By Alex Mattis
This past Friday kicked off season fifteen of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s flagship show. The Ultimate Fighter reality show has brought the UFC, and mixed martial arts, where it is today. The first season of the show revolutionized the sport and took its public interest to levels that hadn’t been dreamed of. TUF has birthed future champions and some of the sport’s biggest stars. For this season, Team Cruz Vs. Team Faber, the show is taking a major turn. In addition to now being on the FX network, this season will be having live elimination fights; a major format change. The 32 house hopefuls gathered in Las Vegas on Friday, and 16 fought their way into the famous Ultimate Fighter house.
The premiere was a live event held in the TUF gym in Vegas and was much different than the qualifying round we have come accustomed to. The competitors were given one round to claim their spot in the house. The sense of urgency was only intensified when they fighters were told they’d take home an extra $5,000 if they were about to submit or knockout their opponent before the final bell. This encouragement obviously worked as $40,000 in bonus money was given out, with eight of the fights not going the distance.
“One round! That’s all we needed tonight. These guys came out and killed it,” Dana White commented on the show. “We have some real tough guys this season and they want it bad. I guess the extra incentive didn’t hurt either.” The UFC president is clearly pleased with the potential that was shown.
The most startling finish of the evening came with Sam Sicilia’s eight-second KO of Erin Beach.
“I came in ready to fight. I trained hard. You saw my fight. I loaded up with the right hand. My life changed in eight seconds, so I am really excited to be here,” said Sicilia.
The fifteen other fighters joining Sicilia in the house will be: Al Iaquinta, Andy Ogle, Cristiano Marcello, Chris Saunders, Chris Tickle, Daron Cruickshank, James Vick, Jeremy Larsen, Joe Proctor, John Cofer, Justin Lawrence, Michael Chiesa, Mike Rio, Myles Jury , and Vinc Pichel.
With all the excitement surrounding the premiere and what lies ahead; it may be easy to forget about the best thing this season: We get to see Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz fight again. These on-again, off-again rivals will meet in a rubbermatch that will be one of the UFC’s bigger title fights of 2012. If their encounter from this past July is any preview, the MMA community is in for a real treat.
“There’s a lot of good fighters to choose from and I’m going to build the best team I can,” said the reigning bantamweight champion, Cruz.
The challenger, Faber stated: “There’s a lot of talent this season and I have to weigh what I want and what’s going to help me beat Team Cruz.”
There hasn’t been this much buzz surround a season of The Ultimate Fighter since season 10 with Kimbo Slice. Get ready for what should be an interestingly intense ride.
For all the latest, check out visit ultimatefighter.com