Another season of The Ultimate Fighter is in the books, and the TUF Finale is once again upon us.
This past season, The Ultimate Fighter 28: Heavy Hitters featured eight men’s heavyweights and eight women’s featherweights–including Wisconsin’s Leah Letson (4-1).
One of Letson’s main strategies in barreling through the TUF tournament bracket was making sure to stay true to herself. Training with a completely new group of coaches and training partners, Letson encountered many problems during the filming of the reality series.
Openly outlined on the show, her main objection was the lack of intensity in Team Whittaker training sessions.
“They haven’t exactly shown the training we were doing,” Letson said in an interview with FloCombat. “The training we were doing was literally just shadow boxing the same combinations over and over again. That was our striking training.
“They finally showed that last week a little bit, but they didn’t show it as much as they should have. It was a real problem. My whole team was not satisfied with the level of training we were getting.
On numerous occasions, Letson voiced her concerns but never felt they were satisfactorily answered.
“We didn’t have sparring once,” Letson said. “We asked for sparring multiple times and [our coach, Robert Whittaker] wouldn’t let us.
“We didn’t hit pads hardly at all. And when we did, we were just hitting jabs and crosses. It wasn’t like any hooks or uppercuts or kicks or anything like that. The grappling wasn’t really wrestling. It was just all jiu-jitsu technique, so it wasn’t very intense at all.”
In order to compensate for what she felt was lacking in those sessions, Letson took matters into her own hands.
“We took pads home and were hitting mitts in the backyard,” Letson said. “I was doing strength and conditioning stuff on my own twice a day. The level of training we got from Whittaker and his coaches was really subpar. I wasn’t the only one who felt like that.”
Despite her differences with the Team Whittaker coaching staff, she believes the experience was still positive. Having to steer her own ship, Letson expanded her self-awareness.
“I learned a lot about myself—just how disciplined and hard-working I can be,” Letson said. “I was able to cut and make weight twice on my own with no coaches or nutritionists or anyone helping me.”
While Letson was eliminated by surging Fortis MMA product Macy Chiasson in the semi-finals, the United States Air Force veteran will still have the chance to compete on the upcoming finale card.
On the undercard of Friday’s aforementioned TUF 28 Finale, Letson will clash with fellow Team Whittaker member Julija Stoliarenko (4-2). Also eliminated in the semi-finals, Stoliarenko lost to finalist Pannie Kianzad by unanimous decision.
“I absolutely love this matchup because she’s very much a jiu-jitsu fighter,” Letson said. “My wrestling and top game is really good for shutting the jiu-jitsu down. I kind of wanted this fight actually. Even on the show I wanted it.
“I think my striking and wrestling very much outclasses her. I think she’s a one-dimensional jiu-jitsu fighter. My strikes will definitely help me in this fight against her. It’s a perfect matchup for me and I couldn’t have asked for a better one.”