To date there have been fifteen seasons of The Ultimate Fighter that have aired in the USA on Spike TV and FX, plus a sixteenth season that is currently airing on FX. Add to that a completed season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and a currently airing season of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes (UK vs. Australia) and there have been thirty professional fighters who have served time as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.
With the recent announcement of Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen as upcoming coaches for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, many people have seen through the UFC’s charade, and are criticizing the UFC’s decision to forego the sporting aspect of the UFC and instead focus solely on the business aspect of the UFC. Despite what fans may believe about the decision to use Sonnen and Jones as coaches on the next season of the UFC’s flagship reality show, they are still intriguing choices as coaches. Not only for the potential entertainment value of the trash talk and banter between the two, but also due to the wealth of MMA talent and knowledge that these two men can pass on to the future athletes of the UFC.
Honorable Mention – Tito “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Ortiz
Record as a Coach: 16-11
Record in Coach’s Bouts: 1-0 (Victory over Ken Shamrock)
Winner’s Coached: Kendall Grove (Season 3), Michael Bisping (Season 3)
Tito Ortiz was one of the original stars of the UFC so it was no surprise that he was called on to coach one of the first seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Ortiz coached the third season opposite his nemesis Ken Shamrock in the third fight of their trilogy of fights. Creating high ratings and high entertainment because of the constant squabbling between the two coaches, the competition much like the fights between Ortiz and Shamrock were fairly one-sided. Ortiz was the coach of both the winners of the third season. Ortiz also fared well as a coach on his second stint during TUF 11 opposite Chuck Liddell. However, he wasn’t able to finish the season or participate in the coach’s bout due to a back injury that removed him from the show.
Honorable Mention – Georges “Rush” St. Pierre
Record as a Coach: 11-3
Record in Coach’s Bouts: 1-0 (Victory over Josh Koscheck)
Winner’s Coached: Jonathan Brookins (Season 12)
Despite being one of the biggest draws in the history of the UFC and a long-reigning Welterweight Champion, GSP has surprisingly appeared on The Ultimate Fighter as a head coach once. Coaching opposite Josh Koscheck for the twelfth season of the reality show, GSP’s team went 5-2 throughout the first round of the competition, and both of the finalists were from Team Rush. In addition to his impressive coaching performance, GSP also dominated Koscheck in the coach’s bout. GSP was responsible for coaching Jonathan Brookins to victory during his season as a coach. GSP also coached briefly during The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback, but during that season there were no head coaches, only fighters stopping by to help out.
#5 – Rich “Ace” Franklin (The Ultimate Fighter 2, The Ultimate Fighter 11)
Record as a Coach: 3-2
Record in Couch’s Bouts: 1-0 (Victory over Chuck Liddell)
Winner’s Coached: Rashad Evans (Season 2)
Franklin has always been known as the UFC’s company man for his willingness to step up on late notice and fight at different weights. Whatever his bosses needed. That was also the case for his second stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. During the eleventh season of the show an injury to coach Tito Ortiz caused the UFC to need a suitable replacement for the post-show coaches bout. In stepped Rich Franklin both as a replacement fighter and as a coach for the final episodes of the show, during that episode he managed to advance his only remaining fighter Kris McRay into the live finale. Franklin also served as a coach on the second season of the reality show, although he coached against his good friend Matt Hughes and there was no post-show coaches bout. Franklin’s fighters during the second season dominated the Heavyweight portion of the competition and he was the coach of eventual winner and future UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans. In his late replacement bout against Chuck Liddell, Franklin scored a victory by TKO over Chuck Liddell.
#4 – Urijah “The California Kid” Faber (The Ultimate Fighter 15/ TUF: Live)
Record as a Coach: 10-5
Record in Coach’s Bouts: 0-1 (Loss to Renan Barao)
Winner’s Coached: Michael Chiesa (Season 15)
Faber coached opposite his Bantamweight rival Dominick Cruz on the debut season of The Ultimate Fighter on FX. Adding a live twist to the show, it failed to produce a significant ratings hike. Faber brought in his Team Alpha Male teammates to help him coach and provided a lot of guidance to his fighters. A talented wrestle-boxer himself, Faber made a bit too much of an effort to shape his fighters into that mold. Still one can’t argue with his results as his team was able to take five of the eight first round bouts, and the two finalists of the show were from Team Faber. Despite his impressive record as a coach, a knee injury to Dominick Cruz scrapped the traditional coaches bout at the end of the show. Instead Faber faced off against replacement Renan Barao Pagado for the Interim Bantamweight Championship but was soundly outworked over five rounds and lost the bout.
#3 – Michael “The Count” Bisping
Record as a Coach: 15-13
Record in Coach’s Bouts: 1-1 (Loss to Dan Henderson, Victory over Jason Miller)
Winner’s Coached: Ross Pearson (Season 9), James Wilks (Season 9), Diego Brandao (Season 14)
Bisping is famous for not only being a Light Heavyweight winner from the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, but also for being extremely successful as a coach on the show. Bisping made his first appearance on the show coaching Team United Kingdom opposite Dan Henderson and Team USA on the UK vs. USA edition of The Ultimate Fighter. Bisping coached his UK brethren to victory in both the Lightweight and Welterweight divisions. Despite coaching both winners from this season of the show, he was posterized in highlight reel fashion at UFC 100 by an H-Bomb from Henderson in the second round. Bisping coached opposite Jason “Mayhem” Miller in the final season on Spike TV before transferring to FX. Despite a fairly even coaching gig against Miller, Bisping dominated him in the coach’s fight and coached another winner as Diego Brandao won the Featherweight division of the show.
#2 – Rashad “Suga” Evans
Record as a Coach: 13-1
Record in Coach’s Bouts: 1-0 (Win over Quinton Jackson)
Winner’s Coached: Roy Nelson (Season 10)
Rashad Evans is another one of the former winners of The Ultimate Fighter that eventually made his way to the other side of the table and served time as a coach on the Heavyweights only tenth season of TUF. Coaching opposite his arch-rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rashad’s season was filled with trash-talk and back and forth bickering between not just the coaches, but also the fighters. Rashad’s fighters dominated Jackson’s throughout the entire competition, including posting a 7-1 mark in the first round of the competition. Evans completely out-coached Jackson and then when the coach’s bout came up at UFC 114, Evans out-classed Jackson inside the octagon. Evans’ accomplishments are also most notable for having the highest ratings in the history of The Ultimate Fighter. Although the inclusion of internet sensation Kimbo Slice was definitely a major factor, the grudge between coaches was an important factor that helped the show gather a peak viewership of 7.25 million.
#1 – Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell
Record as a Coach: 12-6 (although the format for TUF 1 was different than following seasons)
Record in Coach’s Bouts: 1-1 (Victory over Randy Couture, Loss to Rich Franklin)
Winner’s Coached: Forrest Griffin (Season 1), Diego Sanchez (Season 1), Court McGee (Season 11)
During his second coaching gig opposite Tito Ortiz, Liddell once again found his fighters dominating. An injury to Tito eventually led to an opponent switch, which opened the door for Rich Franklin to step in and take a bout against Liddell at UFC 115. Despite coaching another fighter to victory on this season of the show (Court McGee), Liddell was on the wrong end of a knockout in this coach’s bout, as Franklin flattened Liddell in the first round and sent the Iceman into retirement.
Despite his loss in his final coaches bout, Liddell remains a successful coach from the show and is responsible for launching the careers of several big names who are still in the UFC today. Names like Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, Kenny Florian, Court McGee, Brad Tavares and Kyle Noke.
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