April 13, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Bubba McDaniel puts a hold on Gilbert Smith during the TUF 17 Finale at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Bubba McDaniel: New Found Love for the Sport


Robert “Bubba” McDaniel was cast member on the The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones vs Team Sonnen. On the show he was the third pick for team Jones and 6th overall. During the process of the show McDaniel went 2-2 losing to eventual finalists Kevin Gastelum and Uriah Hall. Even with him not winning the show his performance was enough to earn him a spot on that seasons finale.

He was paired up against fellow castmate Gilbert Smith. McDaniel looked very impressive and won the fight by third round submission and like many other fighters who were on TUF but fell short of winning the show it looked like he would still be able to make his mark on the UFC. His next bout was against Brad Tavares who was a TUF alumni as well back on season eleven and the two met on UFC Fight Night: Condit vs Kampmann II. He would go on to lose a decision to Tavares and while he said his training had gone well he admitted that he wasn’t in the right mindset.

For some reason I just didn’t want to cut weight anymore, I did what I wanted to do. My ultimate goal when I started doing MMA was being in the UFC, I didn’t have a goal past that. So at that time I just wanted to win this fight and retire.

He would get another chance a few months later when he faced Sean Strickland at UFC 171. McDaniel was physically ready to step in that ring but again his biggest enemy wasn’t the man standing across from him but the mentality he was taking into the cage.

I had a good pump going into the fight, being there in Dallas having a huge crowd cheering for me, I was at the pinnacle of my career, there could be no better feeling. Then I go in there and go right into sparring mode instead of fight mode. I had a mental lapse again

Being mentally prepared goes hand in hand with being physically prepared in the fight game. To some the mental aspect is more important than anything else you can learn in the gym. Some fighters such as middleweight Mark Munoz hold it in such high regard that he has even worked with a mental coach before some of his fights.

After the fight McDaniel was released from the promotion and forced him to go back to the drawing board. Since then McDaniel has been trying to get his personal life in order and doing things to make himself a happier person and he hopes with doing that he can find that fire he once had for the sport and enjoy fighting again.

Some of the things that he has done in order to find himself again had to do with his family. For his UFC stint he had been training and Greg Jackson’s in Albuquerque which placed him about 8 hours from his kids, so he relocated to Wichita Falls. Being around his kids has made a great difference in his life, he’s able to go to his son’s baseball games and spend time with his daughter who he says loves to sing.

Since  leaving Albuquerque he  became somewhat of a MMA ronin, no actual gym where he consistently trains at but moves around to different places trying to become a more well rounded fighter. He’s been training with Team Takedown home to current welterweight champion Johnny Hendricks as well as other gyms like, Bruno Bastos BJJ, Falls Town Fighters Club and Red River BJJ.

Another way he has been able to clear his head and find himself McDaniel has been an active member of the community and has been a part of several charity events. As a former youth that was bullied himself he now tries to be involved in as many events as his schedule allows. He has been a major advocate in raising awareness for bullying in schools. Recently he was a part of Bikers Against Bullying, a motorcycle ride to spread awareness of the issue. McDaniel has also been speaking to local middle schools not just about bullying but about achieving ones goals, teaching them that with hard work and sacrifice no obstacle will ever be to big.

I’m just trying to make my mark and use my notoriety for the good, the future is coming with the younger generation and that’s where I’m trying to make my impact

With him being in a better place mentally along with the skills and talent everyone has seen he possesses he hopes to show off the new and improved Bubba McDaniel in his upcoming fight against Matt Jones at Bellator 121. McDaniel stated that he is in a better place in his life right now and has a new found love for the sport. He is able to get excited about training and competing, something he had lost somewhere along the way. While an eventual spot in a Bellator tournament is not what he is looking for with a win over Jones it is the first step in his road back to the big show. Like any other fighter his ultimate goal is to fight his way back to the UFC and show the world that he does belong with the elite fighters.


I’d like to thank Bubba McDaniel for taking the time to speak with me, he is a great guy and it was a pleasure to meet him. Be sure to follow the website on twitter @cagepagesfs and myself @jlorenty

Tags: Bellator MMA Bubba McDaniel MMA UFC

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