The Ultimate Fighter returns this week with a brand new cast of UFC hopefuls led by two coaches who are embroiled in one of the nastiest rivalries in the history of women's MMA.
Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk will coach on the show for the first time ever as she looks to defend her title for the third straight time when she takes on No. 1 contender Claudia Gadelha after the series is finished.
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Gadelha took Jedrzejczyk to a close, split decision in their first fight in 2014 and there's certainly no love lost between these two women as they get ready to square off as coaches, rivals and, eventually, opponents.
The tension between Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha will be palpable all season long, and that dynamic will certainly drive the competition that much harder as both women want to win at all costs.
But first, the new season of The Ultimate Fighter will feature a cast of 32 of the best prospective light heavyweight men and strawweight women looking to land a contract with the UFC.
This will be the first time since season 19 that the light heavyweights will be represented on the show, while this will actually be the second trip for the strawweight women after the division was introduced via season 20 when Carla Esparza won the initial tournament to become the UFC’s first 115-pound women's champion.
In the past, The Ultimate Fighter has produced a slew of notable fighters from the seasons featuring light heavyweights, including the first ever edition of the show, which resulted in a future champion in Forrest Griffin, as well as his dance partner for arguably the most important fight in UFC history, Stephan Bonnar.
As for the strawweight women, the field on the show this year is incredibly talented, and while they won't be competing for a title like the ladies on season 20, this cast will certainly add a ton of depth and potentially a few championship contenders when it's all said and done.
The first episode of The Ultimate Fighter this season, like many in the past, will feature 16 elimination round bouts to determine the competitors who will make it on to the show. The initial episode will also feature team selections when it's all over, as Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha pick the fighters to represent their teams for the season.
Among the fighters competing this year will be a couple of recognizable names from the past who return for another shot at The Ultimate Fighter season 23.
Josh Stansbury is a name Ultimate Fighter fans should know after he had a very impressive start to his fight against Chris Fields during the season 19 elimination round fights. Stansbury is a top prospect out of Ohio and he was dominating Fields in the early part of the fight, but as he went for a takedown, his knee gave way and the fight was stopped due to injury.
Ultimately, Stansbury blew out his knee during the fight and it allowed Fields to continue in the competition, while he was forced to go home and recover after the disappointing ending.
Now Stansbury is back with his sights set on winning an elimination round fight this time and making the final cast list for The Ultimate Fighter.
Also joining the show this season is Norman Paraisy, who returns after a very disappointing outing when he tried to make the cast as part of season 11 back in 2010. At that time, Paraisy was looking to join the show with UFC Hall of Fame coaches Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, but at the end of the first round of his fight against James Hamortree, the French prospect could take no more after five minutes and called it quits. The decision to quit between rounds has haunted Paraisy for years and now he's coming back with designs on redeeming himself after a disastrous showing six years ago.
More than a few faces on the show this year will also come from famous camps, with UFC stalwarts rooting for them to make the series during the elimination round.
Jodie Esquibel is not only a top strawweight prospect, but she hails from the Jackson-Winkeljohn gym, which is the same coaching staff responsible for former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, as well as former women's bantamweight champion Holly Holm. Esquibel also has one more connection to that New Mexico gym — she's the fiancée of former Ultimate Fighter season 2 competitor Keith Jardine.
Speaking of Greg Jackson's gym, another top prospect named Phil Hawes will be featured. Hawes has been a highly touted newcomer who routinely spars with fighters like Jones as he gets ready for upcoming fights. Now it's Hawes' chance to shine as he looks to join the cast this season.
Ashley Yoder is another fighter coming from a top MMA camp, as she trains under Dan Henderson at his Team Quest facility in Temecula, while Chel-C Bailey will enjoy the support of women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate and top 10 bantamweight Bryan Caraway as she looks to make it into the house.
All told, the cast for The Ultimate Fighter 23 features a diverse group of up and comers from around the world, including the United States, Canada, England, the Netherlands, Algeria, France, Norway, Spain and Brazil. This group is a talented mix of new talent and veteran experience, with everybody gunning for the same goal at the end of the day — to become the next Ultimate Fighter champion.
With Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha leading the way for their teams, with a group of world class coaches to help instruct the fighters, this promises to be another action packed season of The Ultimate Fighter and it all kicks off tonight at 10pm ET on FS1 with a two-hour episode featuring 16 elimination round fights, team selections and the first fight of the season announced when it's all over.
Don't miss a minute of the action as The Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia gets underway.