That's what Josh Gross and Jordan Breen think (transcribed by Zach Arnold):
JORDAN BREEN: "When you think about what the show was originally designed for, if you re-watch the first season the intimations and the implications being made about what it means to be The Ultimate Fighter is the idea that you go on to be a Forrest Griffin or a Rashad Evans or whatever. These guys don't have that kind of potential. I think Kris McCray, if he can work on the cardio a bit get kind of a strategic element to his game, he can stick around the UFC. And I think Court McGee will be there for a while, but neither one of these guys, I mean... we're waiting for a Middleweight title fight coming up between Chael Sonnen & Anderson Silva. The gulf between Court McGee & Kris McCray and Chael Sonnen & Anderson Silva is an ENORMOUS one and far more dramatic than the gulfs we've seen in the past between guys coming off the show and the champions that happen to rule in the division at that point in time. ...
JOSH GROSS: "We haven't had one of those in a while. And the thing about guys like Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Joe Stevenson, I mean all these guys who are well-established fighters who had careers outside of The Ultimate Fighter well before they were on the show and it was sort of just a stepping stone for them at least promotionally. As far as like identifying prospects, guys with five fights and under, I mean I don't think this show's delivered in any kind of way in terms of fighters on that level. The UFC does a much better of finding prospects and putting them directly into their shows than filtering them through The Ultimate Fighter, don't you think?"
Just for fun let's do some numbers:
|TUF Season||# in Cast||Still in UFC/WEC||UFC Champions|
|1||16||9: Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, Chris Leben, Alex Karalexis||Forrest Griffin|
|2||20||5: Joe Stevenson, Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard, Keith Jardine, Rashad Evans||Rashad Evans|
|3||16||4: Kendall Grove, Michael Bisping, Matt Hamill, Ed Herman||0|
|4||16||4: Jorge Rivera, Patrick Cote, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra||Matt Serra|
|5||16||6: Gray Maynard, Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon, Nate Diaz, Manny Gamburyan, Cole Miller||0|
|6||16||3: Mac Danzig, Ben Saunders, George Sotiropoulos||0|
|7||16||6: C.B. Dollaway, Matt Riddle, Gerald Harris, Amir Sadollah, \Matt Brown, Tim Credeur||0|
|8||16||6: Efrain Escudero, Ryan Bader, Tom Lawlor, Krzystof Soszynski, George Roop, Kyle Kingsbury||0|
|9||16||5: DaMarques Johnson, Andre Winner, Ross Pearson, James Wilks, Nick Osipczak||0|
|10||16||5: James McSweeney, Brendan Schaub, Jon Madsen, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione,||0|
I'm 100% sure I made a mistake or two -- it's awfully hard to keep up with with marginal TUF veterans have been cut and which are still hanging in. So let me know where I messed up in the comments and we'll fix.
I'm also very interested to know how many UFC fights members from each cast participated in, but that will require some serious time-consuming geekery. I know some of you have nothing better to do than pore over some fighter databases, would love to see those numbers.
Regardless, I don't quite know that you can identify a trend here. There clearly won't be a repeat of the first season which was absolutely stacked with talent. But the fifth season is the second best with its bumper crop of lightweights.
Some of the seasons have been pretty much busts but I don't know that you can write off the recent seasons with fighters like Roy Nelson, Ryan Bader, and C.B. Dollaway entirely.
Only time will tell how the cast of Season 11 fares.