Fourteen competitors from past seasons of The Ultimate Fighter will return to the toughest tournament in sports for a shot at redemption, as well as $250,000 in prize money, during the latest installment of the show that kicks off on Wednesday night.
The cast this season is made up of competitors stretching all the way back to The Ultimate Fighter season 2, with Joe "Daddy" Stevenson making his return to the series, along with current UFC lightweight contender James Krause, who never got a chance to compete on the show after he was eliminated during the fights to get into the house.
For some fighters like Gilbert Smith, the new season of The Ultimate Fighter is one final run towards making it in the UFC, and this opportunity is the best way back to the big show.
"This is it. This is my last run," Smith says during the debut episode, which airs on FS1 starting at 10pm ET.
The process for the fighters involved on the show will be familiar because everybody involved as gone through this before, but the stakes have never been higher. Not only will the fighters have the chance to compete for the $250,000 grand prize, but UFC President Dana White will also make a very interesting announcement during the debut episode about a chance for the fighters to also cash in with an even bigger prize for each win attained during the season.
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Of course, the new season also brings in two new coaches, and this time around it's bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt and former 135-pound king TJ Dillashaw squaring off in competition before they meet with the title on the line later this year.
The history between Garbrandt and Dillashaw stretches back several years when they were teammates at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, but the origins of this rivalry also has roots in a past season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Back during season 22, when Urijah Faber was coaching opposite Conor McGregor, both Garbrandt and Dillashaw were brought in as guests during the season. Ahead of one particular weigh-in, McGregor started jabbing at Faber about Dillashaw cutting ties with him and leaving Team Alpha Male to train with his head coach Duane "Bang" Ludwig. McGregor called Dillashaw a "snake in the grass" and the incident nearly boiled over when Garbrandt stood up for his teammate and nearly got into an altercation with the future lightweight champion.
Fast forward, and Dillashaw ultimately did end up leaving the team in favor of relocating to Colorado to work with Ludwig, but he denies the circumstances were anything close to what McGregor suggested during filming of that season of the show. Regardless, Garbrandt has held a grudge ever since and now he's excited to face his former friend in the Octagon.
As seen in a preview for the show that was released several weeks ago, it's clear that the animosity between Garbrandt and Dillashaw will erupt this season, and that tension ratchets up in a major way during the debut episode. As much as the focus will ultimately remain on the fighters and the competition, Garbrandt and Dillashaw always appear just one breath away from staging their title fight in the middle of the TUF gym.
Once the fighters are introduced and welcomed back to the show, attention will quickly turn to picking teams and also preparing for the first fights of the season.
While everybody returning to the show this season has past experience on TUF, with most of them also competing in the UFC, that doesn't mean the same problems that have altered the course of history for others in the past won't plague this cast. In other words, making weight will certainly take center stage once again this season, and the first episode makes that clear.
The fighters this season will be competing at 170 pounds, but the first few fights are crucial because those athletes will need to make weight much sooner than everybody else. There are huge benefits to fighting early in the competition, especially when considering the additional time off until the next round of the tournament begins. Still, some fighters would rather get used to the climate of the show before stepping into the Octagon to compete, not to mention shedding that additional weight so making the welterweight limit won't be such a struggle.
Needless to say, weight issues will come to the forefront almost immediately.
But when it's time to fight, the 14 competitors on the show will all be clamoring for a chance to prove themselves, which means there will be an intense ferocity between everybody from both teams.
In many seasons past, the young, upstart competitors tend to get a little chirpy with each other as they all try to exert dominance during the tournament. While there's no doubt that the cast on The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption is filled with a lot more veterans, that doesn't mean the same attitudes won't come out to play this season. Everybody on the show has something to prove or, at the very least, a lot of money to win, so there's no doubt that emotions will be running high from the day the fighters arrive in the house until the final bout takes place this summer.
Don't miss any of the action from this first episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption as business picks up in a hurry when the season launches tonight at 10pm ET on FS1.