On Sunday, Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez were named the coaches for the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Wait a minute. Has season 19 even aired yet? The answer to that question is a resounding no. The announcement might have people excited about the 20th season of TUF right now, as well as the fight fight between Pettis and Melendez, but that excitement will wane when fans realize how long they will be waiting for both the show and the fight, not to mention any ramifications those events will have on the UFC. It’s time for the UFC to change how it selects the coaches for its flagship reality series.

Pettis and Melendez can’t be faulted for taking this gig. It will probably increase their exposure in the long run. However, this announcement just isn’t all it is cracked up to be. These coaching announcements are coming way too early. It seems like an eternity ago when it was announced that B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar would coach opposite of each other on The Ultimate Fighter 19, and that show will not even premiere until April. Yet, here we are, already moving on to the next set of coaches. All of this is simply putting guys on the shelf for too long.

Once the coaches are announced, those fighters won’t compete again until after the show airs. In the case of Pettis and Melendez, that means December. Yes, a February announcement about a fight that doesn’t take place until December. We probably won’t really see or hear much from either of the men following the initial press blitz until that season premieres in the late summer or early fall.

This wasn’t as big of a deal for Penn and Edgar. That is more of a fun fight or grudge match that doesn’t do much to hold up a division. Those are exactly the type of fighters that should serve as the coaches of TUF. They need to be fighters who have a built-in back-story. Preferably, they should be veterans of the sport who aren’t necessarily knocking on the door of a title shot.

Melendez and Pettis are the exact opposite of that.

After the show, they will be fighting for the championship of the UFC’s most stacked division. Both men will also be coming off of year-plus layoffs—yes, Pettis is injured, but, according to reports, he was going to be ready to go by July. The two men also don’t have much of a grudge or history between them.

They are two of the best lightweights in the world, though, and it is understandable that Zuffa would want to build the star power of both men. But fighting more often would accomplish that goal.

With Pettis and Melendez booked for a December showdown, it will hold up a lightweight division that is ripe with contenders just waiting to get their shot. Guys like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rafael dos Anjos and T.J. Grant will have to wait until 2015 for their crack at gold. That simply isn’t fair to any of them. Grant was already promised a title shot, but had to pull out due to injury. Nurmagomedov and dos Anjos are both sporting longer winning streaks than the two men in the title fight. They will square off in April and the winner of that would definitely deserve a shot at the title. However, unless any of those men want to wait upwards of a year to fight, they will not get that shot immediately.

This is not to say that title contenders should never coach a season of TUF again. The timing just has to be right. Remember when fighters would win a fight and then go into coaching the show a week later? Dan Henderson beat Rich Franklin at UFC 93. Right after, he coached and was fighting again by UFC 100. Granted, it wasn’t a title fight, but the timing of it all was perfect. He was on the shelf for about six months. That is how it should be.

The UFC is shooting itself in the foot with a little bit of over-planning. Fans are excited now about the announcement, but they will be waiting a very long time to see the show. Just think of how much more excited everyone would be if Melendez was fighting Nurmagomedov in April, with the winner of that fight moving on to coach alongside Pettis. That is the timeframe for which the UFC needs to aim.

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.