Saturday, February 24

10 Best Seasons of The Ultimate Fighter

Highlights

  • The Ultimate Fighter has produced some of the best fighters in UFC history, including Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Michael Chiesa, and Nate Diaz.
  • The show allows fans to see the private side of fighters like Brock Lesnar, who showed surprising humor and acted as a coach for up-and-coming fighters.
  • The rivalries between coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, such as Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, add intensity and promote their rematches in the UFC.

The Ultimate Fighter has been a long-time staple for recruiting, training, and eventually signing prospective talent. Over the years, some of the best fighters in UFC history started their careers by winning the TUF finale and earning a UFC contract. Some of the most notable TUF winners include Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Michael Chiesa, and Nate Diaz. Many of these fighters have gone on to have successful careers as top contenders and champions. Expect The Ultimate Fighter to forever be a part of UFC lore and history.

RELATED: 10 Forgotten The Ultimate Fighter Winners: Where Are They Now?

UPDATE: 2023/10/30 07:30 EST BY PATRICK MOCELLA

With as much as the UFC has grown, one might have thought they would leave behind their original breakout reality show but that hasn’t been the case. The Ultimate Fighter just finished their latest season with coaches Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler. McGregor is far from the first major star to get a stint on the show however. Earlier seasons of the show featured major names like Ronda Rousey and Georges St-Pierre who not only coached some memorable fighters, but had very intense rivalries with their opponents Miesha Tate and Josh Koscheck respectively.


10 The Ultimate Fighter Season 13: Dos Santos Vs. Lesnar

ultimate fighter season 13

  • Coaches: Brock Lesnar & Junior Dos Santos

  • Weight Class: Welterweights (170 Pounds)

  • Winner: Tony Ferguson

  • Winning Team: Team Lesnar

In yet another example of coaches on The Ultimate Fighter failing to actually meet in the Octagon, Junior Dos Santos and Brock Lesnar squared off with their respective teams on the 13rd season of the reality show.

More than anything else, this show was highly interesting to see the very private Brock Lesnar act as a coach to a team of up-and-coming MMA fighters. Lesnar was surprisingly humorous on some parts of the show with some great quotes such as turning his fighters from “chicken shit into chicken salad”. Lesnar seemed to prioritize physical conditioning when recruiting his team whereas Dos Santos looked for skills. It seems like Lesnar’s eye for talent was better than his rivals as his team member Tony Ferguson went on to win the show with a first round knockout of Ramsey Nijem. Ferguson would go on to become a highly successful Lightweight and one of the most entertaining UFC fighters ever.

9 The Ultimate Fighter Season 18: Rousey Vs Tate

the ultimate fighter rousey vs tate

  • Coaches: Ronda Rousey & Meisha Tate

  • Weight Class: Women’s & Men’s Bantamweights (135 Pounds)

  • Winner: Julianna Peña & Chris Holdsworth

  • Winning Team: Team Tate

This is one of the more interesting seasons of The Ultimate Fighter to watch back in retrospect. At the time Ronda Rousey could do no wrong in the eyes of many MMA fans who sided with her in rivalry against Miesha Tate despite the disrespect Rousey showed Tate at nearly every turn. But flash forward to present day, and Tate is now more fondly remembered as a class act in the sport with Rousey’s legacy tarnished due to how she handled the end of her MMA career.

As far as the actual season goes, the breakout stars were all about the women. Julianna Pena and Raquel Pennington both made their way into the UFC on this season and went on to have solid careers, Pena especially as she handed women’s GOAT Amanda Nunes her final loss before Nunes retired from the sport. Rousey and Tate’s animosity to each other was also on full display this season, ratcheting up the promotion for their rematch from their Strikeforce rivalry.

8 The Ultimate Fighter Season 12

the ultimate fighter season 12

  • Coaches: Georges St-Pierre & Josh Koscheck

  • Weight Class: Lightweights (155 Pounds)

  • Winner: Jonathan Brookins

  • Winning Team: Team St-Pierre

Sometimes all you need for a good season of The Ultimate Fighter is a great protagonist and an insufferable bully. That’s exactly what fans got in season 12 of the show as season 1 alumnus Josh Koscheck led a team of fighters against UFC Welterweight Champion Georges “Rush” St-Pierre.

Although none of the fighters on this season ended up becoming UFC Champions in the long run, it did debut fan favorites like Michael Johnson and Alex Caceres. The winner of the season, Jonathan Brookins, didn’t amount to much in the promotion but this season was all Team GSP as Koscheck’s squad only managed a meager two wins against GSP’s team of fighters. Seeing the sophomore humor-filled antics of Koscheck get outclassed by St-Pierre’s cool head and professionalism made for great television.

7 Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights

the ultimate fighter season 10

  • Coaches: Rashad Evans & Quinton Jackson

  • Weight Class: Heavyweights (265 Pounds)

  • Winner: Roy Nelson

  • Winning Team: Team Evans

Season 10 of TUF pitted light-heavyweight rivals Rashad Evans and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson against each other as coaches. The season featured a group of heavyweights looking to earn their place in the UFC. What truly set Season 10 apart from the rest of the seasons was the inclusion of infamous street fighter Kimbo Slice as a contestant.

Although Slice was defeated in the first round, the season produced several other notable heavyweights including Brendan Schaub, Matt Mitrione, and Marcus Jones. Former IFL heavyweight champion Roy Nelson won Season 10 and defeated Brendan Schaub in the finale to earn a UFC contract.

In addition to exciting heavy action, Season 10 was highlighted by the back and forth banter between Evans and Jackson constantly. Jackson even resorted to breaking a door in the training facility to ‘vent’ his frustration.

6 The Ultimate Fighter: Live

michael-chiesa-ufc-welterweight
© USA TODAY via Imagn Content Services, LLC

  • Coaches: Dominick Cruz & Urijah Faber

  • Weight Class: Lightweights (155 Pounds)

  • Winner: Michael Chiesa

  • Winning Team: Team Faber

Season 15 featured bantamweight rivals Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber as head coaches. This season was particularly unique because all the fights took place live on air. The talent pool was rich for this season and included notable lightweights such as Justin Lawrence, Myles Jury, James Vick, and Vinc Pichel.

The finale featured a showdown between team Faber’s Michael Chiesa and Al Iaquinta. Chiesa defeated Iaquinta by first-round submission to become the season winner. Aside from the talent and live air fights, watching the rivalry between Cruz and Faber transition into coaching was entertaining. Both had their moments as coaches and would consistently take witty jabs at one another whenever possible.

5 The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber

MMA: UFC 179-Aldo vs Mendez-Weigh Ins
Oct 24, 2014; Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL; Conor McGregor interacts with fans during a Q&A session before weigh-ins for UFC 179 at Ginasio do Maracanazinho. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

  • Coaches: Conor McGregor & Urijah Faber

  • Weight Class: Lightweights (155 Pounds)

  • Winner: Ryan Hall

  • Winning Team: Team Faber

When it comes to entertainment value, it is difficult to top a season that features Conor McGregor constantly mocking a ‘surfer dude’ from California (Faber) over and over. McGregor and Faber took on this season strictly as coaches and were not scheduled to fight one another at the end.

The talent coming into this season was average at best but did feature notable lightweights such as Billy Quarantillo, Julian Erosa, and David Teymur.

Team Faber’s Ryan Hall defeated team McGregor’s Artem Lobov in the finale to become the season winner. Originally, Saul Rogers was scheduled to face Lobov but was forced to withdraw due to visa troubles. Watching McGregor coach up-and-coming fighters was perhaps the most cringe yet entertaining storyline in TUF history.

RELATED: 10 Toughest Chins in UFC History

4 The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen

USA_Kelvin-Gastelum
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

  • Coaches: Jon Jones & Chael Sonnen

  • Weight Class: Middleweights (185 Pounds)

  • Winner: Kelvin Gastelum

  • Winning Team: Team Sonnen

Season 17 featured two of the most dominant runs to the finale in TUF history. Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen were pitted against each other to up-and-coming middleweight talent. Jones brought along a powerful coaching staff that helped fill the holes he demonstrated as a coach.

However, Chael Sonnen’s coaching was the highlight of this season. Sonnen was undoubtedly invested in his team’s success and would help his team strategize and prepare as if he were the one fighting. He is widely considered one of the best coaches in TUF history.

The finale featured Team Sonnen’s powerhouse duo in Uriah Hall and Kelvin Gastelum. Both had compiled dominant win streaks to earn their place in the finale. Despite Hall’s devastating KO power and craft striking, Gastelum defeated Hall to become a season 17 winner. Both Gastelum and Hall have realized successful careers in the UFC middleweight division.

3 The Ultimate Fighter 5

the ultimate fighter season 5

  • Coaches: BJ Penn & Jens Pulver

  • Weight Class: Lightweights (155 Pounds)

  • Winner: Nate Diaz

  • Winning Team: Team Pulver

Season 5 was notorious for having hot-headed personalities and several heated confrontations. The coaches were top-ranked lightweights, Jens Pulver and BJ Penn. Almost immediately, Penn stirred the pot by asking the contestants who wanted to be on team Penn or Pulver. Over half the room raised their hand which set the tone for a tumultuous season.

TUF 5 produced some of the best lightweight fighters of the decade including Joe Lauzon, Rob Emerson, Gray Maynard, and Cole Miller. The season finale was a showdown between Manny Gamburyan and Nate Diaz. Diaz defeated Gamburyan in the second round to become the season winner.

2 The Ultimate Fighter 1

Forrest Griffin
via mmamania.com

  • Coaches: Chuck Liddell & Randy Couture

  • Weight Class: Light Heavyweight & Middleweight (205 Pounds & 185 Pounds)

  • Winners: Forrest Griffin & Diego Sanchez

  • Winning Team: Team Liddell

It is impossible to not mention the first season of TUF on a list of top seasons in the show’s history. Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture took on the roles of coach and mentor a new group of fighters relatively new to MMA. The contestants were both light heavyweight and middleweight fighters.

The season produced MMA legends and veterans including Mike Swick, Josh Koscheck, Chris Leben, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Forrest Griffin, and Stephan Bonnar. Sanchez defeated Florian in the middleweight finale while Griffin defeated Bonnar in the light heavyweight finale. The fight between Griffin and Bonnar is consistently credited for introducing MMA to the masses and is one of the best fights in UFC history.

RELATED: 10 Strongest Fighters In MMA History

1 The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians

Usman with UFC Title

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

  • Schools: American Top Team & Blackzilians

  • Weight Class: Welterweight (170 Pounds)

  • Winner: Kamaru Usman

  • Winning Team: Blackzilians

Season 21 takes the crown for top TUF season in history. Not only did this show produce two of the best welterweights in UFC history, but it also completely changed the format of the show.

Instead of random fighters being assigned a coach and team, season 21 pitted two of the top MMA schools in Florida against one another. American Top Team and Blackzilians would meet for challenges and fight announcements and the episode would culminate in a fight between two fighters from both camps.

The format change was a breath of fresh air after 20 seasons of the same formula. Last but not least, season 21 introduced Kamaru Usman and Vicente Luque to the MMA community.

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