I was pretty surprised to be picked as the striking coach for Team Australia.

I was in the hospital waiting room about to have surgery on a torn meniscus in my knee. At first, I thought my teammate, Kyle Noke, was joking with me until he assured me they wanted me to go over. I even said to him, “Can’t you find someone else?” It was pretty humbling to know that of all the people he could have chosen, even from Jackson’s, that he wanted me to come over and be a part of his team.

It all happened pretty quickly. Before I knew it, I was having visa papers and stuff like that all sorted out for me. I wanted to check with my wife, Melina, to make sure she was okay with me being away for so long. It was going to be like six weeks that I’d be away from her and my kids. I didn’t really know how it’d all go. She really wanted me to do it, though. As usual, she’s so supportive.

Being a business owner and operator, it was a rush having a week to prepare to travel to Canada. I had to finish off outstanding orders and close my cabinet business down for six weeks whilst there and make sure my gym, Integrated MMA, was going to run smoothly whilst I was away. I’m so grateful to have good friends and team members that ran my gym, like Nelson Stewart and Mandy Stewart (they aren’t related, by the way).

Getting into Canada, the morale was good in the house and the contestants made me feel very welcome. They were excited to train with me. Perhaps after 23 hours and 57 minutes of flight time, my morale was not so good!

Seeing who was on the team, it was a little bit weird for me. I have been competing in the sport for around 12 years, and I was unaware of who most of the fighters in the house were. However, I did do research on both teams long before I even boarded the flight to Canada.

I thought the Canadian team were friendly guys. They were from reputable gyms and were experienced athletes, and they were also far more seasoned than the Australian contestants.

I got along with everybody, so there wasn’t much to worry about when we went in. I’m not trying to be the “Ultimate Fighter,” so I have no reason to dislike anyone. All in all, both teams were mostly humble martial artists and showed respect towards all of us in the coaching staff. I formed a good relationship with many of the Team Australia guys and really wish them well in their future careers.

As the striking coach, I just wanted to keep the contestants sharp and feeling confident in their skills. None of the Team Australia coaches tried to change the guys. Most of the guys were set in their ways, so we just tried to help them do the best that they could.

With the first few fights not going our way, it was hard. Look, any loss is hard to deal with, and I tried to keep our team spirits high. As long as you fought to the best of your ability, then it’s a good loss. It’s the excuses that I find hard to deal with.

With people commenting on the shape that Tyler Manawaroa was in, I was confident that he’d turn it around. With Tyler being from our gym, I was used to seeing him in this condition, so it did not surprise me at all. The coaching staff and teammates were concerned, but I had 100 percent faith that he would make weight and put up a fight with anyone in front of him.

Tyler’s win was the first win for Australia. He fought one of the Canadian favorites and defeated him in a hard-earned victory. It was an emotional victory for me. Many people had counted him out, and I had faith in my boy throughout the competition that he would bring it! Seeing him pull off the techniques we had been drilling was very rewarding for me.

Tyler’s win gave Team Australia a great confidence boost and we were excited with our next pick, Richy Walsh, as he was ready to go. Tyler winning his fight was exactly what we needed leading into the next fight. We felt that it was time for redemption.