When Dana White and his business partners bought the UFC, the organization was not in good shape. It had an image problem and had to convince people it wasn’t “human cockfighting.” The UFC started getting celebrities like Joe Rogan to help change its image, but it needed something more. That’s when The Ultimate Fighter came along.
What ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ is about
The show has a simple format. A bunch of fighters will stay at a house and, over the course of a few weeks, they’ll compete in a tournament. Split into two teams, each team is coached by a popular fighter or athlete. The winner of the tournament gets a prize. Back then, they got to join the UFC.
Obviously, a camera crew would hang around in the house. This made it a perfect reality TV show for the time. The cameras would humanize the fighters and their struggles; at the same time, it’d be a good way to popularize the UFC. According to Bleacher Report, it did just that.
The first season of The Ultimate Fighter ended with a matchup between Stephen Bonnar and Forrest Griffin. The exciting fight was watched by millions. Although Griffin won, the UFC decided to allow both men to join the UFC. This season’s success led to the UFC creating many more seasons. Let’s look at the three best fighters to come out of The Ultimate Fighter.
3. T.J. Dillashaw
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T.J. Dillashaw competed in season 14. After beating three opponents, he faced John Dodson in the finals. Dodson knocked Dillashaw out in less than two minutes, but he rebounded quickly. After fighting six more times in the UFC, Dillashaw faced Renan Barao for the bantamweight title. The massive underdog surprisingly knocked Barao out in the fifth round.
Dillashaw defended his belt twice before losing a close fight to Dominick Cruz. Cruz lost his belt to Cody Garbrandt. Dillashaw knocked Garbrandt out not once but twice in order to win his belt back. Then, Dillashaw lost to Henry Cejudo. Not long after, he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and is currently banned from competing. However, few can deny his greatness.
2. Tony Ferguson
Tony Ferguson competed in season 13 of the show, but rather than fighting at lightweight, he actually fought at welterweight. Not only that, but Ferguson, because of how skilled he was, won the tournament too.
After winning the show, he dropped down to lightweight and he’s competed there ever since. After losing to Michael Johnson, Ferguson kept winning and had a massive 12 fight win streak. He won an interim title when he choked Kevin Lee out, but he never got the chance to fight for the real belt.
Ferguson was supposed to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov four times, but each time, something happened that canceled the fight. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Unfortunately for fans, Ferguson decided to not wait for Nurmagomedov anymore. He fought Justin Gaethje for another interim belt, and Gaethje managed to knock Ferguson out in the fifth round.
1. Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman competed and won the 21st season of the show, and he’s kept winning since. After a slow and steady climb up the ranks, he dominated the champ, Tyron Woodley, across five rounds. Then he successfully defended his belt twice.
First, he knocked Colby Covington out, and then he dominated Jorge Masvidal with his superior wrestling abilities. While Usman’s fights may not be the most exciting, it’s clear how dominant he is in the octagon.