When I interviewed Rashad Evans at the beginning of this season of "The Ultimate Fighter," he mentioned how his first stint on TUF shaped people's perception of him:
When people have this perception of you it's hard for them to change it. Their first impression was Matt Hughes saying stuff to me. It always goes back to that. I think that first impression has stuck.
This season of "The Ultimate Fighter" has proved that to be true. But in this case, it's improving the image of both Rashad Evans and Kimbo Slice while doing nothing for the image of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
Evans has been cast as the compassionate and effective coach. His team is working together, winning together, and learning from the top-notch coaches that Evans has brought in. He even crosses team lines, twice helping out one of Rampage's fighters after a loss.
Kimbo Slice, so long dismissed as a thuggish, animalistic street fighter, has come off as an intelligent man willing to do anything to get to fight for the UFC. This Kimbo is so much more interesting than the guy who was marketed by Elite XC. Sure, Slice can teach his castmates about shanking someone, but he can also speak eloquently about his inner demons.
Rampage, unfortunately, has seemed lazy and selfish throughout the show. That could be the way he is edited, but not going into the cage after a fight just seems bizarre. How would he have felt if his coaches didn't go into the cage after he lost to Forrest Griffin? Jackson does claim that he isn't being edited fairly:
I tried to explain to him that I'm not a coach and I won't be coaching after my fighting career, like he might. So as the fights go on and I end up losing a couple fights in a row, I grew more pissed and I let it get to me. So, the whole time Rashad was being a dick and cocky, I just talked to them back in the locker room, in private. Rashad thought the show was about him, about how good of a coach he could be and how fake he could be. But I knew what it was all about. The show is called the Ultimate Fighter, not the Ultimate Coach.
That may be true. What puzzles me is that the last time he coached on TUF, Rampage built a definite bond with his fighter. One of his fighters, Gerald Harris, still trains with Jackson. He just doesn't seem to care as much this time around.
In the end, we have to take every portrayal on reality television with a grain of salt. But I can't help but wonder who will get booed and who will be cheered the next time Rashad and Rampage are at a fight.