A television crew was always there standing over him. The bright lights would burn any eyes that gazed for too long. The crew stood and watched, and even though they weren’t supposed to judge, they judged. When the bright lights and the countless cameras were exchanged for a real locker room, and castmates for teammates, he knew that he had made it.

For Richard Walsh, a career in the UFC was beginning to become a reality. He had participated in the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter: Nations reality series, where he picked up a win over Matthew Desroches before getting eliminated by Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the semifinal round of the welterweight bracket. He returned at the show’s finale event and earned a unanimous decision over castmate and fellow Team Australia fighter Chris Indich.

“It was a bit nerve-racking,” Walsh admitted to The MMA Corner. “I did put a bit of pressure on myself, but when I finally got in there it was a different kind of aura of confidence. It was a great feeling, and I am excited to do it again.

“I’m not looking to rush back in. I want to have a full camp and I want to take a bit of time off to look at what I learnt from the whole experience. I don’t want to rush in and take a fight on short notice, because that takes away from my learning and development as a fighter. I want to plan out the next year’s work and go back in towards the end of the year.”

A lot of fighters will focus their entire lives and all of their time and energy into being a professional fighter, and rightfully so. To be the best, a fighter has to dedicate their life to their craft. Yet, there’s more to life than just fighting.

“It doesn’t make me who I am,” Walsh admitted. “I’m not Richard Walsh, the fighter; I’m Richard Walsh, who is also a fighter. There are a lot of things that make up who I am. I don’t try to worry about what happens with my career too much. I enjoy what I do and it really is a passion of mine, but it doesn’t define me. There are a lot of other important things in my life.”

After making his successful debut in the welterweight division, Walsh is asking himself an important question: What weight class suits him within the UFC? There’s more to the answer than just a number on a scale.

“I think I need to look at seeing if a move to 155 [pounds] is the right thing for me,” Walsh explained. “There are a lot of things we need to do look at to see if it’s the right move. I don’t want to just do it because I feel that I need to. There are a lot of things you need to consider, like your strength and, also, your chin.

“I mean, a lot of guys now think that they have to move down to stay competitive, but the thing is, you don’t really need to do that until you hit a UFC level. Guys who are just fighting in Australia seem to be worrying too much about fighting in a lighter division and being bigger. It’s not always about that. It’s about making the right decision for your body.”

After experiencing what it is like to train with coaches who call some of the best training camps in the world their home, Walsh views the whole The Ultimate Fighter experience as a new lease on how to better himself—and his peers—back in Australia.

“We need to start to develop a culture here where people are going to help each other out,” Walsh explained. “We need to help the sport evolve. And to do that, it’s going to mean that we need to break down the barriers of gyms and people not being able to train at different places. I am always going to be loyal to my gym, but if there is somewhere that I can go to train and spar with the best guys in the country, then I wanna go there and get the best possible training that I can get. It shouldn’t be about one-upping each other or trying to show who has the best techniques. We all need to work together so that we have the best possible platform to compete at an elite level.”

Mixed martial arts has not reached the heights in Australia that it has in some other countries, and there is a need for everybody who is involved with the sport in Australia to work together to ensure fighters have the best opportunities.

“I really want to see the Australian MMA community come together more,” Walsh said. “I think that we need to start moving the sport in the right direction where we have fighters that people look up to, that people want to be like. You see guys going out there and competing on the wrong shows where promoters are just out to make a quick buck. We need more people interested in developing the sport at a grassroots level so that there is a base that we can build on to continue sending guys overseas to compete.”

With the lights, cameras and action all out of the way for the time being, Walsh now has the chance to see where he would like his career to go. Unlike most, he isn’t rushing his chance of a lifetime. He plans to ensure that any decisions he makes for his career are thoughtful ones. In Walsh’s mind, there is a lot more to being a fighter than stepping into the cage and competing. He plans to make sure that he is well-equipped for whatever challenge he faces next.

Richard would like to thank his coaches and teammates at VT1 Gym. Follow Walsh on Twitter: @RichyMMA

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.