It’s been said that you can never go back again, but 14 former competitors from The Ultimate Fighter will do exactly that when the new season of the show kicks off on Wednesday, Apr. 19 on FS1.
The latest season, entitled The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption, will showcase a slew of past cast members who are all looking at getting a second chance to compete in the UFC, along with one current lightweight contender who never got the opportunity to win the toughest tournament in sports during his first shot on the series.
While the cast is littered with familiar faces, the one that might stick out the most is season two winner Joe "Daddy" Stevenson, who will be making his return to The Ultimate Fighter 12 years after he won his original competition back in 2005. Stevenson was a mainstay in the UFC following his appearance on the show, making it as far as a lightweight title fight against BJ Penn in 2008.
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Unfortunately, Stevenson suffered through a tumultuous run during his career that also included a brief stint at featherweight before he decided to walk away from the sport altogether. Stevenson stayed busy by coaching other fighters and even working as a coordinator on the television series "Kingdom," but the itch to compete again eventually brought him back to mixed martial arts and, as it turns out, The Ultimate Fighter.
Former TUF finalist Jesse Taylor will also return to the show as he looks for redemption after his out of the Octagon behavior cost him a chance to even compete for the title during his run on the series. Despite making it to the finals, Taylor's antics eventually forced UFC President Dana White to pull him from the finale card entirely, but now he'll come back nine years later looking for a second chance.
Quite possibly the most unlikely name to decorate the cast list is current UFC lightweight contender James Krause, who moves to 170 pounds for a chance to compete on this season of the show. Unlike all the other fighters in the cast this season, Krause already has a UFC contract and he's actually riding a two-fight win streak going into the show. But Krause has designs on making good on a second appearance on the show after he failed to live up to his own expectations during his time on The Ultimate Fighter: Live back in 2012.
During that brief appearance, Krause suffered a first-round TKO loss which cost him the chance to even make it into the house, and it took him another year before he finally got the opportunity to compete in the UFC. Now Krause is back while looking to add The Ultimate Fighter crown to his resume while also continuing his climb up the ranks in the UFC.
Season 19 winner Eddie Gordon will also return to the show as he looks to make good on a second shot at the UFC following a disappointing run in the Octagon after winning the show with an impressive run though a deep class of middleweights. Now, Gordon comes back at 170 pounds while attempting to erase the memories of a trio of losses during his last stint with the UFC. Considering Gordon's past experience, not to mention the power he packs in his punches, there's little doubt he's going to be at the top of the list of potential finalists when the show begins.
The remaining cast is littered with fighters from past seasons of the show, including Hayder Hassan, who made it to the finals of The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. the Blackzilians thanks to an incredible run to help his team close out the competition before he competed in the finale. Ramsey Nijem also looks for new life when he returns to the show after taking an extended break following his last fight, and fans will remember that he already holds several impressive UFC wins, including victories over Beneil Dariush and Justin Edwards, who is another returning cast member this season.
While the fighters will remain the focal point of the competition, the coaches squaring off this season will undoubtedly bring an explosive rivalry to the show as well, as top bantamweights Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw look to lead their teams to victory before the two fight later this year with the 135-pound title on the line. Garbrandt is the reigning bantamweight champion who dispatched Dominick Cruz in one of the best performances of 2016, while Dillashaw is looking to get the belt back after reeling off two huge wins over top five-ranked Raphael Assuncao and John Lineker in consecutive fights.
The natural rivalry between two of the best fighters in the world would probably be enough to get these two fierce competitors ready for the season, but when you add in the fact that they are former friends and training partners, it adds an even bigger combustible element to the show.
At one time, Dillashaw was the fastest rising star at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, while Garbrandt was just a young fighter looking to make waves with one of the best teams in the sport. Years later, Dillashaw fought his way to the bantamweight title but then decided to move to Colorado to work with a new team, splitting with his coaches at Team Alpha Male. That never sat right with Garbrandt, who felt that Dillashaw was disloyal and turning his back on the people who helped him get to the championship in the first place. Meanwhile, Dillashaw only did what he felt was best for his career, but now he's determined to get the belt back while simultaneously attempting to settle a score with his old team at the same time.
Needless to say, the disdain between Garbrandt and Dillashaw will undoubtedly be one of the main focal points to watch this season before they finally face off against each other in the Octagon.
It all kicks off on Apr. 19 when The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption starts with a special two-hour episode, as the historic 25th season gets underway on FS1.