The 25th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” will debut tonight and, while the theme of redemption is supposed to apply to the returning fighters on the show, it may be applicable to the series as a whole.
The series, which was once the launching pad for many prominent UFC careers and the cornerstone of UFC’s television offerings, has declined greatly in both fan interest and output of top fighters. The show has declined sharply in viewership since moving to FX and later FS1 from Spike TV in 2102.
The debut episode of season 14, the final season on Spike, drew about 1.5 million viewers, more than most live fight cards get on FS1 these days and more than quadruple the viewership of the debut episode of season 24, which featured a “tournament of champions” to declare a number one contender for the UFC Flyweight Championship. For tonight’s episode, anything greater than 400,000 viewers would have to be considered a big success as the show has seen consistent season-over-season declines in viewership for years.
This season has UFC Bantamweight Champion Cody Garbrandt and rival and former champ T.J. Dillashaw coaching a cast of welterweights who have competed on the show in the past. Unlike last season or the 2006 “Comebacks” season, no title shot is on the line. Instead, a UFC contract and $250,000 will go to the winner.
The 14 fighter cast consists of:
Seth Baczynski – 20-14, 35, Gilbert, Ariz.
Julian Lane – 11-6, 29, Mansfield, Ohio
Mehdi Baghdad – 11-5, 31, Los Angeles, Calif.
Dhiego Lima – 12-5, 28, Dacula, Ga.
Justin Edwards – 9-5, 34, Bellefontaine, Ohio
Ramsey Nijem – 9-6, 28, Salt Lake City, Utah
Tom Gallicchio – 19-9, 30, Temecula, Calif.
Gilbert Smith – 12-6, 35, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Eddie Gordon – 8-4, 33, Freeport, N.Y.
Joe Stevenson – 33-16, 34, Victorville, Calif.
Hayder Hassan – 6-3, 34, Coconut Creek, Fla.
Jesse Taylor – 30-15, 34, Temecula, Calif.
James Krause – 23-7, 30, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
Hector Urbina – 17-10, 29, Coconut Creek, Calif.
“The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption” airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on FS1 in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
Hiscoe’s Analysis: This is an interesting field with a lot of older fighters and it could go in a number of directions. Looking through the cast, I would favor Dhiego Lima to win the tournament as he has youth on his side and is a more natural welterweight than some other fighters who are fighting above or below their ideal weight class in order to be on the show. The sentimental favorite has to be Joe Stevenson, who won the second season in 2005 and went on to challenge B.J. Penn for the UFC Lightweight Championship in 2008. One storyline to look out for could be a feud between Seth Baczynski and Jesse Taylor, who fought each other outside the UFC last year with Taylor winning a decision.
WEDNESDAY NOTEBOOK ITEMS…
–Bloody Elbow reports that UFC is being investigated in Korea for fight-fixing at their 2015 event from Seoul. The report cites a sharp turn in betting activity and odds for a fight between Tye Hyun Bang and Leo Kuntz. Allegedly, Bang was asked to accept a payout from a party outside the UFC to throw the fight to Kuntz and he also placed a bet against himself. Bang ended up deciding to compete honestly and won the fight by decision, but was later threatened, prompting him to go to Korean police.
-Chael Sonnen posted an article to his website about his rivalry with Wanderlei Silva and how Silva didn’t understand how Sonnen was trying to give him the opportunity to be the hero during the taping of “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.”
–Ariel Helwani reported on Tuesday that Cris Cyborg’s contract with UFC will expire in October, regardless of whether or how many times she fights between now and then. Helwani also shared that UFC is hoping to book Cyborg vs. Germaine de Randamie for UFC 214 on July 29 from Anaheim.
-Michael Bisping said on his podcast that he feels Robert Whittaker is a more worthy title contender than Yoel Romero. “Yoel Romero is a dirty, lying, cheating scumbag,” he said. “If you want to do Whittaker after I’ve beaten GSP, we can. If not, I’ll do Romero. But I see Robert as a more worthy contender. He stopped Jacare; Romero didn’t stop Jacare. And Robert hasn’t tested positive for steroids, so really I think it should be Robert next.”
-Rafael dos Anjos told MMA Fighting that he feels he has the ability to become UFC Welterweight Champion and that 170 pounds will be easier on his body. “I didn’t leave my division to go after easier fights,” he said. “I left the division because I had already reached the top, became champion, and health is the top priority. Some fighters leave their divisions or cut down in weight to go after easier fights, but I left the division for my health because my body reached its limit.”
FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENT ROUND-UP
-Chase Sherman will replace Jarjis Danho against Dmitry Poberezhets at UFC 211 on May 13 from Dallas.
-Jared Gordon vs. Michel Quinones, also at UFC 211.
-Pedro Munhoz vs. Damian Stasiak at UFC Fight Night Stockholm on May 28.
-Gray Maynard vs. Teruto Ishihara for the Ultimate Fighter Finale on July 7 from Las Vegas.
NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: TUESDAY NEWS DIGEST 4/18: Daniel Cormier and UFC have conflicting ideas for his next title defense (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)
(MMATorch’s Daily News Digest features the top story of the day with added analysis, plus smaller tidbits in the News Notes section. Mike Hiscoe, who writes the News Digest Sundays through Thursdays, has a background in film criticism and previously wrote for the DVD Town and Movie Metropolis websites. His passion for Mixed Martial Arts goes back to 2005, but it was in the promotion for UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie that he really got hooked.”This is my house, I build it,” is still among the all-time great UFC promos. You can follow Mike on social media under the tag @mikehiscoe. He now provides his experienced writing and perspective on live MMA events for MMATorch.)