Tyler Diamond: Kill or Be Killed
SpitballingPod caught up with Tyler Diamond recently to reflect on his experience in the TUF house and his MMA journey so far.
Diamond made his way into MMA from a traditional wrestling background and his tenaciousness on the mats led to an invitation to train with some local MMA fighters that had passed through his wrestling room. Fast forward a little and Tyler explained how he ‘accidentally’ took his first fight only two weeks after leaving high school – ‘By accidentally, I mean I went to corner one of my friends and they needed someone to fill in on like 2 hours’ notice. The promoter told my friend and he said I’d do it without asking me. I fought in the shorts I wore up there and I had to buy a mouthpiece that I didn’t even get a chance to boil’. It turns out that the unboiled mouthpiece was actually the least of his worries, as he explained ‘I had to borrow a cup from someone which is gross; he literally fought, took the cup out and I put it in. It was in a tiny, Indian casino gym and I was against a 37-year old man (I’d just turned 18). I went out there and mopped the floor with him, it reconfirmed in my mind that I could really get good at this’.
Now to take a giant leap forward, Diamond then amassed an 9-0 record and was selected to compete on the Ultimate Fighter, where he was then chosen as the first pick by UFC Heavyweight & Light-Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier. He says he wasn’t surprised to be chosen first and it was more of a feeling of relief to have finally reached the stage that he always felt he deserved to be on.
When watching the show at home, we aren’t privy to the schedule that the fighters work to and it’s only after speaking with Tyler that you can understand how difficult things must have been. It was the final week of the show when Diamond was finally able to set foot in the octagon and his conservative style during the fight makes plenty of sense when he revealed that following a win, his next fight would be a week later.
In the first round, he was matched up with one of the most polarising figures of the series in Dulani Perry; Dulani had made a name for himself during the early weeks of the show by being braggadocios and extremely outspoken. ‘I certainly was looking forward to humbling him and a lot of the guys in the house were too. He took a lot of shit from guys in the house and he’s a cool guy, he just puts it on for the cameras, but I wasn’t gonna let him look any better than he was’ he said.
Explaining his pre-fight thoughts, Diamond said ‘I had seen 2 of my teammatest drop out due to injuries and so I didn’t want to mess around standing up. You get someone on their back and there’s not much they can do to hurt you; Escaping without injuries was the goal for that fight’. After a near-flawless performance, Tyler defeated Dulani via a 2nd round guillotine choke.
Despite ‘bad blood’ before the fight, he now feels that plenty can learn from the mistakes of Dulani – ‘A lot of people are naïve to what their weaknesses are and Dulani thought he had a good enough ground game to stifle everyone and I think he realised that he had just been avoiding his problems. In this sport you have to be very self-aware as to what your problem areas are and what you need to work on’ he said.
His first fight was on 20th February of this year and his second fight was on 28th February. It’s easy to forget the issues outside of what we see on the hour-long show each week, but the quick turnaround meant that Tyler was unable to let his body relax after the fight and instead had to maintain his weight and ensure that he would be able to meet the limit for his next match-up. Talking on the weight-cutting process during the show, he explained ‘mentally it was easy to do, but physically it’s not good for your body, for a body that wants to weigh say 160-165 to constantly knock around at 154 for a month and a half. It just made things more difficult’.
Next up, Diamond would, unfortunately, suffer a defeat to Jay Cucciniello in the semi-finals of the competition. Despite losing though, Tyler feels he has learnt a lot from the bout and he’ll be in better shape now for future opponents. ‘Firstly, I learned that I can’t be Mike Tyson-ish and need to be more like Max Holloway and pick my shots rather than try and kill someone every time I throw’ he was referencing the beginning of the fight where he dropped Jay, but unfortunately was unable to close the show and he then suffered from fatigue later in the bout. ‘Unfortunately, knocking him down was probably the worst thing that could have happened - it made me head hunt and when I was fading he came on strong and attacked the body well. I learned a tonne, and I feel like it’s made me a better fighter and I’m excited for people to see what’s to come from me. I’m getting better every day’ he explained.
The loss marked the conclusion of his time in the house and meant that Tyler could finally have some much warranted time off. ‘I took some time off. It was nice to have a month to be a normal guy and do fun things, then when I got back I was hungrier than ever, I was rejuvenated and then I found out I’d be on the finale and that gave me even more motivation’ he said.
Diamond would face fellow competitor Bryce Mitchell at the TUF Finale and unfortunately lost a razor-thin decision that was one of the best bouts of the night. Despite losing, he showed that regardless of the result, he would show up to fight every time and leave it all in the octagon. Fellow fighters like Justin Gaethje have proven that as long as you put it all on the line every time, a result can actually be the last thing that a fan is concerned with. When this sentiment was brought up to Diamond, he responded in agreement - ‘I get very frustrated watching fights, especially when they lose and they don’t seem to put it all out there. I go out like either I’m gonna kill them or they’ll kill me – I think you have to be like that or you won’t put it all out there. If someone is gonna take me out, then they’re really gonna take me out. There are some guys that lose because they’re worse, but some guys lose because they allowed themselves to. I will never go out easy’.
One of the highlights of the series was the relationship that Daniel Cormier showed with his fighters and Diamond was able to feel the effects of the Double-Champ first hand; ‘I love that guy now’ he said, before adding ‘He’s the most genuine guy I know, it was an honour to be picked by him. I watched back on TV and just hearing the things he said about me was really special. I talked to him after the show and I owe a lot to him, I know he got paid but he genuinely cared about all of us. I’ll have a special connection with him forever’.
Tyler has been told to stay ready by the UFC brass and if his previous fights are anything to go by, this will be one that you won’t want to miss!