HARRISBURG - Mechanicsburg resident Jeff Smith hopes to make the most of what could be his big break.
Smith is one of 32 fighters from around the world to make the mixed martial arts reality television show, 'The Ultimate Fighter Live.' The eventual winner of will receive a six-figure contract from Ultimate Fighting Championship.
"I'm excited but nervous," said Smith, who trains at Blackman MMA at the Harrisburg Mall in Dauphin County, during an interview with CBS 21 News. "I won't lie; it's a huge step in my career. This is really what I've been shooting for.
"Its like now or never. If I go there and lay a dud -- and don't win the first fight -- (my career) goes all the way back to the beginning (stages). It's nerve wracking."
Smith is a 9-1-0 in his ten fights as a professional. He left for Las Vegas, the site of the series, on Thursday.
Many of today’s most successful mixed martial artists emerged from the series’ previous incarnation, 'The Ultimate Fighter,' including Rashad Evans, Kenny Florian, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
Smith, who spent time as youngster here but graduated from high school in Ohio, is the lone fighter from Pennsylvania.
This year's show, featuring competitors from the lightweight (155 pounds) division, will run for 13 consecutive weeks and includes live fights every episode. It culminates with a championship fight on June 1, in a three-hour finale. Past seasons were taped months in advance, according to promoters.
The first episode, airing March 9, will consist of 16 live fights. The 16 survivors will then be broken up into two teams of eight and coached by current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and former WEC featherweight champion and current top contender, Urijah Faber, respectively. Cruz and Faber have split two previous fights and will actually meet for a third time at UFC 148 on July 7 in Las Vegas.
"It’s going to be can’t-miss TV," said UFC President Dana White in a statement. "Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber are two amazing guys who also happen to be two of the best fighters in the world. They genuinely dislike each other and I expect this to make for the best season yet.”
The other competitors are:
Akbarh Arreloa, Chula Vista, Calif.
Al Iaquinta, Wantagh, N.Y.
Ali Maclean, Belfast, North Ireland
Andy Ogle, Tynemouth, England
Austin Lyons, Cordova, Tenn.
Brendan Weafer, New York, N.Y.
Chris Tickle, Bloomington, Ill.
Cody Pfister, Amarillo, Texas
Cristiano Marcello, Curitiba, Brazil
Chase Hackett, Littleton, Colo.
Chris Saunders, Long Beach, Calif.
Dakota Cochrane, Omaha, Neb.
Daron Cruickshank, Wayne, Mich.
Drew Dober, Omaha, Neb.
Erin Beach, San Diego, Calif.
James Krause, Blue Springs, Mich.
James Vick, Fort Worth, Texas
Jared Carlsten, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jeremy Larsen, Phoenix, Ariz.
Joe Proctor, Pembroke, Mass.
John Cofer, Hull, Ga.
Johnavan Vistante, Pearl City, Hawaii
Jon Tuck, Hagtna, Guam
Jordan Rinaldi, Matthews, N.C.
Justin Lawrence, Villa Ridge, Mo.
Mark Glover, Liverpool, England
Michael Chiesa, Spokane Valley, Wash.
Myles Jury, San Diego, Calif.
Mike Rio, Miami, Fla.
Sam Sicilia, Spokane Valley, Wash.
Vinc Pichel, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Some information used in this story was provided by UFC.