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Stephan Bonnar: The Ultimate Fighter Graduate Who Never Left School

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For most fighters, The Ultimate Fighter is intended to be a springboard, the first opportunity to make your name in the world of MMA and the beginning of a long and prosperous career. For others, it isn't a stepping stone - it is a final destination. While some contestants like Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, and Diego Sanchez go on to title contention, others peak early. Stephan Bonnar is the prototype. Five years removed from the memorable final with Griffin and Bonnar is still inexorably connected to the reality show.

 "It's great to be a part of it, you know?  Like I'm sure it really helped the UFC, and it also helped Spike, and you know they've given me a lot of opportunity to do work for them, and I'm really thankful for that," Bonnar said in a conference call yesterday. The former runnerup returns to the main event tomorrow on SPIKE, but it's certainly not his return to the world of reality television. Bonnar has been hosting The Aftermath for two seasons, delving into the controversies behind the scenes on the show.

"You know I'm a fan more than anything.  So I'm always going to watch the show.  And now I get to, after the show, go pick these guys' brains about everything that goes on in the house. You see, now I know and you know they won't shoot everything that goes on.  I want to uncover all the other stories and stuff people don't see.  And Spike gives me that opportunity every week to go on there and pick the guy's brains and talk to the coaches and it's just a blast.  It isn't even like a job, you know it's not work for me, it's fun.  And I'm thankful they let me do it.  Hopefully they'll call me back for next year."

Among the fighters most affected by the UFC's decision to shut down the WEC, Bonnar lost a prime gig as a color commentator for Zuffa's other promotion. It's forced him to recommit to a fighting career sidetracked in recent years by injuries, controversy, and surprising losses. Bonnar hopes his main event tilt with Igor Pokrajac will be the start of big things.

"I'm like - you know just hoping it's magical.  I'm going to try my best to make it a magical moment like I did last time, but I've got a good feeling about it, and you know hopefully I'm not wrong," Bonnar said. "But I've got a good feeling that I'll deliver a good performance. And you know it reminds me of 2005 when I was here fighting on the finale.  And it's a good feeling, a good aura, and it's going to be an entertaining fight, I'll tell you that."