The big men of mixed martial arts are back on The Ultimate Fighter, but this time, they will be coaching, not competing.
UFC President Dana White announced today that former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and number one contender Junior dos Santos will match wits as the coaches of season 13 of the hit Spike TV reality series.
Following the season, which begins filming later this month and begins airing on March 30, Lesnar and dos Santos will then match fists in the Octagon at a date and location to be announced in June. The winner will face current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, who is currently sidelined with a torn rotator cuff.
“It’s gonna be a very interesting six weeks of filming,” said White during a media teleconference Tuesday. “These two will coach, then they’ll fight, and the winner of the fight will fight Cain Velasquez when he’s healthy.”
This will be the first time either fighter has appeared on The Ultimate Fighter, which began airing on Spike in 2005. The last time heavyweights coached the show was during season eight in 2008, when dos Santos’ mentor, “Minotauro” Nogueira, faced off against former champion Frank Mir. This season, the two will coach a host of welterweight hopefuls looking to secure a UFC contract.
One of the biggest success stories of recent years, Brock Lesnar’s rise to the top of the UFC has been well-documented. A former NCAA Division I wrestling champion for the University of Minnesota, Lesnar brought size, speed, and power to the Octagon in 2008, and in only his fourth professional fight, he defeated Randy Couture for the heavyweight crown. After successful defenses against Mir and Shane Carwin, Lesnar lost his belt to Velasquez at UFC 121 last October. Determined to get his championship back, Lesnar knows the quickest way to do so is through dos Santos.
“The guy’s a former world champion, he’s beat guys and held the title,” said White of Lesnar. “No matter what his record is, what the guy has accomplished in the short amount of time that he’s been in MMA is incredible. He’s obviously got a lot that he can teach, and not only him, but the staff that he has around him have a lot to teach young, up and coming guys, and that’s what it’s really all about.”
Unheralded Brazilian prospect Junior dos Santos turned into a contender overnight in 2008 when he knocked out highly-regarded veteran Fabricio Werdum in the first round. This spectacular debut was followed by finishes of Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop, Gilbert Yvel, and Gabriel Gonzaga before earning a shot at the heavyweight title with a three round win over Roy Nelson. Yet instead of choosing to wait for Velasquez to return to action, dos Santos will risk his number one contender’s spot by coaching against - and then fighting - Lesnar later this year.
“Junior dos Santos is a young, up and coming guy,” said White of dos Santos. “He’s been knocking everybody out, comes off a three round war with “Big Country” (Roy Nelson) and I love when guys do that because it’s good for them, it’s good experience, it gets them in better shape and it takes them to another level. And to put this guy on the shelf for a long time is ridiculous, and much credit to him for not wanting to go on the shelf.”