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Fighters were halfheartedly coaxing him to join the practice before stating in interviews they weren’t going to hold his hand. One fighter and one fighter only gave enough honest encouragement and motivation to change Thacker’s mind.

“I felt bad for him. Obviously, he didn’t belong there but he was there. I’ve always been a martial arts instructor,” Southworth said. “If you help this guy to get better it’s sooner rather than later that you’ve got another training partner to push you, so it’s like a circular thing. Some people aren’t iron, but they need a little tempering. I don’t know if Jason was going to do that but that’s just where my mind was at. It wasn’t helping any of the seasoned veterans at that time to pick on this kid.”

Check out every contestant’s profile on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter.

It was a shock to nobody when Thacker was the first fighter cut. On his way out, the last man to bid him farewell was Southworth. “Keep your chin up, square your shoulders. Stand up strong. Walk out of here like the warrior you are,” Southworth encouraged as Thacker disappeared into an obscurity that lasted years. Without a friend in the house or a prayer in the world, Thacker always had Southworth to lean on and always would have.

“Everybody was trying to f*** him up,” Southworth said. “It was obvious he didn’t have a lot of skill, so a lot of the guys would kind of use him to make themselves look better. I thought that was kind of weak. I would have continued to push him as long as I saw a desire. I’m a coach at heart, and as long as I saw a desire and a will to compete in the daily training sessions, then I definitely would have encouraged him.”


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