It seemed as though 2018 had spelled the end for the UFC’s long running reality show: The Ultimate Fighter. Following 28 seasons and steadily declining fan interest, the promotion appeared to have found other, better ways of introducing their audience to new prospects—most notably through Dana White’s Contender Series.
However, TUF has clearly always held a special place in Dana White’s heart—especially since he largely credits it with exploding MMA into the American main stream back in 2005, with Forrest Griffin’s epic war against Stephan Bonnar in the TUF 1 finale. And the UFC boss just isn’t willing to let the concept go quite yet.
“So if you can make it through The Ultimate Fighter and actually win it, if you go back throughout history and look at The Ultimate Fighter and the fighters that have come off their, it is just the greatest training ground ever for up and coming fighters. It can’t go away ever,” White told reporters back in 2019.
Now, after a two year gap, it appears the show is returning. The UFC announced an upcoming season of TUF, planned to air sometime in 2021. While it seems less likely that the show will hit its planned March air date, the UFC does appear to have coaches lined up for whenever filming takes place.
ESPN reports that Kamaru Usman has been in negotiations with the promotion, following his recent victory over Gilbert Burns, with an eye toward coaching the upcoming Ultimate Fighter season opposite former foe Jorge Masvidal.
Kamaru Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz just told me he’s already talking to UFC about Usman and Masvidal as TUF coaches. “It’s what Kamaru wants and Jorge deserves a full camp. But he and his team better be on their best behavior. We already beat them up inside and out of cage.”— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 14, 2021
Masvidal’s manager responded to the reports on social media as well, signifying that ‘Gamebred’ is equally interested in the opportunity. With both parties apparently on board, it seems likely that the two men will be officially announced as coaches for the upcoming season in the coming days.
Masvidal’s management. https://t.co/cgB6IgNjtY— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 14, 2021
Usman and Masvidal faced off in the main event of UFC 251 back in July of last year. Masvidal stepped into the bout on just a few days notice, following Gilbert Burns’ positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The resulting bout saw the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ take a dominant five round decision, with Masvidal offering almost no offense over the last two rounds of the fight.
That hasn’t stopped Usman from pursuing a rematch, however, arguing that he wants to put to bed any talk that Masvidal’s lack of preparation and conditioning led to the defeat. A rematch, he seems to feel, will prove once and for all that he’s simply the better fighter.
“I’m going to put him in a coffin this time,” Usman said at the UFC 258 post-fight presser (transcript via MMA Junkie). “He don’t want that fight. He don’t want that fight. I guarantee he don’t want that fight. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t want it. Have I lied up here yet? Have I lied to you guys yet about anything? Nothing. I said what I wanted to do, and that’s what I’m going to do. We’ll see if it materializes.”
The UFC accepted applications for Season 29 of the Ultimate fighter back in November of 2020. Unlike previous years, there were no physical tryouts for this season. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and notes on the show and its cast as information becomes available.