Another season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” another bold proclamation from UFC President Dana White.
The UFC boss is known to make grand predictions prior to each season’s debut. After all, remember when “TUF 8″ runner-up Phillipe Nover, who ultimately was released after just three UFC fights, was initially dubbed the next Anderson Silva?
But ahead of “TUF 20,” the first all-female season of the nine-year-old reality series, White doesn’t really need a lengthy sales pitch. Expectations are already high for the season, which will crown an inaugural UFC women’s strawweight champion. Additionally, many of the world’s top 115-pound fighters were booked for the show, which debuts Sept. 10 on FOX Sports 1.
Still, while “TUF” ratings have sagged since the move from Spike TV to FX and FOX Sports 1, and though the tournament format has grown a bit too familiar, White said “TUF 20″ delivers on two key fronts. “TUF 19″ aired earlier this year to poor reviews, and even White called it “without a doubt the worst season and the least motivated the fighters have ever been.”
But the upcoming installment?
“I love this season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,'” White said on Saturday (watch his entire post-UFC 177 media scrum below). “It’s way better than the last season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ … It’s a really good season. The reality is great, but the fights are f-cking awesome, and that’s all I really care about. That’s the way I feel about ‘TUF: Mexico’ too. Going into ‘TUF 19,’ I knew. I was like, ‘Oh my God. I don’t know how long people are going to hang in there for this.’ But we’ve got a good one this season. Everybody is going to be happy.”
Part of the reason for the turnaround is obvious: Rather than focusing on raw, still-undeveloped talent, “TUF 20″ pulled top fighters from around the globe. Four of the top 10 strawweights in the Unified Women’s Mixed Martial Arts Rankings – Carla Esparza, Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig – are cast members. So, too, are veterans such as Aisling Daly, Lisa Ellis, Angela Magana, Jessica Penne and Bec Rawlings.
One fighter will win the 16-woman tournament and become just the second female UFC champion to date. And if she can prove even a fraction as popular as its first – bantamweight titleholder Ronda Rousey – the UFC could a marketable star to its roster at a time when it desperately needs one.
White seems to think that’s a real possibility.
“Women’s MMA has come so far in 13 years,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. You guys are going to be blown away (by ‘TUF 20′). Yeah, there’s a Ronda Rousey on this season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ Absolutely.”