Fighting a friend: ATT prospect Steve Montgomery recounts 'Fight Master' experience

Photo via Ryan Hayes

Get the details on one fighter's rough experience on Spike TV and Bellator MMA's 'Fight Master' show right here.

For one fighter, his experience on Spike TV's new reality show "Fight Master" was something he'd rather forget.

Steve Montgomery is a solid prospect out of American Top Team, having knocked out recent winner of season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Colton Smith with a brutal knee to the face in early 2012. His highlight reel is already pretty devastating.

He was expecting to enter "Fight Master" as one of the favorites and fellow teammate Cristiano Souza joined him on the journey.

Instead, he was surprisingly matched up against Souza in one of the opening bouts just to get onto the show. Montgomery couldn't commit to his strikes and Souza took advantage, knocking him out within the opening minutes of the first round, getting very emotional afterwards for having killed the dream of a friend.

The fighter dubbed "The Weasel" spoke to MMAmania.com about his experience on the show, the surprise of fighting a teammate in the opening round and what he's got planned for the future in this exclusive interview.

Check it out:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Cristiano was so emotional about how everything played out on the show and you could see that with the way it was portrayed. Can you talk a bit about your relationship as teammates?

Steve Montgomery: We've been training together for about four years now. He's such a good training partner and he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He's extremely humble and talented. I came into the gym at ATT a week after I finished high school. I left South Carolina and came straight to the gym and we took to each other. I was a young kid and was really trying to get better on the mat and he was always there to help me. We were not super close, but we were great training partners.

Once we decided to do the show together, obviously we started working more closely together and we became closer friends, training together, helping each other out. The guy is just easy to like and I learned a lot from him. We exchanged gameplans on the plane and we were teammates going to war together and then we got matched up against each other. So at the last second, we had about 23 hours to process fighting a guy I'd just exchanged gameplans with having coaches in my corner that didn't know me. It was hard.

I don't want to take away from Cristiano's performance. He hit me hard and the stoppage was actually better than what I had thought at the time. I would have picked Frank Shamrock as my coach had I made it onto the show because his assistant coaches were excellent. They were there for me and helped work a gameplan for me. "He's your friend, you don't want to hit him" so we were working on flashing a jab and keeping him away from me but that's just not how I fight. Usually, I go out there and expect to go out on my shield or with my hand raised so that went against my primal mindset. The friend aspect interrupted that and he timed me perfectly and clocked me with a right hand which set off the finish.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you give me a rundown of your experience on the show?

Steve Montgomery: Here's a quick synopsis, I don't want to call out names or piss anyone off, but here's what happened from my perspective. Basically there were about five guys from our gym at American Top Team that were going to try out for the show. We weren't all official yet, but we had advanced to the LA trial and we felt pretty good that at least three or four of us would make it onto the show. We had already started training together and we'd pretty much done an eight week training camp together.

I had a fight scheduled that I cancelled to get on the show so I had already been training hard for a fight. So it was a 15-week camp with eight weeks spent and we all trained hard together, myself and Cristiano. We had already talked about the fact that if we got onto the show, we might have to fight each other at some point or if we make it to the finals, we'd potentially have to fight. We agreed that by that point, we'd have received the benefits of exposure from the show and it is what it is at that point and we'd just do what we've got to do.

There were a couple other people there that were teammates but what I think ended up happening was when they got matched up to fight as well, if I'm not mistaken, two other teammates got matched up to fight, but they weren't fighting on the same day as me so I didn't stick around to hear it straight from the grapevine but I do know that at least one pair of teammates were forced to fight and one of them didn't end up fighting and he got sent home. I got worried.

Me and "Soldier" were worried that if we didn't fight, we'd get our contracts held and only fight once in 18 months and there were a lot of things that basically forced us to fight. I didn't even want to be there anymore, having to fight my friend for free to get on the show and try to steal his opportunity and he's got to steal mine. This is not right. I felt exploited. We did a lot filming after the weigh-ins and he came to me and said, "You know, we've just got to do it. It's a sticky situation" blah blah blah. It was very surreal going in to fight against my friend on national television.

It was like I was half asleep. I didn't know what to do. I was questioning the pace I should have gone. In retrospect, I should have just went in and given it 10,000 percent because he was coming with heat on me as you saw on Wednesday night. I should have gotten off earlier. It was weird because at the weigh-in, I'd never been so fired up to go out there and just make a statement. I was jumping up and down ready for whoever they selected for me to fight because you didn't find out who you were fighting until the day of weigh-ins.

Cristiano got called up on the scale and we're waiting to see who he was going to fight and I was already planning how we were going to spend our time on the show but then my name gets called and I'm like, "What?" I was just like a confused high school kid getting bullied in the hallways. I was like, "Are you serious?" I walk up to the scale and we both look at each other wondering what the hell is going on.

We tried to talk to [Sam] Caplan about changing the match-up and he said he didn't know we were teammates but the tryouts were in our gym and when I was doing the grappling portion of the tryouts, "Soldier" was cornering me, yelling out instructions as my jiu-jitsu coach so for him to say that, I don't really know. I'm not gonna call anyone out because a lot of things changed in my life after the show for the better. I'm just moving on and moving forward.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What were some of the good things that ended up coming out of this?

Steve Montgomery: Yeah, I've heard a lot of things about Bellator and I was just happy to get my release from Bellator. I think Caplan felt bad because they offered me another fight but they said they couldn't squeeze me in until September and I can't wait until September. I had to come back from that ASAP. We got out of the contract and I appreciated that they released me from the contract cold turkey. I was very happy about that and I booked a fight last April. I fought a real tough guy and beat him in a minute with a highlight reel finish so I was really happy to come back strong from it.

It taught me a lot of things about the way I train. I've had a couple of tough losses that have taught me every time to change this or change that and every time I change I get so many good results. I change so much with my training, my mental aspect towards fighting and life in general. I've got such a good perspective on things. I'm working on a lot of things, potentially some big fights this summer like in CFA. I'm trying to get really active and get as many fights as possible before the end of the year. We're working on a web series with myself and a few of my friends about fighting full time at American Top Team with constant legends coming through the gym. We've got so much footage working with them so I'm looking forward to that. There's a lot of good things coming my way.

Steve would like to thank his gym American Top Team, his manager Ryan Hayes and his sponsor Fresh Meal Plans. You can follow him on Twitter @WeaselSteve.

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