The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber airs on Wednesday, September 16 at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.
Following 16 fights to get into the house, the Americans and Europeans will meet their coaches and prepare for the first contest on the newest episode of The Ultimate Fighter, airing this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FS1.
It was a hard-fought competition as the teams were determined by American vs. American and European vs. European bouts, with the best 16 fighters left standing making up the teams who will be represented by Urijah Faber and Conor McGregor.
There were some serious battles in those opening fights, but there's no rest for the weary, as the fighters will get a couple days of rest to get moved into their new surroundings before Faber gets the first fight pick of the season. The competition starts with eight American fighters on Team Faber and the eight Europeans on Team McGregor so the tournament will finally pit the two regions against one another.
Both coaches will have a different approach to the show this season, and that will be very evident in the second episode airing this week.
Faber is a veteran coach who has worked on The Ultimate Fighter previously during season 15, when he was pitted against former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Beyond his stint coaching on the show, Faber is the founder and leader of Team Alpha Male, one of the most successful MMA gyms in the sport, where he works with fighters such as current bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw, Chad Mendes and Joseph Benavidez.
Faber built that team from scratch, so he's well aware of what it takes to take raw talent and mold it into world championship level success and he'll hope to bring some of that same energy to his team this season. Just after the fights took place to get into the house, Faber expressed a little bit of concern about the size and experience of some of his guys, but ultimately he knows he'll get the most out of them come fight time.
"I was a little skeptical at first because I looked a lot of them up and felt like they were all 45-pounders for the most part, and also looking at some of the guys they had beat, they have some great records but not always against the stiffest competition. So I was a skeptic," Faber said.
"I watched them fight, I'm happy with what we have to work with. The European team looks super strong as well. I feel like they've got actually more 55-pounders that are traditionally 55-pounders. In this setting, that's not necessarily a great thing, because you have to make weight."
As for the European squad, interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor will lead a team for the first time in his career although he's definitely a fighter many of his teammates already look to for advice as he's risen up the ranks and become one of the best and most successful mixed martial artists on the planet.
McGregor has spoken for years about his unique training methods and how he believes the way he works to get ready for a fight is light years ahead of most other gyms currently operating in MMA. McGregor brought a team of coaches that helped him prepare to reach the pinnacle of the sport and he hopes to pass along that same knowledge to his fighters, although his approach will be much, much different than what Faber plans to do with the Americans.
"I'm simply going to provide the platform for them," McGregor explained. "I'm going to bring eyes to the screen for them. I'm going to provide coaches that I have come with, but really it's a six-week run of fights, on and off.
"I'm not going to go in and teach them anything. I told them their training should already be done. You should already have your hard rounds done. Now it's about keeping the body fresh because every fight you get knocks and bruises, so it's about maintaining those injuries and making it through those fights."
McGregor's unconventional approach might go away from what any other fighter has ever done in more than 22 seasons of the show, but he also might have a point. The six weeks the fighters have on The Ultimate Fighter is supposed to earn them a shot in the UFC, and during that brief period of time, the guys on Team McGregor could be forced to fight two or three times, so staying healthy and ready is paramount to success.
This week, UFC President Dana White also makes a shocking announcement that will change the course of this season of The Ultimate Fighter dramatically from any other season of the show. Throughout the years, The Ultimate Fighter has experimented with several different formulas to give the best athletes a chance to compete on the show. During the first season, the show wasn't set up as an actual tournament, so fighters could compete multiple times or maybe not compete at all.
In future seasons, the format became an actual tournament, where the 16 best competitors fought until there were only one or two left standing. There was an experimental year in season 11 when the coaches involved were allowed to pick a 'wild card' so a previously eliminated fighter could return, fight and then re-enter the tournament. Oddly enough, during that season one of the fighters chosen was Court McGee, and he went on to win the entire show.
White's announcement will definitely turn the show on its head this season, as he makes a change that will have McGregor, Faber and all 16 fighters wide-eyed by the time he's finished.
Also, gear up for a full season of banter between McGregor and Faber, as the two coaches start a verbal war that will probably only get better with every episode. Everything is fair game to these two fighters, with everything from chins to shoes to money being a topic of discussion and derision as McGregor and Faber see who has the best jokes, with a crowd of Ultimate Fighter hopefuls as their audience.
All the laughs and jokes aside, Faber will make the first fight pick during episode two and then the bout takes place with a devastating ending that you will not want to miss. Faber won the opportunity to select the first fight of the season, but does he have the chops to put the best matchup together between the Americans and Europeans or will McGregor already earn bragging rights with the opening bout in the tournament?
Tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FS1 to find out.