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He nearly made it to the Tough Enough finale, but the road for ex-MMA fighter Tanner Saraceno ended last night when he was eliminated by the WWE Universe. We caught up today to find out what’s next.
With Spandex: What have you been doing since last night’s elimination?
Tanner Saraceno: A lot of looking down and thinking, resting, and some social media. I’m still trying to catch up on all the notifications I’ve been getting from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Like your fellow competitor Daria, you have a mixed martial arts background. How did you get into that?
TS: I started [competing] in college… I started watching back in high school, and I just thought it was a great sport of one-on-one combat. We weigh the same, we’re going to go toe-to-toe, and may the best man win. I need some kind of outlet for my personality and my physical ability, and that was the best thing for me at the time, so I went straight into that.
Did you plan on incorporating MMA into your WWE style, or would you have changed it up like you did with your high-flying this week?
TS: I definitely would have liked to have both in there. There’s a lot I’ve learned from MMA, it’s what got me here, so I’d never throw away my roots. There’s stuff I can do… Daniel Bryan uses his kicks and submission holds, maybe tweaked from jiu-jitsu… There’s definitely stuff to be used from there.
You outlasted a lot of the bigger, more muscular guys on the cast. Do you feel like a big, imposing figure is no longer a huge priority for WWE fans?
TS: I think they realize I have a different set of skills in the ring. There’s a lot of big guys in the WWE, but there’s not a ton of smaller guys, so I definitely think that my look and my physical ability is something that is unique. I can do things a lot of other people can’t do, and I’m always progressing… When I started the show, I was 185 pounds, and I realized I was maybe a bit small for the cameras. I put on 17 pounds since I’ve been here, but I still have my cardio, doing 50-inch box jumps and jumping off the ropes.
Regarding your inward personality, I can definitely relate to the need to put up shields, so to speak. Do you feel like you got treated unfairly because of that?
TS: No, I don’t think I got treated unfairly. This is an aspect of the business I need to learn how to do, so there’s nothing unfair… I do get reactions out of people. I actually got a call from my brother last night, my nephew was actually crying after the show because I got sent home. I can definitely get reactions out of people, and I think they appreciate my physical abilities. Once I learn how to incorporate my personality into my athletics, I’ll be able to go very far.
You and Chelsea gravitated toward each other pretty quickly during the competition. Do you still keep in touch?
TS: Chelsea’s a good friend. It was kind of weird… we were both single, so we decided to see what happened. We’re just friends now. I think I’ve talked to her maybe once or twice since then, but maybe in the future we’ll be able to see each other again.
You and Josh started the competition at odds, but it looks like you were pretty good friends by the end. Can you describe that relationship?
TS: One of the first interactions we had that people noticed was a shoving contest at the swamp. He put his hands on me, and I’m not one to back down to size. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. I didn’t even think twice, it was just a reaction when I shoved him back… but then, I realized why he did it, and I grew some respect for him out of it. It meant that he wanted to be here, he had emotion invested in it… I think that helped grow the bond between me and him. We started hanging out more and more, especially since some of the bigger guys started going home. I have a lot of respect for Josh and his abilities.
Who’s going to win it for the women?
TS: I really hope Amanda wins it. She’s more of the full package – she’s learning, and she has the physical abilities. The pace expected from the Tough Enough competitors, I think she can keep up with it a lot better than Sara Lee can.
And as for the men, Josh actually had a higher vote count than ZZ last night. Can he win, or is ZZ going to run away with it?
TS: I really do hope Josh wins. He brings a lot to the table. He has a few things that maybe need fine-tuning, but I think he’s the full package, and I really hope people notice that next week with their votes.
What’s next for you?
TS: I have a flight home, I’ll be reading Jericho’s book on the plane. I’m going to pick up my dog, probably go camping for a few days, just be out in the wilderness for a while… probably going to go shooting this weekend, just enjoy a few days of rest. Then I’ll regroup and see where I’m going next