The Ultimate Fighter 9 participant Richie Whitson (11-1) entered into the sport of mixed martial arts almost by chance, but now on a five-fight win streak, Whitson hopes he’s on his way to getting another shot at the UFC.
Hailing from the small town of Sitka, Alaska, Whitson started as an amateur boxer. However, MMA soon became his passion after watching a local event.
Following his first MMA fight, Whitson spent time in Thailand working on his striking.
“That really sparked my interest,” Whitson told ProMMAnow.com. “I decided that’s pretty much what I wanted to do.
“I was 4-0. I was winning fights but kind of getting a little lucky, toughing through it. “I decided I wanted to do it for a living.”
That’s when Whitson made the move to Temecula, Calif., to train with former UFC contender and current Strikeforce 205-pound champion Dan Henderson.
“It’s great being around a guy whose done it all, and he’s still mellow and humble,” Whitson said. “And he’s got a lot to teach, especially all the Greco and all that. But surprisingly enough, because you don’t see it in a lot of his fights, Dan’s got a really good ground game. He submits high level black belts a lot. He’s got his own style of Jiu Jitsu. It’s pretty mean (laughs), and he grinds on people.”
Whitson had only been with Team Quest for six months before his big opportunity came along and he earned a spot on season nine of TUF. He defeated Paul Bird in the qualifying round but lost to eventual winner Ross Pearson.
“Getting on the show just kind of jumpstarted my career,” Whitson said. “It gets your name out there and people know who you are all of the sudden. Really there wasn’t that much negative from it, aside from being in the house of course. That’s pretty lame. (laughs) Like there’s no TV, no books, no cards, no entertainment. You’re there with 15 other dudes that are all fighters, and you don’t always get along with them. But overall, it was a really good experience.”
Although it’s far from a guarantee, a fair number of participants on the show get a shot in the UFC even if they don’t reach the finals of the competition. Whitson hoped he would get that opportunity but ended up being released.
It was a letdown initially, but Whitson is confident he’ll work his way back.
“I figured I was going to get another shot,” he said. “I beat up the first guy pretty good and ended up losing to the guy that won the whole thing. I just figured, ‘Oh, they’ll bring me back. When they didn’t, I was really bummed. But really, it’s just another chance to go out and get a lot more experience. I’ll eventually be back.”
Whitson’s latest win came over a very game Curtis Demarce at Maximum Fighting Championship 28 on Feb. 25.
It was an entertaining scrap, with Demarce using his footwork to outpoint Whitson in the first. However, Whitson bounced back in the second, despite suffering a nasty cut, and managed to take the split decision victory under less than ideal circumstances.
Early on in the fight, Whitson suffered the cut because of an accidental head butt. On top of that, he came into the fight with an elbow injury a mild illness that had him a bit under the weather.
“I was training real hard…and my [left] arm just wouldn’t bend,” he said. “There was so much swelling, it went from [being able to go to] 180 degrees when I straightened my arm out to about 90.
“I went and got a cortisone shot. That loosened it up a little bit and that’s what got me through the fight. But I couldn’t jab and extend my arm, or if I did it hurt really bad.
But a lot of guys fight injured. It’s just one of those things that happens.”
Of course, a split decision suggests that the fight could’ve gone either way. However, Whitson felt he did enough in the second round to secure the win.
“The second round, if you watch it, a lot of people don’t talk about the hook,” he said. “I hit him with the hook and he stumbled back and his legs were giving out. I jumped all over him and he tried to take me down and I stuffed the takedown. That gave him time to recover. Then I hit him with the head kick and the takedown to end [the round]. I thought for sure the second round was mine … I really couldn’t understand how anyone could give him the second round, but of course I’m biased.”
Either way, it was a heck of a fight and showed Whitson’s toughness.
As for the immediate future, more than anything, Whitson wants to stay active and keep fighting. But he wouldn’t mind a shot at MFC newcomer and UFC veteran Marcus Davis.
“Yeah, for sure,” Whitson said of the possibility of fighting Davis, who has a fight coming up against Demarce on April 8. “Really, I just want to keep fighting. But I think that’d be a fight everyone would like to see. It’d be entertaining.”
Whitson asked to thank the following: Clinch Gear, his strength and conditioning coaches at Dynamic Fitness, all of his training partners at Team Quest, and his friends and family in Sitka, Alaska.