It’s been more than eight years since Diego Sanchez and Forrest Griffin emerged as winners on the original Ultimate Fighter. Since then, many would argue the show has gone progressively downhill, producing less and less talent as the years roll on based on the sport’s best fighters going straight to the UFC (or another organization) rather than needing the platform of reality television to get noticed.

It’s a reputation TUF 15 champ Michael Chiesa is irked by, speaking candidly about the subject in a recent interview with the UFC’s website where he said he takes his role seriously as one of the active competitors representing the reality show.

“I went through 13 weeks – those were the hardest three months of my life, and it shaped me. I have that in my back pocket when I’m training and I get into a bad situation or a tough fight; I can look back and say, `This is not harder than The Ultimate Fighter,’” explained Chiesa. “Nothing is as hard as that was, and I take a lot of pride – it’s still hard for me to even comprehend that I won The Ultimate Fighter along with guys like Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping; guys I looked up to. I want to represent those guys well.”

“On paper, I’m in the same category as those guys, and as of late, a lot of people think (the show) isn’t producing talent, and that bugs me,” Chiesa continued. “People badmouth the show so much, but you don’t realize how hard of an environment that is, being secluded from everything; locked in a house with all these guys you might have to fight, and then you’ve got to go out and perform. I want to represent for all the guys that have been on The Ultimate Fighter.”

Chiesa feels he’ll have a good chance to do just that when he meets Jorge Masvidal in a featured fight at UFC on FOX 8. Masvidal, an opponent Chiesa admitted he looked up to before he started training for a career in Mixed Martial Arts, is 24-7 has owns a handful of impressive victories including those over K.J. Noons, Yves Edwards, and Joe Lauzon.

“I think it has been a long time since we’ve seen a guy come off The Ultimate Fighter and really take a step up in competition,” said Chiesa. “A fight with Jorge is an amazing step up. For me, this is what this sport is all about. Just talking about it right now I’m getting goose bumps. I want to see where I’m at as a fighter, and I’m going to feel a lot more satisfied when I get a win over Jorge than I would have getting a win over Reza, that’s for sure.”

The 9-0 “Maverick” was originally set to face Reza Madadi before Masvidal stepped in as a necessary replacement. Fans can catch their clash at the top of the FX-portion of this weekend’s event.