate his training ethic and intensity, something that Danzig will admit has been difficult to maintain in recent years.

Away from the Octagon, Danzig lives with his girlfriend of four years who is a massage therapist in a chiropractic clinic. He is an avid photographer, as well as a die hard Steelers and Penguins fan.

Paul Georgieff
Age: 24
Mixed Martial Arts Record: 7-1-0
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Trains in: Madison, WI

Currently pursuing his masters degree in Structural Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Georgieff is spending his summer in Las Vegas trying to become The Ultimate Fighter.

A native of St. Paul, MN, Georgieff graduated from St. Paul Academy in 2001 where he garnered varsity letters in alpine skiing, tennis, and football, squaring off against Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer on the high school gridiron. After graduation, before heading to the University of Vermont, Georgieff took up judo, which sparked his interest in MMA. While majoring in math and minoring in both art and physics at Vermont, he began training in Brazliain jiu jitsu, wrestling and kickboxing, and made his MMA debut in 2002. He hopes to improve in all areas while on the show, but especially his wrestling.

Outside of the Octagon, Georgieff can be found studying the art of Sir Francis Bacon, listening to a variety of music from Immortal Technique to Miles Davis to Sick of It All, and quoting The Big Lebowski endlessly with his friends. When his career in MMA is over, Georgieff would like to put his Structural Engineering degree to use in designing bridges.

Richie Hightower
Age: 25
Mixed Martial Arts Record: 7-1-0
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Trains in: Phoenix, AZ

A 2000 graduate of Mountain Point High School, Richie Hightower had a very traditional athletic background – he played fullback and middle linebacker for the football team, wrestled, and was a state discus champion for the track & field team. However, after high school, Hightower took a job as a mortgage broker and stopped exercising. His health suffered, and by the age of 21, the 5’8″ Hightower weighed 265 pounds. That is when he decided to do something about his health, giving up smoking and drinking while taking up plyometric strength training with a physical therapist. He also found Brazilian jiu jitsu, and soon Hightower was training in Phoenix with the UFC’s Eddie Sanchez. An MMA career was born, with Hightower losing almost 100 pounds to get down to the 170 pound welterweight division. He is looking to learn as much as he can from the coaching staff and his housemates in his quest to become this season’s Ultimate Fighter.

When not training, Hightower enjoys watching television shows such as The Sopranos (though he missed the famous series finale while on the show) and Grey’s Anatomy, lists A Bronx Tale, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, and Resorvoir Dogs as his favorite films, and listens to a wide variety of music from Killswitch Engage to Outkast.

John Kolosci
Age: 32
Mixed Martial Arts Record: 8-4
Hometown: Portage, IN
Trains in: Northwest IN

As a child in a small town in Indiana, John had a rough and tumble childhood, regularly getting into fights on the playground. As he matured he began to seek out a safe, legal alternative which led him to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A three sport athlete at Edison in Lake Station High School, John took immediately to the sport and soon began competing in local MMA bouts.

Despite his age, John enters the house with only 4 ½ years of MMA training and is looking to improve on several aspects of his repertoire, including wrestling, ground and pound, kickboxing, and offensive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. John views this as a great opportunity to train for 6 weeks under some of the best coaches in the world for free. He notes, however, that he will miss his fiancée and 11- year old daughter while in the house.

John lists Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Chuck Liddell as his favorite UFC fighters.

Troy Mandaloniz
Age: 27
Mixed Martial Arts Record: 3-1-0
Hometown: Hilo, HI
Trains in: Las Vegas, NV

A childhood friend of BJ Penn, Troy Mandaloniz was introduced to grappling in the fourth grade by Penn’s father. He started competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu seriously in 1997, and having BJ Penn aka “The Prodigy” around was more than helpful in getting his MMA training off on the right foot. Troy left for Las Vegas to train full time with Mark Laimon’s Cobra Kai gym in 2001, working part time at the airport and a bartender to pay the bills. He now trains with both Cobra Kai and Team Couture, and is looking to improve his cardio and endurance while learning under the coaches on this season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Mandaloniz’s first love was football, and he played tailback on the Hilo High School football team for four years until graduating in 1998. His new loves are his two dogs, a boxer and toy pug, which are home alone with his girlfriend of nine years. While he knows leaving her home alone for six weeks will be extremely difficult, especially since they take up residence in Las Vegas, they both realize the opportunity in front of him.

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