The Ultimate Fighter reality show has produced quite a few stars for the UFC in the past. Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Kenny Florian, Deigo Sanchez, Nate Diaz, Michael Bisping, and Josh Koscheck are all a product of the uber-popular Spike TV show.
Up until The Ultimate Fighter 10: The Heavyweights, the show featured fighters from two separate weight classes, offering two young prospects the opportunity at a coveted six-figure contract with the UFC. For those who do not win the title of “Ultimate Fighter”, success and a UFC contract are still possible. Just ask UFC lightweights Josh Koscheck and Kenny Florian, who both came up short of winning and have had successful careers inside the Octagon.
The UFC is the ultimate goal for any and all MMA fighters, period. Years of hard work and fighting in small regional shows, they all dream of fighting on the big stage at least once in their career. The Ultimate Fighter can be a fast ticket to stardom, success, and the culmination of a dream. Unfortunately, most fighters’ dreams are just that.
The UFC holds open tryouts for their Ultimate Fighter casting calls. Usually holding auditions for three weight classes. The Ultimate Fighter 10 casting call was open to heavyweights, light heavyweights, and middleweights. The tryouts consist of three rounds. After each round, if a fighter is good enough, or lucky enough, they are called back to participate in the next round. Each round narrows the field drastically and brings young fighters’ dreams that much closer.
The three rounds are grappling (from their knees, no leg-locks), striking (hitting the pads to show off their stand up), and finally, the interview. By the time the interview phase comes, the field is down to around twenty to thirty fighters.
The interview is the most difficult and important part of the casting call. Spike TV producers and UFC brass try and get a feel for the fighters’ personalities, hoping they will help generate ratings and have the “it” factor.
Unfortunately for many fighters, many who traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars, their hard work, time, and money were spent in vain. As they did with The Ultimate Fighter 10, the UFC will only be using one weight class for TUF 11, middleweights.
For the light heavyweight fighters that made it all the way to the final interview, their hopes and dreams were shot down. According to multiple LHW hopefuls, they were told that TUF 11 will feature only middleweights, but to keep trying.
The obvious question would be why? Did the UFC and Spike TV know ahead of time, that they were only looking for middleweights? If so, then why would they let these young fighters waste their time, effort, and money for nothing? Many of these hopefuls left their families and jobs behind, spent thousands of dollars to travel from far off places like Alaska, Maine, and Canada, only to be told their dream wouldn’t be a reality.
Ultimately, it seems, the UFC is not happy with the depth of their middleweight division, and are looking to refresh the talent pool at 185 lbs. However, is overlooking the same depth disparity in the 205 lbs. division a mistake? Only time will tell.
By: Jeff Howard