LAS VEGAS - Eddie Gordon couldn't sleep. He couldn't relax.
Several hours remained before he would be able to steer the direction his mixed martial arts career would go.
He grew restless sitting in his hotel room at Mandalay Bay on Sunday afternoon before fighting to win Season 19 of "The Ultimate Fighter."
"I couldn't be in the room," said Gordon, from Freeport. "I felt like a caged animal. When I got to the arena, all the nerves went away. I was at peace. I was where I belong."
Where Gordon belongs now is in the UFC after he earned a contract with the sport's biggest promotion by knocking out middleweight Dhiego Lima in the first round to win the "TUF" show.
Gordon won his three fights by decision. Corey Anderson, who won the light heavyweight competition with a first-round knockout Sunday, did the same on the show.
"I walked in the octagon afterward and said, 'Where the hell were you guys all season?' " said UFC president Dana White, who has criticized this season for boring fights in the UFC and fighters not being hungry.
Well, based on his display, Gordon (7-1) must not have eaten in about three weeks. He landed a big overhand right that dropped Lima early in the round. He continued to pressure Lima, landing a clean uppercut and then a series of ground-and-pound strikes until the referee stopped the fight after 71 seconds.
"I want to take every bit of anger out, everything, just pour it into that minute, whatever it is," Gordon said. "It seemed a lot longer than a minute."
Trainer Ray Longo had said throughout the week that Gordon performs differently on fight night than on any other day or night of the year. Gordon said the same thing Sunday night.
"I get to transform," he said. "You don't get to beat people up and people cheer. It's just not normal. You do that in the street, you go to jail. I'm a nice, outgoing guy, but I need that source, that outlet to express my competitive nature."
Longo was equally surprised -- and thrilled -- with the bright-lights version of the fighter he first met several years ago as a 300-pound former defensive lineman for Fordham. He was the first one from Gordon's corner in the cage to embrace him. Matt Serra and Eric Hyer followed suit.
"You don't see that in the gym," Longo said of Gordon's punishing onslaught. "What a weekend!"
Longo also cornered Baldwin's Chris Weidman as he defended his middleweight title against Lyoto Machida the night before at UFC 175. Weidman was cageside Sunday to watch his Serra-Longo teammate go after his dream.
"The world champion came to my fight after he had a war," Gordon said. "That just means a lot. The love and the support that we have in the gym, it's priceless, man."
Relationships power the Serra-Longo fight team as much as any punch or kick. Longo's contract with fighters begins and ends with a handshake. Signatures come in the form of personal connections. Gordon, a father of two, appreciates the familial atmosphere.
"Working with Matt Serra, Ray Longo, Eric Hyer, you don't get world-class training like this," Gordon said. "The most important thing for me, what was most emotional about that time, it's not about me, it's about all the people who helped get me there. Eric took me under his wing."
Gordon was accompanied by his fighting family from backstage to the octagon. Along the way, he saw his own family -- his mother, his girlfriend and his two sons -- in the seats near the cage.
"That was the best feeling ever," Gordon said. "I got to touch my kids before I walked in the cage. That was just -- wanna talk about motivation? -- that was unreal. That was a moment I will always remember."
Gordon became the second Long Islander to win the UFC's "Ultimate Fighter" reality competition series. Serra, Gordon's Brazilian jiujitsu coach, won Season 4, which led to his upset victory over then-welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
"It catapults him into the limelight," UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said. "It's going to be the beginning of the showcase of his career."