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| | 4 NFL vets on TUF 10
Plunkett - While the controversial Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson has stolen the spotlight by joining the show's cast, "The Ultimate Fighter 10" will be unique for another reason: the number of additional cast members who once competed in the National Football League. |
Sources close to the cast members have exclusively told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com) at least four former NFL players have been selected to compete on "The Ultimate Fighter 10," a heavyweights-only season of the UFC's reality series that debuts Sept. 16 on Spike TV.
The list includes Marcus Jones, Matt Mitrione, Brendan Schaub and Wes Shivers.
Barring injury or any last-minute replacements, all are expected to join Ferguson, a former bare-knuckle brawler and YouTube legend who became the biggest star of the now-defunct EliteXC promotion, in the UFC's 16-man tournament.
Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole broke the news on Monday that the show would include Ferguson, who's 14-second loss to late replacement Seth Petruzelli at a 2008 CBS-televised event sparked the eventual financial collapse of one of the UFC's biggest rivals. Although heavily criticized by UFC President Dana White in recent years, Ferguson agreed to join the UFC's reality show in an attempt to prove his legitimacy in MMA.
The UFC's popularity reality competition series debuted in early 2005 and has launched the careers of more than 100 UFC fighters. The upcoming 10th season is the first to feature heavyweight fighters since "TUF 2" aired in late 2005. However, the top heavyweights from that season – winner Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine, Mike Whitehead and Petruzelli, for example – later dropped to the light heavyweight division.
However, with the addition of Ferguson and the former NFL players, who are all true heavyweights, this season could further stock a once-depleted UFC heavyweight division that recently has been reinvigorated with the additions of promising newcomers such as Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, Chris Tuchscherer, Mike Russow and others.
Here's the crop of football-players-turned-MMA-fighters you're likely to see on "The Ultimate Fighter 10" in September:
Marcus Jones, the 1996 first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, enters "TUF" with a 4-1 professional MMA record, which includes four first-round victories via stoppage (with an average time of just 91 seconds per win). Three of the wins came via TKO and one via submission.
The 35-year-old played football at the University of North Carolina, where he was a four-time letterman, an All-American and the 1995 ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The 6-foot-6 defensive tackle played six NFL seasons with the Bucs. In his best season, 2000, he ranked eighth in the league with 13 sacks. He spent two additional seasons with the Buffalo Bills (but didn't play in the regular season) before giving up the sport. Soon after, he joined instructor Rob Kahn at Gracie Tampa and eventually made his professional MMA debut in 2007.
Matt Mitrione, who had a nine-game stint with the New York Giants in 2002, will be one of the season's least-experienced fighters (on paper, anyway). He has no professional fights, according to the major fighter databases, though he reportedly has fought as an amateur.
The 30-year-old Illinois native was an All-Big Ten defensive tackle for Purdue University. He went un-drafted after his senior year in 2000 but still earned his way into the NFL as a free agent. In addition to the Giants, the 6-foot-4 Mitrione spent some time with the Minnesota Vikings (though he didn't appear in any regular-season games for the team) before leaving the NFL in 2006.
Brendan Schaub, a 6-foot-4 fullback for the University of Colorado who spent some time with (but didn't play for) the Buffalo Bills, is 4-0 as a professional MMA fighter. He's often compared to his longtime training partner, undefeated UFC heavyweight Shane Carwin. Like Carwin, Schaub has made quick work of his opponents since turning pro in 2008. In four professional fights, he has four first-round TKOs, and the average length of each fight is just 59 seconds.
The 26-year-old Colorado native played for the Arena Football League's Utah Blaze before focusing solely on MMA. Schaub, the son of a second-degree Tae Kwon Do black belt, is a Golden Gloves boxing champion and the 2008 Colorado Open Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Absolute Advanced Grand Champion. He currently trains with Greg Jackson's renowned Team Jackson camp in New Mexico and T's KO Fight Club in Colorado.
Wes Shivers, who had a short NFL stint with the Atlanta Falcons in 2000, is 0-1 as a professional and 4-0 as an amateur, according to MMA.tv's fighter database. (However, his record is listed as 6-0 in some places). The muscular 6-foot-7 fighter is well versed in grappling and Muay Thai and previously competed as a super heavyweight before a lack of available opponents prompted a move down to heavyweight.
The 32-year-old Team Hammer Hill fighter was a standout offensive lineman at Mississippi State University. The Tennessee Titans drafted him in the seventh round of the 2000 NFL Draft. After playing three games with the Falcons in 2000, he left the NFL and focused on his MMA career.
In addition to Jones, Mitrione, Schaub and Shivers, a fifth football vet earned a spot on the cast but was forced to give it up. If it weren't for an injury suffered just prior to the show's taping, former Texas Tech stand-out lineman and Indianapolis Colts practice-squad member Rex Richards would also be on the show.
However, a source close to the fighter told MMAjunkie.com that Richards suffered a partial MCL tear just five days before he was set to leave for Las Vegas. Doctors couldn't clear him to compete, so he was forced to give up his spot in the "TUF" house.