The welterweight division is wide open when it comes to who is next to challenge for Kamaru Usman’s championship, but one thing that is for sure is that it won’t be Colby Covington or Jorge Masvidal.
Between them, they’ve lost four of their last six fights with each of those defeats coming to the champion in title fights. Both men were KO’d once and taken the distance in another, but ultimately comfortably beaten.
So next up is obvious, right? Pit them against each other to get themselves back on track.
That was Covington’s clear plan anyway after defeat at UFC 268, calling for Masvidal to pull out of his scheduled fight with Leon Edwards at UFC 269 so they can finally settle their differences.
But rather than just make the grudge match between the two headline a Fight Night card or act as a warm-up on a pay-per-view with little-to-no build up, the UFC can make this even bigger than it is already.
A new series of The Ultimate Fighter has already been confirmed for 2022, with the organisation confirming that two coaches will help a field of men’s heavyweights and women’s flyweights.
The run-ins the two would have outside the cage, added to the fact there is already a feud between Covington and the American Top Team gym that Masvidal is part of, it would just add so much more to the bout.
Masvidal’s popularity and the creation of the ‘BMF Title’ means the UFC could potentially try to recreate what they did at UFC 244 by making the fight headline a pay-per-view card.
Adding the TUF finalists to the prelims or having them on a special fight night card beforehand means the show can still take precedence, but this fight just needs a bigger platform than a standard fight.
It needs five rounds, it needs a build-up for fight fans to be able to feed off and it needs a grand stage to host it. Make it happen UFC.
But with season 29 finally upon us, what are the greatest seasons that have come before this? We’ve seen legends created through the show like Michael Bisping and TJ Dillashaw, but these five seasons stand out for me more than any other.
TEAM JONES VS TEAM SONNEN (Season 17)
The greatest fighter of all-time according to most people was a TUF coach once upon a time, lining up alongside ‘The Bad Guy’ Chael Sonnen to coach a bunch of welterweights.
Names like Uriah Hall and Kelvin Gastelum stood out the most, as Jones and Sonnen kept it mostly civil throughout the season – preferring to settle their beef in the octagon rather than the gym.
The coaches challenge was hilarious and there were some incredibly highlight reel knockouts to go with it before a fun finale fight ended in split decision. There was even a cameo by female superstar Ronda Rousey as she promised to make an appearance for one fighter in particular after he declared his love for her. It’s well worth the watch.
TEAM LESNAR VS TEAM DOS SANTOS (Season 13)
If your name isn’t Conor McGregor, then you have no claim to being a bigger box-office draw than Brock Lesnar in the UFC. The former world heavyweight champion was looking to bounce back after losing his title to Cain Velasquez and a bout with diverticulitis by taking on Junior Dos Santos.
It was a series that really endeared Lesnar to MMA fans, as it showed just how seriously he took his training and how incredibly strong his mentality to win was. He often talked to his team about “turning chicken shit into chicken salad”, rather than make excuses and it was something that many noticed.
Dos Santos had in-house problems, sending a coach home during the series for trying to take sessions over, while Team Lesnar had a war amongst themselves when a drunk Tony Ferguson made some crude remarks during an argument in the house.
Overall, the series was great entertainment with highly competitive fights and two coaches who wanted to win at all costs.
TEAM RAMPAGE VS TEAM EVANS (Season 10)
One of the most heated coaches rivalries in the show’s history took place in season 10, as the heavyweights season reignited a concept that was beginning to dwindle.
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Rashad Evans were fierce rivals in the light-heavyweight title picture and agreed to take part as coaches of two heavyweight-filled teams for this season. There was extra spice added to the show as UFC president Dana White made the shock announcement once the teams were revealed that there was still another contender – legendary street fighter Kimbo Slice.
Joining the ranks alongside the likes of Roy Nelson and Brendan Schaub, Kimbo competed under the UFC banner for the only time in his career. Add to that some very heated clashes between the coaches, including the infamous scene where Jackson literally ripped a door to shreds, it’s more than worth your time.
TEAM LIDDELL VS TEAM COUTURE (Season 1)
Where it all began. 28 seasons later and the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter is still among the best there is.
Legendary names in the sport like Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Chris Leben, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar and Kenny Florian all debuted in the UFC in this series of the show, coached by the just as legendary light heavyweight Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture.
It was the season that introduced us all to the craziness that was the TUF house, as Sanchez paraded around drunk and doing yoga in the rain while Leben showed us just how emotionally charged the whole process can be.
In the end, it also led to one of the greatest fights ever in the finale between Griffin and Bonnar that was so close both fighters were awarded contracts with the UFC despite Griffin getting the nod on the scorecards. Legendary.
TEAM PULVER VS TEAM PENN (Season 5)
For me, without a doubt the greatest season there is of The Ultimate Fighter. Some of the most iconic moments in the show’s history took place as lightweights matched up, with former champion BJ Penn and Jens Pulver going head-to-head as coaches.
Names like Nate Diaz, Manny Gamburyan, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon and Cole Miller were apart of the series, where we saw the good and bad sides of the fighting community. From Penn asking the fighters who absolutely didn’t want to be on Pulver’s team and ten of the 16 putting their hand up, to a fighter being 20lbs overweight, to personal feuds spilling over into the octagon it really had everything.
Several fighters made it into the UFC and enjoyed long stints with the company but it was the season that made me fall in love with the sport and I expect it will do the same for you too.
The Ultimate Fighter 29 coaches have been revealed, with featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and his challenger Brian Ortega agreeing to take the roles.
The reality TV competition in which the winner earns a UFC contract is due to make it’s return later this year, after the last season back in 2018.
The filming of the show was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic with filming schedules and coaches to be determined but it has all now been finalised with the UFC getting back to normal with full, sold-out capacity pay-per-view events.
Ortega on the other hand returned to action on Fight Island later last year with a dominant win over Korean Zombie after a near two year hiatus following a battering by Holloway in his previous title opportunity in 2018.
UFC president Dana White announced the selection of the two as coaches, with filming due to start later this month. The 29th edition of the show will feature fighters competing in both the bantamweight and middleweight divisions as they look to earn a contract with the organisation.
The last season featured heavyweights and women’s featherweights and was coached by Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum, although their initial fight fell apart on fight night when Whittaker was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery. The two will fighter later this month though, with Gastelum stepping in for Paulo Costa on short notice.
That season was won by Spanish heavyweight Juan Espino, who has since gone 1-0 with the organisation and Macy Chiasson who has gone 4-1 since winning the contract.
A date for the featherweight title fight has not been set yet, but the two will fight once the season comes to an end to finally settle the top of the division knowing that a rematch with Holloway likely awaits the winner.