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Life changes for UFC 181's Eddie Gordon since winning 'The Ultimate Fighter'

Eddie "Truck" Gordon works a full-time job, raises his two sons and is a professional MMA fighter. Newsday tells the story of how this Freeport resident went from a 300-pound former college football player to the winner of Season 19 of the UFC's "Ultimate Fighter." (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger, Mario Gonzalez, Mark La Monica)

Those 71 seconds changed Eddie Gordon's life -- in a good way.

A great way, actually.

"It's definitely changed for the better," Gordon said. "Obviously, I'm a little more recognized around the area. It's given me more time to see my family and have more time with my kids."

Gordon, on the biggest athletic stage the former college football player had ever been, knocked out Dhiego Lima to win Season 19 of the UFC's "The Ultimate Fighter." That happened in Las Vegas on July 6, almost 24 hours after His Serra-Longo teammate (and the guy who got him started in mixed martial arts) Chris Weidman defended his middleweight title in the same octagon in the same arena.

Gordon returns to the Octagon Saturday in the same city and same venue -- the Mandalay Bay Events Center -- for his first fight since that night. Gordon (8-1, 1-0 UFC) fights Josh Samman (10-3, 1-0) on the prelims at UFC 181, which is headlined by Johny Hendricks defending his welterweight title against Robbie Lawler.

Gordon returned to his home in Freeport a few days after the "TUF" finale to find it decorated in celebratory photos by his Uncle Geno. Two days later, he was on a plane to Ireland for the UFC's fight card in Dublin. Not as a participating fighter, but as a guest of the UFC.

"Going to Ireland, I couldn't even go anywhere without 30 or 40 people there," Gordon said. "It was insane. You know what? It's a good thing."

Nice work if you can get it.

And that's the point. Gordon did get it.

He was once a 300-pound former jock putting his finance degree from Fordham to work in a 9-to-5 gig. Like many college athletes, that urge to compete doesn't end when their eligibility does.

Sure, Gordon "worked out" in the years since football ended. But pushing weights in a gym in the few minutes after work and before bed (while raising two kids somewhere in between) doesn't exactly equate with the phrase "athletic competition."

Gordon did what so many of us do. He watched a sporting event -- in this case, UFC 101 in Philadelphia in August 2009 -- and said, "I can do that."

Gordon did what so few of us do. He did it.

"My friends said if we didn't dare you, you might not ever have done this," Gordon said. "If anybody can take anything from me and my experience, it's don't let anybody tell you what you can and can't do. Make a decision for yourself."

Life since reaching what he hopes is just the first pinnacle of his career has been different.

He's noticed in places he wasn't noticed before. He shared a billboard with Weidman and former champion Anderson Silva during the MMA World Expo in late July at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. He no longer works full-time as a sales consultant for a home remodeling company (although he did return to that job shortly after his victory). His 9-to-5 days are over for now, replaced by full-time training and fatherhood.

"You don't get this opportunity every day in life," said Gordon, 31. "I want to be the best at the fighting thing. I'm not going to always be young."


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