Don't let his name fool you: Chris Tickle doesn't plan on making people laugh. He wants to hurt them.
Tickle, of Pontiac, Ill., grew up the "tough guy" in the town about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. That reputation eventually led the 29-year-old to mixed martial arts. Now, with 19 MMA fights under his belt, Tickle is taking the next step in his career and trying to break into the UFC. He's getting that chance on the FX reality competition "Ultimate Fighter Live," premiering Friday.
Tickle talked to RedEye recently about his Chicago fighting connection, his "Bad Boy" nickname and what motivates him.
How'd you get into mixed martial arts?
Basically it was my life. When I was younger I was in a lot of trouble and couldn't get a good job so I turned to MMA. I was good at fighting and wrestling so I decided to try it out. I used to watch the UFC and Pride when I was younger and said this is what I wanted to do.
You were originally a finalist on "The Ultimate Fighter 9," but didn't make it on the show. What did the UFC and producers of the show see this time to give you another chance?
On "TUF 9" I was only 1-3 for my MMA record, and they were concerned about that. They did like my attitude, but it just didn't work out. This time around I'm on a five-fight winning streak and four by the way of knockout. The last two fights I beat UFC veterans, so that was huge a positive. I have a lot more fights under my belt now, which is what the UFC likes to see.
With this being the first season the fights are broadcasted live, what are you expectations going into the show?
Well I'm doing this for my family and for my hometown. I know they are going to be watching, and that's going to making me more aggressive and to put on a show. The whole nerve thing won't be there because I'm used to the environment and it's just another day and another fight. It's a bunch of cameras and extra people at the gym and the house, but it won't distract me from what I have to do.
Where did your nickname "Bad Boy" come from?
Bad Boy is from my life when I was younger. I was always getting into trouble when I was younger. I was always street fighting and taking on people. Most of the time I would take on two guys by myself, and most of the time I had the upper hand. I never called it unfair either because I enjoyed the challenge. I was just a bad mofo.
When you watched past seasons of TUF did you pick up anything from the fighters that you can use to you advantage?
I think it's all about hard work. You are away from your families for six to eight weeks without any lines of communication. There will be a lot of drunk fighters under the same roof so that could become challenging. I think it will be more mentally than physical tough knowing that you have nothing to entertain yourself.
I was really a fan of Kenny Florian because he was the smallest guy at middleweight. He was really dominating and just for his size it didn't seem possible. He fought at 155 and 170 pounds and he had the determination to get into the UFC at 185 pounds. He didn't care what weight he fought at, as long as he had that shot to get into the UFC.
You have trained with former champion and fellow Chicagoan Miguel Torres. How did that relationship develop and how has Miguel helped you?
I started working out with Miguel when I started my professional career. I have learned a lot from him because he sets the bar high. I have watched him train and to see where he's at makes me want to push hard to reach that. Miguel kicks my butt a lot during training, and it pays off in the long run. This sport isn't easy, and I love the challenges he has put in front of me.
Have your goals changed from a few years ago now that you are getting a shot to get onto "TUF"?
My goals have never changed because this is my life. I am one of the older fighters on this season's list, and I have a family to support. I don't know many of the other guys on the team and not sure if they have children like I do. I am doing this to have them have a future, so they can go to college and not worry about the financial costs. A lot of people are watching this show and cheering me on, that's all the motivation I need.
Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.