Five best fighters to be rejected by Ultimate Fighter casting
Since it’s inception in 2005, The Ultimate Fighter has not only become a hit reality show with fans and fighters alike; it’s become a springboard to successful Mixed Martial Arts careers for several who were part of the show’s cast.
Over the past 14 seasons, the show has produced three champions (Matt Serra, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin), several perennial contenders and many more who have gone on to have staying power in the promotion. Further proof of the influence of the show; the forthcoming Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view event, UFC 136, will feature two title bouts involving TUF alumni, Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard.
However, for as many names who have made splashes in the sport as a whole, there are more who never quite got lucky enough to be cast for the show, despite their efforts in season tryouts. Some were merely turned away and had to fight their way back to the UFC, some were turned down but put directly into the UFC, others were selected but left off for one reason or the other; as was the case of former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar and Olympic gold medal winning wrestler Kurt Angle.
In honor of Angle (nearly cast on Season 10) and in lieu of Season 14′s current ongoing status, I give you my top five fighters who tried out for the show but never made it on television. To say these names have gone on to prominence would be underselling it, and all will leave you wondering what might have been if they HAD been picked for the respective seasons they tried out for.
5. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson
Tried Out For: Season 6
- In his UFC career, Johnson has become one of the welterweight division’s rising young stars and has delivered more than his fair share of highlight reel knockouts.
Had the Georgia native been granted his choice, he would have perhaps delivered a few of those knockouts on The Ultimate Fighter 6. Unfortunately for him, he was not selected to be one of the cast members for the season.
However, all was not lost for him, as he was brought in to the promotion later that year and quickly proved himself to be a name to watch by delivering one of his many cringe worthy knockouts; a 13 second TKO of Chad Reiner. 10 months later, he added one final reminder to the UFC that they should have picked him for the show when he needed just 51 seconds to deliver a crippling knockout to show finalist Tommy Speer.
Even though Johnson at that point was still a long term project in the sport, him not getting selected for Season 6 may be one case where you can’t help but wonder the age old question of “what if?”
4. Nick Diaz
Tried Out For: Season 4
- Stop for one second and just picture this: Nick Diaz showing his “no BS” attitude in the Ultimate Fighter house. Then imagine the prospects of a Diaz- Matt Serra, Diaz-Chris Lytle, Diaz-Din Thomas, Diaz-Rich Clementi or even Diaz-Shonie Carter fight.
The vision your currently having nearly came to pass; as the current welterweight contender was actually selected for Season 4 of TUF. Unfortunately, for reasons never fully disclosed, Diaz was off the competition and replaced with his one-time nemesis Jeremy Jackson.
Whether or not you’re a Diaz fan; at worst the prospects of all the previously mentioned scenarios would have been interesting. It certainly would have led to good television and perhaps a spike in the ratings.
3. Jon Fitch
Tried Out For: Season 1
- When discussing the history of the show, and the question is posed as to which season was the best as a whole; more often than not Season 1 is considered the flag bearer of success.
When you look at the cast, and the success they’ve had since the show, it’s certainly simple to understand why the first is held in high regard; as the show produced Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Chris Leben, Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick and Nate Quarry.
As good as that cast was, imagine how good it would have been with Fitch on it.
This scenario nearly came to pass, as Fitch was actually selected for the show. In fact, he was so close to being part of the cast; had he been any closer to being in the house, he would have been witness to Dana White’s infamous speech and Leben’s infamous spritz.
It wasn’t meant to be however, as on his way to the airport to participate in the show, Fitch was contacted and notified he had been replaced by someone else.
Since then, Fitch has gone on to become one of the sport’s top welterweights. While Season 1 is generally considered one of the best for talent, it can only be said that having Fitch on (regardless of whether or not you feel his style is exciting) would have only made it that much better.
1a. Jon Jones
Tried Out For: Season 8
- In an extremely short period of time, the New York-native Jones has quickly catapulted himself to the top of the ultra-competitive light heavyweight division and the pound-for-pound rankings. One of the sport’s more polarizing figures; Jones continues to put forth impressive performances, win impressively and raise eyebrows of fans and the UFC brass alike each fight he’s in.
Jones, like many other aspiring young fighters in the sport, hoped to gain notoriety and recognition in the sport by appearing on “The Ultimate Fighter.” During his tryout for the eighth season, the 20-year-old Jones quickly caught the eye of Dana White and Joe Silva, however due to his age at the time, he was disqualified from the selection process (you have to be 21 to be on the show).
There certainly is some irony here. People may most remember Season 8 as the one where Dana White made a lofty and boastful prediction that a New Yorker from the cast would be the next big thing in the sport. While his prediction of success for Phillipe Nover may have missed, a season 8 hopeful and New York native DID wind up becoming what White projected. Unfortunately for he and the show, that person was the one who was not selected due to age regulations.
1. Frankie Edgar
Tried Out For: Season 5
- Speaking of irony……
After UFC 136′s scrap between Edgar and Gray Maynard; the two will be forever linked to one another due to their trilogy of fights and rivalry that may have been the lightweight division’s best since BJ Penn- Jens Pulver.
Little known fact however is that the two nearly were cast members on Season 5, featuring Penn and Pulver as coaches. The New Jersey based scrapper tried out for the competition and caught the eye of the UFC brass, displaying the same scrappy nature and unbreakable spirit he’s shown in each of his fights.
While he wasn’t selected for the cast, Edgar was quickly snatched up by the promotion and quickly proved himself to be one of the top lightweight fighters in the sport; highlighted by his lightweight title victory and becoming the only person to pick up back-to-back wins over Penn.
As Edgar and Maynard step in to the cage at UFC 136 to face off for the third and final time; keep in mind the two very well COULD have crossed paths on Season 5.