The first episode of season 17 of the UFC’s long-running reality show “The Ultimate Fighter” is in the books. The TUF 17 special two-hour premiere aired Tuesday night on FX and featured 28 middleweight (185 pounds) fighters facing off for the opportunity to train under the tutelage of coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen and ultimately win a six-figure contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
It became evident fairly quickly into the episode the show had a different look and feel to it, and the production was noticeably improved. For the first time in Ultimate Fighter history, the fighters’ friends and families were allowed to attend the elimination round matches.
Viewers got to see UFC hopefuls interacting with their loved ones before and after their fight, and TUF producers did a good job of showing who these fighters were on a personal level — at least as much as they were able considering they had to do character development with 28 fighters over 120 minutes.
Viewers got a glimpse of where these mixed martial arts fighters came from. They were young men from all walks of life from around the world, each with different stories and different motivations, but each on a mission.
There was the single father who had just fought and won custody of his two sons and wanted to provide a better life for them. Before his match we see him in his hotel room embracing his sons and letting them know to behave if he wins and has to be gone for a few weeks to film for the show.
He ends up losing the fight and afterward there is a touching moment as he asks one of his sons if he’s okay, realizing his son just witnessed his father lose a fight for the first time. He then says part of being a good father is not only showing your kids how to win, but also how to lose.
There are other stories, similar stories of men in the struggle. Men seeking better lives for themselves and those around them. Some are older, some younger. Some have sacrificed everything to pursue this dream. Others traveled across the world to be there; fighters representing their teams, their families, their countries, their tribes.
The elimination round fight results are as follows:
- Adam Cella, Fenton, Mo., submitted Jake Heun, Salt Lake City, in 1st round
- Zak Cummings, Kansas City, Mo., def. Nik Fehete, Las Vegas by TKO in 1st round
- Kevin Casey, Hawthorne, Calif., submitted Eldon Sproat, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, in the 1st
- Tor Troeng, Umea, Sweden, submitted Scott Rosa, Sparks, Nev., in the 1st
- Clint Hester, Atlanta, Ga., by unanimous decision over Frasier Opie, Milten Keynes, England
- Bubba McDaniel, Albuquerque, N.M. def. Ryan Bigler, Barrigada, Guam by TKO in the 2nd
- Josh Samman, Tallahassee, Fla., def. Leo Bercier, Great Falls, Mon. by TKO in the 1st
- Kelvin Gastelum, Yuma, Arz., by unanimous decision over Kito Andrews, Sacramento, Calif.
- Jimmy Quinlan, Metheun, Mass., def. Mike Persons, Stockton, Calif. by TKO in the 2nd
- Uriah Hall, New York City, by unanimous decision over Andy Enz, Anchorage, Alaska
- Gilbert Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo., submitted Eric Wahlin, Taylorsville, Utah, in the 1st
- Luke Barnatt, Cambridge, Eng., by unanimous decision over Nicholas Kohring, Valley Springs, Calif.
- Dylan Andrews, Gold Coast, Aus., by majority decision over Tim Williams, Millville, N.J.
- Collin Hart, Santa Rosa, Calif., submitted Mike Jaspar, Camarillo, Calif., in the 1st
Following the elimination round fights, the 14 winners are told by UFC President Dana White they are bringing back the wild card this season. He also announces $5,000 will be awarded for knockouts and submissions, and $25,000 will go to “Knockout of the Season,” “Submission of the Season” and “Fight of the Season.”
Chael Sonnen won the coin toss and elected to choose the first fighter for his team rather than pick the first fight match-up. Once Sonnen and Jones make their selections, the team rosters for The Ultimate Fighter season 17 are as follows:
Team Chael Sonnen
- Luke Barnatt (5-0), 24, Cambridge, ENG (@Bigslow)
- Uriah Hall (7-2), 28, New York City, N.Y. (@UriahHallMMA)
- Zak Cummings (15-3), 28, Kansas City, Mo. (@ZakCummings)
- Tor Troeng (15-4-1), 29, Umea, SWE (@ThorTheHammer)
- Jimmy Quinlan (3-0), 26, Metheun, Mass. (@JimmyCrashBJJ)
- Kevin Casey (5-2), 31, Hawthorne, Calif. (@kevinkocasey)
- Kelvin Gastelum (5-0), 20, Yuma, Ariz. (@KelvinGastelum)
Team Jon Jones
- Clint Hester (7-3), 24, Atlanta, Ga. @ClintHester)
- Josh Samman (9-2), 24, Tallahassee, Fla. (@JoshSamman)
- Bubba McDaniel (20-6), 29, Albuquerque, N.M. (@BubbaTheMenace)
- Gilbert Smith (5-1), 30, Colorado Springs, Colo. (@JamalSmithMMA)
- Collin Hart (4-1-1), 23, Santa Rosa, Calif. (@CollinHartMMA)
- Adam Cella (4-0), 27, Fenton, Mo. (@AdamCellaMMA)
- Dylan Andrews (16-4-1), 32, Gold Coast, AUS (@dylanthevillain)
Coach Jon Jones gets to select the first fight match-up and elects to pit his No. 4 pick, Gilbert Smith against Sonnen’s top pick, Luke Barnatt. Next week, the fight!
Check back next Tuesday night for our recap of episode two. “The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen” airs live every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on FX.