Having never been one myself, I can’t tell exactly what it is that nice people with good hearts enjoy, but I’m going to guess that it’s the type of wholesome, family-friendly content we got from the second episode of The Ultimate Fighter 29.
Right away, we’re treated to one of Alex Volkanovski’s Cool Coach™ moments, when he arrives at the “TUF" house with all the materials to prepare a barbecue — including low-calorie options for the dieting fighters, because he’s just that kind of guy. The fighters proceed to eat and bond and be pretty much all of us as they react to Rose Namajunas reclaiming the strawweight title over Weili Zhang at UFC 261. It’s a nice moment that peaks with the collective applause for Chef Volkanovski and is spoiled only by the fact that some of the contestants voluntarily chose to subject our eyes to this season’s aesthetically challenged team jerseys.
Conversely, Ortega treats us to a different, Very Serious Coach™ energy. Having probably smiled once this season (which is fine, by the way; as a woman I respect people’s inalienable right to not smile), Ortega’s onscreen time is dedicated mostly to the discussion of Very Serious Fight Business™. In this particular episode, he talks about his approach to coaching, breaks down bantamweight Liudvik Sholinian and talks about overcoming the language barrier with him by speaking not through words, but through movement. It’s all very to-the-point and no-nonsense, which is actually canon because this is a reality show and therefore we obviously need someone who knows this is The Ultimate Fighter, not The Ultimate Best Friend.
Sholinian, as we had known since the previous episode, is scheduled to meet Team Volkanovski’s top pick Mitch Raposo next.
Described by teammate Bryan Battle as "a little ball of fire," Raposo gives us a healthy dose of wholesomeness by introducing us to his tight-knit family, the friends he's had since second grade, and the real star of the episode (sorry, Gilbert Urbina’s mullet): Charlie, the English Bulldog. At 22, 5-0 Raposo also talks about basically growing up with the sport and training with UFC bantamweight stand-out Rob Font and it’s all very sweet but, also, Charlie.
Sholinian, for his part, is an Armenian-born fighter who was raised in Ukraine from age four. He relocated to Las Vegas for “TUF" and we get to see him FaceTiming his mom and dad, which is an entirely common thing that normal people do, but for some reason, when he does it it's extra adorable.
Sholinian speaks multiple languages, has a strong wrestling background, wears a cute little hat and is also a very good fighter, which we know not just because of his 9-1-1 pro record but also because he ultimately beats Raposo in a fight competitive enough to go to the third round (“TUF" fights are scheduled for two rounds and only go to a third in case of a tie).
The episode ends on a face-off between middleweights Ryder Newman and Tresean Gore, which is somehow both friendly and intense. Gore says he loves Newman but "is ready to feel my shin bone digging in his leg and across his head." Because that's what friends are for.
The score is now:
Team Ortega: 2
Team Volkanovski: 0
Hijinx & Shenanigans: 0