Going 0-3 on The Ultimate Fighter would be tough for almost any aspiring mixed martial artist to handle, and it certainly wasn't easy on Kyle Kingsbury. However, the former Arizona State football player knew going in that he would have his work cut out for him.
"I talked with my coaches before the show," Kingsbury said, "and we knew I wasn't ready for the UFC. I had some definite deficiencies in my game going into the house, but it was one of those things where I had the opportunity for the exposure, and the opportunity to be coached by some of the best fighters in the world. When it presented itself, it was, ‘Well, take it if you can get it, and see how it goes, and use it for what it is: an opportunity to build your skills and to get your name out there, then take things slow after that.'"
And while his tenure on the show's eighth season was hardly a success in terms of wins and losses, being a member of Team Nogueira certainly delivered in terms of opportunities to learn from the best. For Kingsbury, one particularly eye-opening experience was the chance to work with the man defending his title in the main event at UFC 126, Anderson Silva.
"When he came in to work with us," Kingsbury said of the reigning UFC Middleweight Champion, "the thing that took us aback was that we'd never seen somebody that fast in person. Across the board it was just like, this guy is on a whole other level for speed and accuracy. That, to me, was the biggest thing. When you see that different level, then it lets you know that there's something else attainable that you didn't know about before. When you watch on TV, it doesn't do him justice, but when you actually get in there and work with him, you realize that he's just so much faster than everyone else, and more accurate. There's that very high level that you try to attain."
When Kingsbury looks at the upcoming season of TUF, with Nogueira disciple Junior Dos Santos coaching one of the teams, he sees a similar opportunity for the up-and-coming welterweights who will be part of Team Dos Santos.
"There's no doubt that Lyoto Machida's going to come in," Kingsbury said. "Anderson Silva's going to come in. Obviously, both Nogueiras will be in there. When you think about it that way, he's going to be loaded on his side of the coaching staff. Brock has Erik Paulson and a few other good guys, but for the most part, it's going to be Brock and his name is going to sell that part. If I'm going into the house, I want to be on Dos Santos' team."
As for Kingsbury himself, he'll also be fighting on Saturday, facing Ricardo Romero in a preliminary bout. After losing his first official UFC bout to Tom Lawlor at the TUF 8 finale, Kingsbury is on track and looking to win his third straight bout in the UFC.
"I've had a lot of variety in my training partners in this camp," Kingsbury said, "and some great coaches, so everything's coming together nicely."
And, as with his past UFC exploits, Kingsbury won't have to look very far to find a familiar face. After sharing the card with TUF 8 lightweight winner Efrain Escudero in September at UFC Fight Night: Marquardt vs. Palhares, Kingsbury joins TUF 8 light heavyweight winner Ryan Bader on the card at UFC 126. Bader, who defeated Kingsbury in the elimination round but wound up his teammate when Kingsbury was summoned as an injury replacement, battles Jon "Bones" Jones in one of the most eagerly anticipated matchups of the night.
"I really enjoy that," Kingsbury said of fighting on the same cards as his old teammates. "At UFC 104, I got to fight on the same card as Bader as well. It's nice to see old teammates from the show that they stick you on there with. It's cool that I get to see him, and I'm buddies with Antonio Banuelos, who's also on the card. I'm looking forward to seeing him as well."
The two former Sun Devils have seen a good deal of each other lately. In addition to training at American Kickboxing Academy for this fight, Kingsbury headed down to Arizona to train with Bader and TUF 7 finalist C.B. Dollaway at their new Power MMA and Fitness facility, and came away very impressed.
"It's great," Kingsbury said. "It's huge, really nice. They've got a big cage, all decked out. Everything's just really nice and new. It's a good situation, good setup."
Now, with a good training camp behind him, Kyle Kingsbury is ready to step into the Octagon and chase his third straight UFC win.
"I feel like I'm starting to hit my stride," Kingsbury said, "and everything's coming together nicely."