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TUF returns with Volkanovski and Ortega coaching, title bout delayed until after season

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Fans will have to wait a lot longer before Alex Volkanovski and Brian Ortega can fight.

Alex Volkanovski Media Opportunity Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

The Ultimate Fighter isn’t dead yet. Despite years of low ratings and a pretty stale reality show formula, TUF 29 will mark the show’s return for the first time in almost three years.

Dana White announced through ESPN that the show will begin filming later this month, and will feature middleweights and bantamweights. The long running reality show will air on ESPN+, which would be the first since they partnered up with the sports network.

Also announced is that the show will have Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega as coaches. The pair was originally set to fight at UFC 260 last month, but the champion Volkanovski tested positive for COVID-19.

They will fight at a future date after this entire season is filmed, edited, and aired, meaning that rebooking the featherweight title bout will be delayed even longer than people originally expected. The reality show also essentially stalls the division and messes with the timelines for those next in line — like Max Holloway, who had a big win last January.

TUF 28, the reality show’s most recent season, aired back in 2018 during the UFC’s old TV deal with Fox. Its season finale had record low ratings, and was also the UFC’s lowest prime-time number ever on Fox Sports 1.

With lowered interest, and the Contender Series already serving the purpose of supplying fresh talent, some expected that the UFC would permanently move away from that old reality show format from almost two decades ago. Dana White though, has always been bullish on keeping the show that once played a huge role in the company.

So despite a delay on last year’s plans due to the pandemic, TUF 29 is finally underway. For better or worse, it looks like The Ultimate Fighter is here to stay.