BEHIND THE SCENES MMA ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS!
To Become an Ultimate Fighter
By Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester
When the UFC bottomed out and had very little success on television, the Fertitta’s and Dana White feared that nothing could capture America’s attention. But it was with the rise of reality television that they found their success.
For those who may never have seen the Ultimate Fighter, it is a show where they take up-and-coming MMA athletes and put them in a house while they train and compete against one another for a shot at the ultimate prize which is a contract to fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The Ultimate Fighter first aired on January 17, 2005, and has culminated a whopping fifteen seasons; with the fifteenth season airing Live beginning March 9, 2012 on FX.
Not every season has produced greatness. Some fighters have made astounding success with their wins; others barely get a resounding “who is that?” But all-in-all, most winners and some runner-ups have found success in the UFC in some form.
The first season of The Ultimate Fighter proved to be a huge success, and produced the likes of what some deem the ultimate fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. Numerous cast members of this season still fight in the upper-echelon of the UFC rankings. Forrest Griffin, the Light-Heavyweight season winner, went on to eventually beat Quinton Jackson for the Light-Heavyweight championship. He would later lose his title to season 2 winner Rashad Evans. Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Josh Koscheck, and Nate Quarry all went on to fight for championships within the UFC at some point. But ultimately, they all failed at capturing gold; with Kenny Florian getting the highest amount of title fights with three.
Season two saw Rashad Evans and Joe Stevenson become the winners of their respective divisions. Rashad Evans would become the only participant on this season to win a championship. Joe Stevenson, Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard, and Keith Jardine all found themselves as perennial contenders but never being able to capture a championship in the UFC.
Season three’s participants found very little success. Michael Bisping, likely being the only legitimate competitor who has found major success. He, too though, has found himself being a constant contender, but never being able to reach the point where he can challenge for a title. Matt Hamill did well on the show, but had to pull out due to injury. He fought upper-echelon fighters however in Rich Franklin and Quinton Jackson before retiring (although he has announced that he will return to the octagon).
The fourth season was titled “the comeback” and it saw former UFC fighters fighting for a shot to come back to the UFC. Matt Serra made most of the season as he went on to defeat Georges St. Pierre for the UFC Welterweight championship. Although Travis Lutter won his part of the show, he would not make weight for his automatic title shot, and still lost to the champion Anderson Silva. Patrick Cote would also go on to fight for the Middleweight title against Anderson Silva, but would also come up short from capturing the title.
Season five saw the last major success of its participants as Manny Gamburyan, who was that season’s runner-up, would later fight Jose Aldo for WEC Featherweight championship. Also, season five’s Gray Maynard later fought to a draw against Frankie Edgar, but also lost in the immediate rematch against Edgar.
Success can be found on this format. Many winners and competitors on the show just have not been able to reach the pinnacle yet, but still have ample amount of time in their career to find success. Season five’s Nate Diaz is possibly one fight away from getting a title shot in the Lightweight division. Season eight winner Ryan Bader was one fight away from a title shot when he fought current champion Jon Jones in what was basically a title eliminator.
So despite, winning or losing the season, there are opportunities for the fighters on The Ultimate Fighter and after the show. The biggest winners are the fans who get to see fledglings and prospects fight for a chance to become stars in the UFC. As fans we get to watch their career grow as they likely win some and lose some. In the end, however, isn’t there a bit of joy when we see them win or when they fight for a championship? Because it’s about their journey, and the trek to become more than just a competitor on a show. It’s about actually seeing them prove that they are the Ultimate Fighter.
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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