Ever since 2005, The Ultimate Fighter has been a major factor in attracting new fans to the sport of MMA and to the UFC.  There is just something about reality television that sucks viewers in and has them eating off of their platter.  While the 15th season of TUF has just ended, fans of the show are often left speculating the identity of the coaches for the next season.  Recently, the opposing coaches have had a history with one another and more often than not were involved in some sort of rivalry with one another.

But what if things got mixed up just a little bit?

Fans hang onto the fact that they are in need of a coaches’ fight at the end of each season, but frequently the fight falls apart, for one reason or another, before the end of the season.  Even though Rashad Evans eventually took on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, it wasn’t until long after they coached opposite one another on TUF 10.  During TUF 11, Tito Ortiz had to leave the show due to a back surgery and wasn’t able to fight Chuck Liddell.  Brock Lesnar was supposed to take on Junior dos Santos after TUF 13, but a second flare-up of diverticulitis left him on the sidelines.  Last season, Dominick Cruz tore his ACL which has left him unable to take on Urijah Faber.  The shows went on and were successful despite the lack of the supposedly required climactic battle of coaches.

Rather than rip off the traditional list of two fighters that have a score to settle with one another, let’s look at a new direction the show could go to further spice things up a bit while still drawing in the fans.

Actual Coaches

Who said that a coach has to be a UFC fighter?  Wouldn’t it be great if rather than having fighters coach fighters, actual coaches did the coaching?  Imagine Team Greg Jackson vs. Team Duke Roufus.  We always hear about how great Jackson and Roufus are as coaches, but we rarely get to see it directly.  After Anthony Pettis landed the “Showtime Kick” against Ben Henderson at WEC 53, he said that they train these kind of things at Roufusport.  Wouldn’t that be great to see? It might be difficult for a top coach to make a commitment like that, but it has happened before. Jackson has been a trainer on the show previously, coaching alongside Georges St-Pierre in season 12. So we know that it is possible for a coach to get away from his team for that long of a time frame.

Hall of Famers

When talking about the best of the best in the history of the sport, the conversation frequently turns to those fighters who have been inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame.  Even though Mark Coleman and Randy Couture are retired, it doesn’t mean that they are incapable of being great coaches. And if you’re looking for drama, it often comes from fighters who have already fought one another.  “The Natural” choked out “The Hammer” back at UFC 109, and it wouldn’t be shocking to learn that Coleman has a chip on his shoulder which could result in some pretty good back and forth from the two of them.  At the end of the day, what aspiring UFC fighter wouldn’t want to be coached by a Hall of Famer from that very promotion?

Recent TUF winners

Who better to learn from, not only in terms of fight skills, but also in terms of how to deal with the house, with the cameras, and with all of the other insanities that go along with the show?  We frequently see fighters struggle in coping with the tornado that is all of these things wrapped into one, and who better to guide aspiring fighters through the storm than those who successfully weathered it in the past?  As it currently stands, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping and Matt Serra are fighters who won the show and coached the season, but each one of those fighters fall into that coaches’ fight category.  But rather than have it be a solo coaching effort, having a team of two or three coaches could spice things up a bit.

Who needs coaches?

Head coaches, that is.  It worked in season four when the fighters who were brought onto the show were former UFC fighters, why couldn’t it work for fighters who haven’t had their time in the UFC yet?  On that fourth season, the fighters reached into a bin and pulled out a jersey that was one of two colors.  Sure, you would need to have UFC talent and other veteran coaches to help each team out, but watching Matt Serra emerge as a leader is something that could happen again.  There would also be plenty of drama this way because it would require team meetings for the fight selections.  It’s one thing when a head coach says that their guy is going to fight, but it is another when the team has to make a decision on who they are sending into the Octagon, and also who they will target from the other team.

Photo: Forrest Griffin (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.

  • Let’s see Brian, I actually like all of the suggestions but think your last one, no coaches, might be the most interesting. Being coachable is an important trait, especially when starting a new venture. But having the gumption to coach and motivate oneself, while working as a team to make important decisions is a difficult feat.

    It would make really interesting television.

    Having coaches be the coaches would be my second choice. I would love to see what different coaches do, what style teaching they have, and how they interact with their athletes. And, they would have a lot riding on the outcome, it could get really intense.