source: Steven Marrocco | mmajunkie.com
Reality TV is a powerful thing when you're on it for more than 10 minutes.
"I'm your biggest fan! I remember you from 'The Ultimate Fighter,'" one says.
"You're that crazy kid!" says another.
"Hey, you're that guy who used to fight in the UFC – here's an extra buck, man," a barfly tells Ed Herman.
It's 2009, and Herman has competed nine times in the UFC, fought tooth and nail to win the third season of the promotion's seminal reality show (before falling controversially short on points), and finished three of his opponents.
But after two blown ACLs, Herman is working as a bartender. He is a 29-year-old man working a job that was way more fun when he was in his early 20s. And he is seemingly frozen in amber to the millions of people who watched this fiery redhead try to win a six-figure contract with the UFC.
"Are you still fighting?" they ask.
"Well yeah, I'm still fighting," Herman told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). "You didn't see my last couple of fights?"
Things get awkward.
One one hand, Herman, now 31, is happy to have had the opportunity to be seen on such a powerful platform. For a fight career, nothing could be better than weekly exposure, even if it consists of you monkeying around a house in Las Vegas with free booze. Better name recognition means better sponsors, seminar appearances, signings, and the like.
"You get fans that stick with you for a long time and have that emotional attachment," he said. "Especially if you have a decent personality and you're a good-looking guy, like myself."
It also means he's that guy on "TUF."
Herman is out of the bar now. He returned to the cage this past June and knocked Tim Credeur senseless. Then, he torqued Kyle Noke's heel for a tap-out at UFC on Versus 5. But he's apparently still fighting to free himself from the images burned into the heads of casual fans from that show.
It's hard to say where he stands as a draw. On Saturday, Herman (19-7 MMA, 6-5 UFC) fights the unheralded Clifford Starks (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) on the first bout of UFC's 143 pay-per-view main card, which takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Starks has one fight to his UFC resume. He has a chance to bag a name, or Herman is adding a few seconds to his highlight reel for future use.
It's still work.
Pay-per-view costs money, and maybe Herman can't grow beyond his current role to those who watch the UFC on TV alone and maybe buy a few cards a year. You could say being known for something is better than being known for nothing, but the jump from the small screen to real life can suck. It gets tiring being known for an earlier version of yourself.
That first post-layoff victory put wind in his sails, and Herman said he's found his stride inside the octagon. You can surely see it in the two finishes he's put together since his time on the bench, which came after a rocky 1-3 stretch in the promotion.
Now, Herman just has to keep chipping away at the old him to replace it with the new.
"I feel like I've grown up a lot since then and proved to everybody that I deserve to be where I'm at," he said.