It's just Chris Cope's luck that he would be required to fight Chuck O'Neil, one of the only guys to whom he took a liking on "The Ultimate Fighter 13."
But Cope knows that fighting friends is part of the business, especially on a reality show in which you could end up fighting anyone in the end.
Cope's Team Lesnar teammates weren't jazzed that he hung out with the opposing Team Dos Santos during the reality show's six-week shoot. In fact, they thought he was a spy. But there was a reason he talked to everyone, and it's the same reason he wasn't too fazed about fighting Chuck O'Neil.
It's all part of the game.
"I was watching everybody on the show because the thing is about that house – you never know who you're going to fight," Cope said.
As it turns out, the attitude paid off. Cope (9-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) bested O'Neil (4-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision this past Saturday at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale in Las Vegas. But the success also was a result of just plain hard work. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't conceal his progress.
"Chuck came in after the fight and was kind of amazed, like, 'Dude, you got way better,'" Cope said. "I was like, 'Well, what do you think I did, Chuck? I basically got off the show and started partying?' No. I took two days off and went right back to the gym.
"I wasn't posting stuff on Facebook or Twitter like I was training because I wanted people to think I wasn't doing anything. But I had a solid camp."
The only consequence of his preparation was losing contact with O'Neil.
"He was one of the few people I kept in contact with when the show ended," said Cope, who blogged about "TUF 13" for MMAjunkie.com. "We were texting back and forth, and one day, we got a call from Joe Silva that said, 'Hey, I've got good news. You're going to be fighting your buddy Chuck O'Neil.' I sent Chuck a text ... and the texts and the phone calls stopped."
O'Neil obviously got over it when he visited after the fight, which could have been mistaken for a sparring session between friends. There were big shots landed by both, but a finish seemed out of reach in the 15-minute fight. That might prompt fans to think the two liked each other too much to bash in each other's brains, but Cope said it was about being smart and sticking to a game plan.
"The opportunity presented itself and I wanted to go for the finish, but then at the same time, my whole goal is to fight in the UFC," he said. "I remember being a kid watching it in 1993 and seeing the first UFC, and then here I am fighting in the UFC. It was kind of a big shock.
"The finish could have happened, and there are holes for me to work on, but I was happy with my performance. But there's always room for improvement."
The good news is, Cope is not some diva looking for television time. He wants to continue improving as a fighter. Like his sometime training partner Dominick Cruz, the first and current UFC bantamweight champ, he knows there are no shortcuts to success in the UFC.
"I bust my ass," Cope said. "I'm not the strongest guy out there. I'm not the fastest guy out there. But I listen and I work hard.
"If you want to be a champion (and) you want to be good at this, you've got to put in the work, and you've got to listen to your coaches, and you've got to have a team put together. It's not one of these things you can do solo."