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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tavares hoping for spike in popularity

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Brad Tavares

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Brad Tavares is taking a gamble on mixed martial arts.

Part of the payoff begins tomorrow, when he becomes one of the 28 contestants on season 11 of "The Ultimate Fighter" reality television series on Spike TV.

"This is all like a dream for me," said Tavares, 22. "Ever since I got serious about mixed martial arts, my goal has been to train full time and I'm hoping being on this show will help me."

Tavares grew up on the Big Island, graduated from Waiākea High in 2005, and only started training in MMA in 2007.

By professional MMA standards, he is a novice which makes his participation on the show all the more impressive.

"I'm the youngest guy and I got the least experience," Tavares said. "But I feed off of that. All these other guys have great records, they fought champions before, they have these crazy backgrounds. But I was there in the same place as all of them, fighting for the same thing."

The Ultimate Fighter series started in 2005, and has become a cable-television success. The goal of the show is to find up-and-coming fighters and sign them to contracts in the prestigious UFC organization.

Among the past participants of The Ultimate Fighter who have ascended to UFC success are Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Rashad Evans, Matt Serra and Maui's Kendall Grove.

This season will feature middleweights (185 pounds). Taping for the series ended on March 2, but Tavares is contractually obligated not to give away details of the show.

This season's series will air every Wednesday at 7 p.m. (Hawai'i time) on Spike TV. The finale is scheduled for June 19.

"There's a fair share of drama, I guess you could say," Tavares said. "But you're also going to see awesome fights. That's what I remember the most. Every guy showed up in shape, ready to fight."

Each season of The Ultimate Fighter features two celebrity coaches. The coaches for this season are veterans Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.

"Those guys helped pioneer the sport," Tavares said. "Before the show started, I wasn't sure how much I was going to get out of the coaching, but both those guys, their knowledge is extensive. It was awesome just to be around both those guys."

It probably helps Tavares that he is still learning.

Unlike most other MMA competitors, Tavares has no formal training in boxing, wrestling, judo or jiujitsu. He was a linebacker on the Waiākea football team, and also paddled canoes.

He started training in MMA "just for fun" with his friends in 2007. A year later, he had his first professional bout.

In an effort to make up for lost time, he moved to Las Vegas a year ago for training purposes.

"It was a gamble," he said. "I left everything behind my girlfriend, my family, my dog, all my stuff. But so far, it's been the best move of my career."

During the six weeks of taping for the show, Tavares and the other contestants stayed in the same house, and were not allowed access to computers or cell phones.

"There's no contact with anybody except the guys on the show it's crazy," Tavares said. "But I knew what I was getting into so I just tried to stay strong the whole time."

Tavares works for Hawaiian Airlines in Las Vegas, and said he had to trade schedules with co-workers and use almost all his vacation days so he could participate in the show.

"I have to thank everybody who helped me," he said. "But if I can get some big sponsors out of being on this show, then it's all worth it. My job now helps me pay the bills, but I really want to make (MMA) my job."