Heading into the current season of The Ultimate Fighter, Cody Bollinger was pinned as a considerable favorite to win the show. His resume was nothing short of impressive, a 14-2 (1 NC) record including nine finishes.
The 22-year old started competing in mixed martial arts at the age of 15 due to a love of wrestling at an early age.
"I started wresting at the age of four and to stay in shape in the (wrestling) off-season, they had jiu-jitsu (and other disciplines). I ended up being decent at it and I really enjoyed it," said Bollinger to TSN.ca.
"After I finished wrestling I took (MMA) more seriously and that's basically where it all started."
The results were inspiring. Through his first 14-fights, the California native had amassed a successful 12-1-1 record and in 2012, received a phone call from the Bellator Fighting Championships.
Not only did the promotion want to sign him, they also wanted him to compete in their upcoming featherweight tournament.
"I was excited man, I felt I worked really hard and I was finally getting the opportunity to show off some of skills that I have."
However his stint with the promotion was short- lived, as Russian powerhouse Shahbulat Shamhalaev would finish Bollinger in the first round during their quarter-final matchup at Bellator 76.
Shamhalaev would go on to win the tournament and Bollinger would be released from his contract.
"Unfortunately it didn't go the way I planned, some things happened and I had a pretty crappy fight," said Bollinger. "Overall it was a good experience and it made me a better fighter. They ended up releasing me and I went back to work for a while. Then I found out about (The Ultimate Fighter) and tried out for the show."
"Bam Bam" was actually a big fan of the UFC reality series ever since his head coach won the show back in 2005.
"Joe Stevenson was actually on Season 2 and he's my godfather. Ever since that season I was like 'I'm going to be on that show one day'."
Prior to trying out for the show, Bollinger had never fought at bantamweight (135lbs). All of his 16-fights were in the featherweight (145lb) division and his natural weight is around 155-160 pounds.
On this ground-breaking 18th season, it would be the first time in the series history that the UFC would be casting both male and female bantamweight fighters.
"We really focused on getting down to 136lb and winning the fight to get into the house," said Bollinger
That is exactly what happened, phase one was complete as the Millennia MMA product defeated Rafael De Freitas in his opening bout to earn his spot in the house.
He made quite the impression as Coach Miesha Tate made Bollinger her first overall pick.
"After that we were so focused on making weight the first time and getting into the house, I never really thought about (the weight cut) being a lot different in the house. Every week, twice a week I'm going to have to be cutting down to within five pounds."
But there were other challenges ahead that the father of one didn't anticipate.
"Everyone else in there was a natural (bantamweight); it was really different from me to the other guys and girls."
Fast forward to the ninth episode this season and these challenges would confront Bollinger head-on. Scheduled to fight Team Rousey's Anthony Gutierrez, Bollinger was already struggling to make weight.
"When I (Dropped down to) 145 pounds I had hit 4% body fat, so I knew it was going to be the hardest thing in my life."
His coaches Miesha Tate and Bryan Caraway tried to help Bollinger make the weight, motivating and working with him in the sauna as he endured the brutal process. This was the biggest opportunity of his career and clearly he didn't want to miss out.
With an uphill battle ahead, Bollinger ultimately failed; only getting down to 141 pounds and telling UFC President Dana White the unfortunate news that he didn't make the 135lb weight requirement. He was subsequently kicked off the show and extremely devastated.
"I didn't expect it to be that hard."
The catalyst for his release he believes was the unanticipated elements that he didn't factor into account, prior to earning a spot in the house.
"You're taken out of your element; you're put in pretty much isolation with people you don't even know. Then you have to do interviews, pictures and other crazy stuff. It all adds up and I didn't adjust well enough."
But it wasn't all bad news in the end for the California native.
To the surprise of many, after the episode aired it was revealed that Bollinger had signed a multi-fight deal with the Las Vegas based World Series of Fighting promotion. Many questioned if making this announcement prior to the conclusion of this season's The Ultimate Fighter would have any legal implications.
"We worked something out, I talked to Dana White off camera and the conversation was completely different than what they showed on camera. It worked out to where they released me when the episode aired so I was able to announce it right away."
Bollinger's situation is a unique circumstance because when a fighter loses on the show, they must remain in the house and train with their team until the end of the season (due to potential injuries). Because Bollinger got kicked off, he became a free agent.
"It worked out well, instead of punishing me - and making me wait. (The UFC released me) right away which was really awesome of (Dana White)."
The biggest question coming off his weight-cut woes on the Ultimate Fighter is will he still be competing at 135lbs?
"I'm staying at bantamweight, I can make the weight as long as I got the time and I'm at home at my camp. I can make the weight no doubt."
Surprisingly Bollinger opted not to pursue a contract with Bellator, whom he not only previously competed for, but whom also has a major television deal with Spike TV.
"I talked to a couple promotions and from the get go (WSOF) stood out, not only financially, the terms of the contract, the number of fights and re-singing and all that."
While no opponent has been announced for his WSOF debut in January, there are plenty of rumors floating around, including 25-year old Carson Beebe.
"I think (Beebe) is a great match up, I like Carson Beebe we trained together at Jackson's MMA. If I end up fighting him, it's a great matchup."
Another name hitting the rumor mill is knockout artist Tyson Nam (12-5), who holds a first round stoppage over current Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas.
"If that fight does happen, I think it's going to be an exciting war and I think I can finish that fight impressively."
Should that fight take place, Bollinger thinks he can handle the 30-year old in all aspects of the fight game.
"I can take that fight anywhere, I'm confident in my hands and my striking ability. And if he does rock me I don't see anyone who can outwrestle me at 135lbs."
Looking back at the whole experience on The Ultimate Fighter, Bollinger is disappointed but has no regrets. He believes the competition is there in WSOF's bantamweight division and he's found a home to continue his MMA career.
"As long as they can keep providing the competition, I'm happy where I'm at. I wouldn't change the situation (I'm in) right now; I would go through it all again."
For those fans and pundits who are critical of Bollinger becoming the latest Ultimate Fighter castoff missing weight, he has these final words.
"You guys deserve your opinion, if somebody else had missed weight I would have said the same thing. I never missed weight in my life, unfortunately it was the one time it was completely unacceptable."
Follow Cody on Twitter @CodyBollinger