Former coach Frank Mir slammed bad boy Junie Browning on Thursday, saying the lightweight should have been kicked off "The Ultimate Fighter" - not given a showcase bout on the live card of the reality TV show's season finale.
Browning was the poster boy for bad behaviour of Season 8 of the series, seemingly fuelled by alcohol, anger and disrespect. How much was a con job is hard to say - some of his fellow mixed martial arts fighters say the 23-year-old from Kentucky confided early on that he planned to become the series heel.
It worked. Browning got plenty of face time on the show, almost getting kicked off several times for confronting other fighters outside the cage. Beaten by Efrain Escudero in the semifinal, Browning will still be showcased on the televised main card of Saturday's finale in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET, check local listings) - along with the four finalists - while 10 of his castmates fight on the preliminary card.
Mir, a former UFC heavyweight champion, says that sends the wrong message by rewarding bad behaviour.
"I think in the future that shows people that get on the show that as long as they act like a moron and an idiot, they get to have time," he told a conference call Tuesday. "And that face time equals money. .... I hear more people talking about Junie Browning that they do about (lightweight finalists) Phillipe Nover and Efrain (Escudero), which I think is an insult to those two fighters. They are the better martial artists, they're greater fighters."
"I don't own a business that makes millions of dollars, so that's probably why I don't make those decisions," he added.
Browning seemed unfazed by the criticism.
"Who's Frank Mir," he asked when reached Tuesday.
"I think he's just trying to justify the fact he was a horrible coach."
Mir said he was so upset about the attention paid to Browning on the show that he refused to allow his 16-year-old son watch the final two episodes.
"This is not what you want to be," he said he told his son. "This is the exact opposite of what you want to strive for and be as a man."
Canadian Krzysztof Soszynski, a light-heavyweight who was on the show, said there was method in Browning's madness.
"To be honest with you, he did everything for show," he said in an interview. "It was a whole joke to him. Basically he told me the very first day we met - and before our fights to get into the house - he basically said 'If I get into this house, I'm going to be the crazy guy. I'm going to get out of hand, I'm going to get out of control, I'm going to pull whatever I can just to get ratings, to become the character that I want to become.'
"He said he was going to become the worst Chris Leben ever," added Soszynski, referring to the Season 1 bad boy.
Browning said becoming the bad guy "wasn't intentional."
"I wasn't looking too good for the cameras, might as well just go all out. ... My Dad told me to do everything at 110 per cent."
Escudero said Browning confessed one on one: "'I'm sorry guys, I don't usually do this but I just want to be on TV.'
"And you know he did, he got a lot of TV time."
Light-heavyweight finalist Ryan Bader agreed.
"I saw him a couple of weeks ago at UFC 91. He told me 'Bader, that's not really me,' this and that, but he still has that in him obviously for him to do that kind of stuff. He has some problems as far as that. But I think a couple of things he was hamming it up for the cameras, knowing he was going into that bad guy mould already, that he might as well go full steam ahead and definitely be talked about.
"It seems to have worked out for him."
But Nover said Browning was only partly acting.
"He was definitely trying (to be the bad boy) and he was," said Nover. "I'd say both.
"It's a reality TV show and your true colours will show. Especially after a week or two of being in the house. You can't fake an act for a month straight. He definitely showed his true colours. He was a crazy maniac type of kid."
Mir said while he knows the need for reality TV ratings and drama kept Browning on the show, he didn't like it.
"I understand that's part of the whole game but as far as me as a martial artist, I find it an insult," he said.
"If I had complete control, I would have kicked Junie out the first week after I've seen his behaviour and edited him out so no one would have seen him at all," he added.
Mir, who acknowledged making a mistake in picking the 155-pounder to be on his team, said he'd be happy if Browning could turn things around.
"Then he can be an example to other people. And maybe he can guide other guys not to be the complete moron that he showcased himself to be."