By Mike McMahon
---- — At the end of the summer, Methuen MMA fighter Jimmy Quinlan flew himself to Las Vegas to try out for season 17 of the UFC’s hit reality show “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Most fighters that walked into the audition room that day were nobodies to the producers. But Quinlan, thanks to a vicious slam at Combat Zone 42 in September that blew up over Youtube, was almost a household name when he walked into the room.
“They had seen the video,” Quinlan said yesterday. “It was weird, I walked in there and they already knew at least a little bit about me.”
In that fight, Quinlan hoisted Jerry Spiegel onto his shoulder, carried him across the cage and drove his opponent into the mat. He won the fight via submission not long after the slam.
That slam, and Quinlan’s spotless record (3-0 as a pro) helped earn him a spot in the “Ultimate Fighter House,” where he lived for seven weeks with other fighters vying for a UFC contract.
The fighters fought in tournament format, with the two finalists squaring off in a live special on April 13 from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Tonight at 9 p.m. on FX, Quinlan fights in his first round matchup against Clint Hester (7-3).
The fight was recorded back in the fall.
“I wasn’t nervous stepping into the cage,” Quinlan said. “At some point, you’ve done it so many times, there isn’t much to get nervous about. But, I think if I were the first fight, and you see (UFC president) Dana White watching you, I probably would have had some nerves.”
The Ultimate Fighter wasn’t the first time White, a Boston native, had met Quinlan.
The former Methuen wrestler has run into White in the past, talking about their roots.
“I’ve met him through fighting,” Quinlan said. “He’s a really down to earth guy. He’s just a normal guy who ended up running the UFC. He once told me how he used to work for a paving company in the Merrimack Valley.”
Quinlan has been coached by UFC light heavyweight Chael Sonnen. The opposing team is coached by UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Jones will defend his title against Sonnen when the show is over. Last month, Quinlan flew to Oregon, Sonnen’s home, to train with his coach.
The Ultimate Fighter has helped launch the careers of multiple UFC stars including Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Kenny Florian and Rashad Evans.
Fight Night with Jimmy Quinlan When: Tonight, 7 Where: FX Network Breakdown: Former Methuen wrestler Jimmy Quinlan is 3-0 as a professional. He'll be fighting Clint Hester (7-3), who hails from Georgia. Hester is on a three-fight winning streak and only one of his seven wins has gone to decision (5 knockouts, 1 submission). Of Quinlan's three victories, two have come by submission with one decision win over Jason Dublin last year. Quinlan was a four-time conference place winner as a wrestler at Bridgewater State and was ranked in the top five nationally as a senior. After college, he turned his attention to jiu-jitsu, winning the World No-Gi Championships in 2009 and the Pan-Am Brazilian Championships in 2009. In 2011, he won the Pan-Am Brazilian Championships again and lost in the finals of the 2011 World Trials in Abu Dhabi.