The Ultimate Fighter is truly the toughest tournament in MMA, whether Bellator agrees or disagrees.

The show takes a set number of fighters, has them spend six weeks of hell in a house with cameras constantly on them, makes the winners cut weight multiple times in a short period and also sees the winners fight several times in that same short period.

The show is a platform for up-and-coming fighters to get their shot in the UFC, and sometimes it also gives unnoticed veterans a last shot at glory. The potpourri of personalities and faces that walk into that house are the reasons the show is going into its unprecedented 18th season.

Recently at the TUF 18 tryouts, several UFC veterans were turned away from a possible chance of competing in the tournament due to their status as a former UFC fighter. Of them, it was noted that Ulysses Gomez and Pat Schilling were among the men sent packing before they even had a chance to put on a show.

That whole scenario begs the question of whether or not former fighters should be allowed to try out for the show, or if the UFC should revisit the idea of a “comeback” season.

A comeback season has not been utilized since season four, when a field of middleweights and welterweights were brought back to the UFC with a chance at redemption and a title shot. The season spawned a number of UFC mainstays, such as Matt Serra, Chris Lytle, Jorge Rivera and Patrick Cote. Serra challenged for and won the welterweight crown at the end of the season with a stunning defeat of Georges St-Pierre. Cote, despite a loss in the show’s finale, picked up four straight wins in the UFC to earn a shot against middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva (Cote injured his knee in the bout and was handed a TKO loss). And Rivera and Lytle enjoyed some of their best years in the Octagon following their appearances on the reality series. None of that would have been possible had the UFC not hosted a comeback season.

Many fans have called for this idea to be used again, since there are plenty of UFC veterans that deserve another shot in the big time. Hosting fields in multiple divisions again would allow for the best of the bunch to be selected in two divisions that could use the bodies. For instance, the heavyweight, light heavyweight and lightest weight divisions would benefit from adding more fighters, as their rosters are not nearly as big as a middleweight, welterweight or lightweight division.

But if the UFC does not host a comeback season, should the company allow former fighters to try out for TUF?

The point of the show is to find new up-and-coming talent for the UFC. Guys who have had their shot and didn’t make it would take up a spot on the show from a guy who could potentially be a considerable prospect. That’s why the UFC is correct in turning away former fighters. Those UFC veterans are already on the radar of the UFC matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby. Although their willingness to spend weeks locked up in a house with other men (and, in the case of TUF 18, women) and compete in the toughest tournament in sports is admirable, all they really need to do is continue to win on the regional circuit and be ready to fight, regardless of the amount of notice given, when Silva or Shelby comes calling

Going forward, the UFC should uphold its rule banning former UFC fighters from trying out for TUF. If an opportunity is to be presented to the veterans, it should be in the form of a comeback season. But if the company is going to grow and nurture prospects through the show, it can’t add veterans to the gauntlet that these prospects must survive in order to make it to the Octagon.

Photo: Ulysses Gomez (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.