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Vermont Underground >> TUF 2 Vermonter Tom Murphy

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10/30/05 10:36 AM
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Joseph Cunliffe
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Edited: 30-Oct-05 10:37 AM
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 7117
Vermonter fights reality
By John A. Fantino
Burlington (VT) Free Press Staff Writer

Tom Murphy is forbidden to discuss details of his matches during Spike TV's reality series "The Ultimate Fighter." The 30-year-old St. Albans resident was unable to conceal one aspect of the 38-day competition in Las Vegas after returning home on crutches: The experience was grueling. That's not breaking news to those familiar with the fierce action that unfolds in the octagon-shaped cage, where knockouts and choke holds are encouraged. Ultimate fighting is equal parts jiu-jitsu, judo, Muay Thai, karate, boxing and wrestling. It's described as "No Holds Barred." Murphy is one of 16 chiseled athletes who received a chance to show off the craft to millions of television viewers in Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter," a 12-week reality series that will kick off its second season with Monday's 11 p.m. premiere. Imagine blending the television show "Real World" with the movie "Blood Sport." Eight heavyweights and eight welterweights converged on Las Vegas this summer, split into two teams and engaged in physical challenges each episode to determine who would clash in bouts. The fighters were pared to four semifinalists, who will battle in November during a live broadcast to determine two champions. The cast members trained and lived together for 40 days, a video camera and microphone on each of them 24/7, with producers eager to capture controversy. How intense was the training? "I can remember one day bending down to pick up a weight," Murphy recalled, "and my body was so drained that my hand cramped to the point where I had to straighten it with my other fingers. "We trained for seven days a week, and this wasn't like going out for a jog, stretching and doing some drills; this was seven hours of bodily destruction." Observe one of his weekly workouts at the Vermont Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Burlington, and it's hard to imagine Murphy, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound mountain of muscle, wearing down. It's not uncommon for him to spar 15 straight rounds with a fresh opponent being plugged in for each three-minute round. "He can take some punishment," Vermont Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy instructor Julio Fernandez said. "A lot of people have the body but not the heart. Some get punished, then quit. Tom is a guy that doesn't quit." That was certainly the case in Las Vegas, even after suffering a cartilage tear in his right knee, an injury that he fought through before giving way to surgery at the end of the trip. Road to the octagon Murphy is as brainy as he is brawny, an academic who graduated summa cum laude from SUNY-Brockport with a degree in human psychology. While others in the gym rev up to heavy metal and hip hop, Murphy prefers classical music. The father of four and Cooperstown, N.Y., native was a four-time all-state wrestler in high school and finished runner-up in the 190-pound weight class at the NCAA Division III championships. Murphy hangs his hat on grappling techniques, but he didn't evolve into a mixed martial artist -- a.k.a. an ultimate fighter -- until he moved to Vermont a year after graduating college to work at Rail America. In St. Albans, Murphy pumped iron and dabbled in body building before a friend lured him to a jiu-jitsu gym in Burlington. "I remember thinking it was going to be this weird karate-chop sport," Murphy said, "but my first day I must have gotten choked five or six times by guys half my size. "I was an All-American. There wasn't a guy in there that I couldn't throw from one end of the room to the other, but they were choking the life out of me. "I knew I had to learn this sport." An ultimate fighter was born. Murphy thrived under the direction of Fernandez, mastering the art of submission holds while sharpening boxing skills, the no-holds-barred domain in his scope the entire time. "I've worked with some of the best wrestlers in the world, but (Fernandez) is probably the best technician I've ever met," Murphy said. "People in Burlington don't really know who this guy is, but I would venture to say he's one of the top-10 jiu-jitsu instructors in the world." Murphy entered a few mixed martial arts competitions here and there, one in Springfield, Mass., another in Atlantic City, N.J. He never lost.
10/30/05 10:38 AM
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Joseph Cunliffe
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Edited: 30-Oct-05
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 7118
TV comes knocking Rail America coordinates train movement in 21 states, a company that often puts Murphy on the road. On a trip to New Mexico last winter, he found a gym and worked out. "So here I am in the middle of the desert," Murphy said. "I met this guy, who knew this guy, who was a manager and had connections. One thing led to another, and next thing I know I find myself fighting on pay-per-view, in an event called King of the Cage in Cleveland in front of seven- or eight-thousand people." Murphy knocked his opponent out a minute and a half into the fight. "Out cold," he said. Meanwhile, the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" was airing on Spike and gaining tremendous popularity. The network was already looking ahead to a second season. Murphy's sister, Kristin, persuaded him to give it a shot. He submitted a videotape with zero expectations, considering there were more than 2,000 applicants. The producers at Spike liked what they saw in Murphy and flew him out to Las Vegas, where they administered a battery of medical exams before grilling him with what seemed like a million questions, mainly ensuring he was camera-friendly. A few days later while working in a train yard in Vermont, his cell phone rang. He made the cut. He was set to enter the craze of reality television. "It was a wild ride," said Murphy, who is not allowed to reveal much about the show after signing a confidentiality agreement. Ultimate mentality Murphy, who is 4-0 in mixed martial arts competition, is immersed in a world of extreme fighting where pain is inflicted. Eye gouging is considered a foul, as is hooking fingers into an opponent's mouth, nostrils or ears. Just about every thing else is fair game. Murphy said he never wants to see someone injured, but here's the reality of the situation: "When you go into a cage you're either going to hurt him, or he is going to hurt you. "My mentality is to go out and win; getting hurt is a by-product. I don't think I'm some crazed guy. This is a sport, a very serious sport." Murphy has emerged as a fan favorite. An online poll on the Ultimate Fighter Web site asking viewers to pick who they want to win has Murphy in the lead with 29 percent of the vote. Murphy is also the center of Spike TV's outdoor ad campaign, with his picture spanning a 100-by-52-foot billboard on Hollywood's famed Sunset Boulevard. The victors of the series earn contracts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization. It's the ultimate prize for most fighters, but it's not Murphy's driving force. "I could never be a full-time fighter," he said. "I've got a job, and I'm a full-time husband and a full-time father."
12/11/05 4:58 PM
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Edited: 11-Dec-05
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Cool Joe. I'm just now seeing this. I talked with Tom at our tournament last weekend. He was in good spirits :) I also talked with Julio last night and he says he's got two fighters in an upcoming UFC. Vermont MMA is growing :) -doug-
12/24/05 1:24 AM
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Adam LaClair
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Edited: 24-Dec-05
Member Since: 03/23/2002
Posts: 2959

Tom was at the tournament?  Damn, guess I missed him. :-(

Talked to him about a month ago, looking forward to developing some kind of professional relationship with for MMA in Vermont.


Didn't know Julio was even training anyone for MMA, either, other than Tom.  Interesting.

I've got a guy who wants on TUF sooooo baaadd, but he's only a lightweight.  Wish they'd revive that weight class anyway!

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