For the first time since the lightweights of season five, I'm really looking forward to the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Part of it is the roster of fighters -- I can't help being intrigued by Kimbo Slice, but I'm more interested in the mix of established veterans and up and coming talent they've put together. I must admit the prospect of seeing several former pro and college football players ads to the excitement.
Another factor is the resurgence of the UFC heavyweight division. With the rise of Brock Lesnar and the crop of new talent coming up in his wake -- Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos -- the UFC heavies are compelling for the first time in years. The fact that Randy Couture and Frank Mir are enjoying mid-career renaissances doesn't hurt either. Neither does the presence of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop to represent the PRIDE flag. Sure Fedor is still out there unsigned, but every passing day makes it more clear that the future of the heavyweight division will happen in the UFC.
The two established veterans on the show couldn't be a clearer contrast. In this corner, wearing a black hat and sneering at the crowd, we've got Wes Sims:
"I kind of enjoy being the bad guy," Sims said. "If you go out there and you don't do anything, people aren't going to care, and you're not going to get paid.
"There's plenty of Randy Coutures in the business now, plenty of good guys. What this sport needs is a few villains."
"There's nothing worse than eliminating somebody and then having them around in your hair bugging you," he said. "It's mentally draining there. You have no one to talk to. No phone; no television. But I loved it. It didn't bother me."
"I went in there and messed with a lot of people," he said.
In the other corner wearing an aw shucks smile and rubbing his big Buddha belly, we've got Roy Nelson talking to Ariel Helwani:
Was there some humble pie involved in coming onto TUF, you're one of the most experienced fighters to ever come on the show?
"I'm a humble guy. Sure I'd rather have played in the NFL for a couple years like some of these guys and made a few million dollars.
(Asked about Kimbo Slice)
"Kimbo's a fantastic guy, I learned a lot from him. He's been in the fight business a long time and I think he'll be in the business for a long time to come."