The rosters for Ultimate Fighter 19 are set for the show's debut tonight, and some are more recognizable than others. Thirty-year-old Adrian Miles has won 14 of his 19 bouts, and Hector Urbina, at a mere 26, has won 16.
But you may not be as aware of 24-year-old Anton Berzin of Northeast Philly, who has only fought in four professional bouts.
"Being from Philly, it's not the safest city in the world, so you kind of always have to watch your back everywhere you go," he recalls. "Walking around downtown, North Philly, West Philly, you know. You're always gonna have a chip on your shoulder."
Berzin hasn't let a lack of exposure or fights bring him down, however; in fact, it's this invisibility that may prove to be his greatest advantage: those squaring off against him aren't necessarily aware of his colorful arsenal.
"I started with a good instruction, not to say that everybody else's instruction isn't good," he says. "When I started, I was really all-involved, and I had the chance to train with really good coaches, all together. I got to train jiu jitsu, muay thai, wrestling - it eliminated a lot of the weaknesses other guys have. You have these guys that have been fighting for 10 years, eight years, but a lot of their fights were against guys not as skilled."
With a comprehenseive training regime, Berzin taught himself how to box at a young age, then brought muay thai, kickboxing, and Brazilian jiu jitsu into the mix without hesitation. This broad spectrum of sharpened skills serves is a versatile skill set to draw from in both standing and ground striking. Quickly burning through training partners over the years, Berzin has stayed active, hooking up with new trainers and gyms to fit his constantly evolving style; a style that served him well whily trying out for The Ultimate Fighter.
"I was really confident at tryouts," Berzin says. His feelings were far from misplaced - Berzin was the only candidate who logged a submission during the grappling portion (in fact, he had three).
Some would point to Berzin's 3-1 record as a sign of inexperience, but Berzin is more than willing to face all comers - the problem has never been his hunger to fight.
"The reason I have so little fights isn't because I don't want to fight," he explains. "We just have a really, really hard time finding guys my weight."
Berzin's honed skills and years of experience don't necessarily tell whole story behind the - for now - low statistical numbers. Despite his multitude of complex skills, the young Philadelphian's path remains simple:
"Training my ass of," he says. "I had a goal, I had a dream. I still have it."