There is no substituteThe Ultimate Fighter is a reality show originally on Spike TV (then FX, now on FS 1), that started in 2005, pitting up-and-coming Mixed Martial Arts fighters against one another in a tournament format for a contract(s) in the UFC. The show usually splits the contestants into two teams, each coached by a top UFC fighter. With the exception of Seasons 2 (Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes were friends and refused the bout), 4 (no head coaches), 21 (which was between rival gyms), 22 (between then-Interim Featherweight Champion Conor Mc Gregor and perennial bantamweight fighter Urijah Faber), Latin America 2 (between Season 9 Lightweight winner Efrain Escudero and Season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum, a welterweight) and Brazil 4 (coached by middleweight legend Anderson Silva and light heavyweight legend Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, although Silva was forced to withdraw as coach early after failing a drug test), the coaches would be scheduled to fight each other after the season was over, using the format to hype the fight. So far, the show has had 22 US seasons and a 23rd currently running, one in China, four in Brazil, two in Australia, and two in Latin America. The 24th US and the third Latin American seasons are currently in production. All past seasons are available on UFC.tv via Fight Pass.Though it varies by season, there are either one or two weight classes represented, resulting in either two tournaments or one big tournament for the contract. The contract originally boasted as being "six figures"; however, that angle has been downplayed over the years. The exception being season 4, "The Comeback," featuring veteran UFC fighters vying for a title shot (this season also was the only one not to have coaches, with a rotating cast of UFC fighters and champs providing training assistance, most often Randy Couture and Georges St. Pierre). The 20th US season (A Champion Will Be Crowned) had a twist as well, as it was a tournament to crown the first female strawweight champion, with all the contestants guaranteed a contract with the UFC to fill out its new division. The 21st season also provided a new twist, pitting two rival Florida gyms (American Top Team and The Blackzillians) against each other vice coaches. The 24th season saw Flyweight champions from other promotions in a tournament to see who will receive a title shot at the finale.Most of the fighters are very inexperienced (some having no MMA record at all), although the first few seasons were full of fighters who were probably UFC bound anyways (no less than seven of the sixteen competitors in the first season fought for UFC titles). Occasionally a veteran of both the international scene or the UFC itself will make it onto the show (Mac Danzig, Roy Nelson, Wes Sims) or even Kimbo Slice, who is more famous for his YouTube backyard brawls than his formal MMA record.The show, particularly the first season, is credited with revitalizing interest in the UFC following "the dark ages" of MMA in the US post John McCain's crusade to have it banned following its brief popularity in the mid nineties. Particularly, the drama around Chris Leben and Josh Koscheck/Bobby Southworth and more importantly, the light heavyweight finale fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, which peaked at around 15 million viewers at one point. Having a time slot right after WWE Monday Night Raw probably helped as wellnote .The show gets tweaked on a regular basis to avoid stagnation, with varying degrees of success. Early seasons used a team challenge to decide which team chose the next fight, a concept that was dropped by season 4 in favor of the fight winner's team choosing. Later seasons had a tournament just to get into the house, which proved somewhat popular, although it was dropped for season 10, most likely due to Kimbo Slice's presence (but has returned for Season 11 and on, but dropped again for Season 13 due to the season being shorter than normal). It was also dropped for the 20th US season due to the championship being at stake and the 16 contestants already being considered the best in the world at their weight class (and will also be absent from the 21st due to the gym vs. gym dynamic). Season 4's experiment with veteran UFC fighters proved a miserable failure, with wily vets putting on boring fights trying to ensure they were healthy enough to continue to the next bracket. Season 17 changed the filming style considerably, with the show now resembling a serious film-shot documentary.The show has spawned six champions:
for the ultimate, it's what's in store
Bear witness to the fitness
of the modern warrior
(And it goes)
BOOM! "Another hit is landed"
BOOM! "Another hit is landed"
The stealth of a sniper
The strength of a viper
The Ultimate Fighter!
for the ultimate, it's what's in store
Bear witness to the fitness
of the modern warrior
(And it goes)
BOOM! "Another hit is landed"
BOOM! "Another hit is landed"
The stealth of a sniper
The strength of a viper
The Ultimate Fighter!
- Season 1 light heavyweight winner Forrest Griffin beat fellow TUF coach Rampage Jackson for the LHW title in a close decision at UFC 86.
- Season 2 heavyweight winner Rashad Evans. Though he dropped down to LHW immediately after the show, he was the one who beat Griffin via KO at UFC 92, then lost to Lyoto Machida via KO in his first title defense. He would challenge for the title again against Jon Jones and lose via decision.
- Season 3 light heavyweight winner Michael Bisping would later drop to middleweight, and after years as an almost-but-not-quite-contender, he finally got his chance for a title in a short-notice fight against the heavy favorite MW champ Luke Rockhold at UFC 199. Bisping knocked out Rockhold in the first round to become the first English UFC champ.
- Season 4 welterweight winner Matt Serra beat WW champ Georges St. Pierre at UFC 69 in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, becoming the first TUF winner to earn a championship belt. He lost the belt in a rematch with GSP.
- Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner Robert Whittaker had mixed success at welterwight after winning the show and thus moved up to middleweight. He is currently unbeaten in the division and at UFC 213 won the Interim Middleweight Championship.
- Season 14 bantamweight finalist T.J. Dillashaw defeated Renan Barao via TKO at UFC 173 for the BW title. He is the first contestant to win a UFC title without winning the show.
- Season 20 crowned the first ever woman's strawweight champion Carla Esparza in the finale. She is the who lost in her first title defense to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in brutal fashion.
- Nate Quarry: TUF 1 contestant, the first alumni to get title shot, although it was as a last minute replacement and way too early in his career. He was KO'd by Middleweight Champ Rich Franklin.
- Diego Sanchez: TUF 1 winner, lost to BJ Penn in a Lightweight Title bout via TKO.
- Kenny Florian: TUF 1 finalist. Challenged unsuccessfully for the title 3 times, losing to Sean Sherk (decision), BJ Penn (submission), and Featherweight Champ Jose Aldo (decision).
- Josh Koscheck: TUF 1 contestant, lost to Walterweight Champ Georges St. Pierre via decision.
- Joe Stevenson: TUF 2 winner, lost to LW champ BJ Penn via tapout.
- Patrick Cote: TUF 4 contestant, lost to MW champ Anderson Silva via TKO(injury).
- Nate Diaz: TUF 5 winner, Lost to LW champ Benson Henderson via decision.
- Gray Maynard: TUF 5 contestant, drew once and then lost via TKO in bouts with LW champ Frankie Edgar.
- John Dodson: TUF 14 winner, lost to Flyweight Champ Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson via a close decision in 2013, then lost a rematch in 2015 by a wider decision.
This series provides examples of:
- Acrofatic: "Big Country" Roy Nelson, winner of Season 10. Despite already being a top heavyweight, Nelson was forced to take the show's route into the UFC specifically because of his pudgy physique, which Dana White thought reflected poorly on the sport. Nelson easily dominated the MMA neophytes of his season.
- Adorkable: Roxanne Modaferri, who speaks fluent Japanese and geeks out about anime.
- Ambiguously Gay:
- Gabe Ruediger in Season 5, though he admitted he was just doing it to mess with the other fighters' heads.
- Nick Ring confirmed this as well about his Season 11 behavior, targeting the (according-to-him) homophobic Jamie Yager in particular.
- Arch-Enemy: The common motif for the coaches.
- Season 3 coaches Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz revived their bitter rivalry. Their post-show fight ended with Ortiz victorious, though Shamrock claimed the fight was stopped early. A third match resulted in Ortiz completely destroying Shamrock, though in the post-fight interview, he credited Shamrock with motivating him to train harder.
- Season 5 gave us B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver. They had been rivals since then-champion Jens defeated B.J. in his first lightweight title run, with Jens then leaving the UFC before they could have a rematch. B.J. went as far as to choose his team based on all the fighters who said that they didn't like Jens. This is one of the few bitter rivalries that seemed to have tapered off by the end, as the two embraced and congratulated each other after Penn won their second match. Jens has since trained with BJ several times, and even says that if his son Karson chooses to go into MMA, he would want BJ to train him.
- Season 6 had Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. Serra despised Hughes for insulting Gracie jiu-jitsu and treating GSP with disrespect during Season 4. Their match was delayed for several months when Serra was injured during training, with the two finally meeting at UFC 98. Hughes won a back-and-forth unanimous decision that was awarded Fight of The Night honors.
- During Season 9, Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping developed a severe distaste for each other during taping. Henderson won their fight by knocking Bisping out with a punch and then delivering a diving hammerfist that nearly decapitated the already-unconscious Bisping. They, controversially faced each other again in 2016, the champ, Michael Bisping won via a close against the 13th ranked Dam Henderson in the latter's retirement match.
- Season 10 coaches Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans had already clashed during a promotional face-off and brought considerable heat into the show. Evans surprised a lot of people by soundly out-talking Jackson, who spent a lot of time pouting over his fighters' poor performance. In the fight, Evans won a rather lopsided decision.
- Season 11 featured long-time rivals Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. An injury forced Ortiz to pull out of what would have been their third fight, and he was replaced by Rich Franklin, who knocked Liddell out near the end of the first round.
- Season 12 had Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck, with Koscheck playing up his hated heel persona against hugely popular babyface GSP. St. Pierre scored a one-sided decision win, and severely injured Koscheck by fracturing his right orbital bone.
- Season 14 had Michael Bisping and Jason "Mayhem" Miller, who apparently developed a distaste for each other due to their mutual habit of trashtalking. Miller won the first round of their fight on the strength of his wrestling, but quickly ran out of gas and was pounded out by Bisping in the second.
- Season 15 (Ultimate Fighter Live) was coached by Urijah Faber and then-bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who had a long-standing rivalry and were tied with one win each against each other. The season seemed to cool a lot of their distaste for each other, in a bit of a twist. The fight was postponed for several years, stemming from Cruz's injuries; after a successful return to championship status, Dominick Cruz defeated Urijah Faber via a lopsided decision.
- Season 18 had Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey against Miesha Tate, the woman Rousey beat for the StrikeForce title. Rousey and Tate had a particularly vitriolic rivalry for their first fight, which carried over (and then some) into their TUF season. Tate succeeded in taking Rousey into the third round (which was further than anyone else had ever made it), but lost by armbar.
- Season 1 of TUF Brazil was coached by Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort. Neither has ever been particularly fond of each other (Vitor knocked out Wanderlei in a UFC fight early in their careers) and the show exacerbated their rivalry. The fight has yet to happen due to injuries, scheduling, and both men's continued difficulties with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
- Season 3 of TUF: Brazil features Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. Sonnen has not been shy in the past about running down Brazilian fighters or Brazil itself, as well as jabs against Wanderlei (particularly, claiming many of his fights in PRIDE were fixed). Apart from their contrasting personalities and the inherent difficulties in Sonnen coaching a team of fighters when he doesn't speak the language, Silva and Sonnen got into a scrap within days of beginning filming and one of Silva's assistants sucker-punched Sonnen. As with Silva and Belfort, both men are in trouble with the NSAC (Silva for avoiding a test, Sonnen for testing positive for banned substances twice in two weeks time); Sonnen has retired and was given a heavy fine and a two-year suspension, while Silva was initially banned from the sport for life, a decision that was later struck down. Sonnen and Silva finally faced each other in 2017, though in a different promotion, Bellator, which saw Sonnen win via decision. In a fight that saw Sonnen win after multiple takedowns and ground and pound attacks, but not before Wanderlei caught him with punches a couple of times.
- Backyard Wrestling:
- Although there have been a few scuffles in the house, there has only been one incident where fighters actually staged an impromptu bout in the actual backyard of the house, complete with another contestant acting as referee. All three contestants were immediately ejected from the show.
- As above, Sonnen and Silva were the first coaches to fully go at it on the show (Shamrock and Ortiz came close, as well as Ortiz and Liddell) in TUF Brazil 3, which resulted in a full on dogpile brawl, in which one of Silva's assistant coaches sucker punched Sonnen and ripped off his jersey. Dana immediately fired him and warned Sonnen and Silva that if they wanted to fight for free, he'd be happy to not pay them.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Often a disliked fighter (or team) will win the show.
- Tony Ferguson got into a lot of heat for having a drunken meltdown one night and repeatedly ridiculing another fighter for having an estranged son. He won the show and has been apologetic about the incident.
- Also, Ferguson was on Team Lesnar and Brock is a crude, hyper-aggressive musclehead in comparison to the more friendly Junior dos Santos.
- Rashad Evans was criticized for showboating during his fights. This habit has caused him to be be a heel through much of his career.
- Michael Bisping is known for being extremely cocky, but won his fight and, several years later, won the Middleweight Championship. His villain status was confined mostly to American fans. British fans ate him up. His team won the featherweight division of TUF 14 too.
- Nate Diaz comes off as a thug, constantly flipping the bird.
- Team Hughes, led by Jerk Ass Matt Hughes, had two of their fighters in the finals.
- Carla Esparza showed quite an ego to her castmates.
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- Forrest Griffin, mostly thought to be a fun, good-natured fellow, goes completely off after a comment by Rampage Jackson in Season 7 and destroys several doors.
- Marcus Jones in Season 10, thought to be a gentle giant until he feels one of his friends has been threatened.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Season 14 coach Jason "Mayhem" Miller has quite an oddball personality and used some nontraditional training methods that seemed to really work.
- Jason Thacker during his brief time on Season 1.
- Noah Inhofer in Season 3, who won his fight in dominant fashion, began to crack after producers gave him a letter that they received from his girlfriend saying that she believed he had cheated on her. He at first asked for a phone call to talk to her, but when that was refused, quit the show. It turned out they had only been dating for six months, and White found it ludicrous that Inhofer would throw away his opportunity like that.
- Gabe Ruediger in Season 5, for not taking the training seriously and B.J. Penn called him out in front of everyone for that. Later, Ruediger's butt monkey status elevates when he tried to cut weight, failed, and eventually passed out. White was not happy and Ruediger was completely out cast, literally.
- Blake Bowman, in spite of being the show's Deadpan Snarker, is repeatedly called out by Mac Danzig for not being a real, dedicated fighter. Halfway through the season, Danzig became guilty and gave himself reminders to "be nice to Blake."
- Zak Jensen and Darrill "Titties" Schoonover in Season 10.
- Gilbert Smith in Season 17. He was called out and mocked by his own teammates for not having the right mindset.
- The Capital of Brazil Is Buenos Aires: Subverted in Season 8, where during the coach's challenge we find out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is possibly the only Brazilian that doesn't know how to play soccer.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Season 1 gave us Yoga-enthusiast Diego Sanchez, Season 2 had Luke Cummo and his wall sitting (and we later found out, piss drinking), Season 4 had crazy but ghetto-fabulous Shonie Carter, Season 5 gave us Corey Hill and his alter ego Buddy Row, Season 8's Axe-Crazy Junie Browning, Season 16's Julian Lane, aka. "let me bang, bro."
- Cluster F-Bomb: Dana White most of the time, most famously in his motivation speech in the first season (see page quote).
- Confession Cam
- Cooldown Hug: Happens repeatedly after emotional confrontations in the house, but it's almost always a formality, and both parties come away just as angry as before. Bobby Southworth hugging Chris Leben after his "fatherless bastard" comment had no effect. The trope is usually played straight after a fight, when both fighters have apparently gotten the anger out of their system.
- Cool Garage: The UFC Training Center. Most fighters who come on the show, even after watching it for years, are awed by the gym's awesomeness, as most come from small gyms that don't have a quarter of the equipment.
- Dark Horse Victory: Several of the fighters on the show go on in the tournament much farther than expected, defying the odds and beating several heavily favored (and often more experienced) fighters.
- Season 2 has Luke Cummo, who was picked dead last and won a spot in the finale, though he lost the championship to Joe Stevenson.
- Rashad Evans, who fought at heavyweight, even through he is still undersized as a light heavyweight. He won the championship, won the LHW belt, and is widely considered the best fighter to ever come out of the show.
- Matt Serra in season 4. While he was a favorite to win the show, his victory granted him an immediate title shot against newly crowned world-beater Georges St-Pierre, against whom he was a monumental underdog. Serra beat St-Pierre in the first round in what is widely considered the biggest upset in MMA history.
- Amir Sadollah won Season 7 with an professional record of 0-0 and a very explicit inferiority complex. Most of his victories were come-from-behind submissions. He stated at the end of the show that if you had lined up all the men he fought on the show and told him to beat them all, he would have refused to fight.
- One of season 12's Crowning Moments of Funny was when Koscheck was conned into abandoning his desired first draft pick, Michael Johnson, for Marc Stevens... who would lose to GSP's sixth pick, Cody McKenzie, in only sixteen seconds.
- In Season 17, possibly the biggest example of this trope as described by Dana White, is Kelvin Gastelum. He was picked last for Team Sonnen and is constantly underestimated throughout the show. He has triumphed over more favorable opponents such as experienced veteran Bubba McDaniel and the freakishly strong Josh Samman. In the finale, he was the underdog, but he managed an upset victory over explosive ROC champion Uriah Hall.
- Deadpan Snarker: Many, but Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, and Amir Sadollah are standouts.
- Deceased Parents Are the Best: Season 15 winner Michael Chiesa's father died during filming. It is revealed later in the season that one of the last things he was conscious enough to do was listen to the audio of Chiesa's fight and give a thumbs-up when he yelled "That was for you, dad!"
- Determinator: Season 11 winner Court McGee, who made it through the elimination fight in a sudden-victory round, lost his first fight in the house, and got a wildcard spot mainly by running after White (who had just announced that an injured winning fighter would have to relinquish his spot) when he'd left the training center, all but begging to get back in the competition. In all, he had five fights in six weeks. Also something of his in-ring style, as evidenced by his appearance at UFC 121 where he plainly lost the first round, won the second, and finished the fight in the third. Oh yeah, and in 2005, with his drug addiction at its worst point, he was at one point declared legally dead, and now look where he is.
- Double Standard: TUF 18 coach Ronda Rousey was very vocal before filming started about warning the women fighters not to "hook up" with any of the guys in the house, since they didn't "want to be that girl." She didn't say anything about the guys the girls would presumably hooking up with however.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the first season, fighters can be eliminated without ever having fought on the show. The first two seasons have physical challenges to determine who gets fight selection. All other seasons dispensed with the physical challenges and contestants are eliminated by losing fights. In early seasons, fighters who lost would leave the house, but later seasons have defeated fighters stay in as training partners and potential alternates.
- Eliminated From The Race: In this case, almost always by losing a fight, though sometimes by injury or being foolish and breaking the rules or asking to leave. Generally if it is the latter, you are probably never working for UFC again.
- In the first season, two fighters were voted out of the house by the coaches before they could even fight. This was tweaked in season 2 to the lowest picked fighters fighting each other to stay and was completely dropped afterwards. By season 7 there was a tournament just to get into the house, ensuring that everyone who was in had proven themselves and gave the show a bigger initial pool of fighters.
- The show initially had a "loser's house" that those who had lost went to in case a replacement was needed; this was dropped by Season 3 after they realized the winners still needed training partners. Now the losers stay in the house throughout the show in case a fill-in is needed.
- In Season 4, Jeremy Jackson was expelled from the house for hopping the fence at night (violating the show's rules) to meet a lifeguard.
- Season 5 had the most. Gabe Ruediger was kicked off the show for not making weight. Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas were ejected for having an unsanctioned yard brawl, along with Allen Berube who instigated the whole thing.
- Season 7 had two guys disqualified. The first was more sympathetic because Paul Bradley had to go because of a contagious skin disease beyond his control. The second was finalist Jesse Taylor, who managed to get himself disqualified after the show had wrapped by going on a drunken rampage through Las Vegas while screaming that he was a UFC fighter. An impromptu elimination fight was held to replace him as finalist.
- Season 11 would combine Season 7's "get into the house" fights with a wild-card berth, using twenty-eight fighters to start, fourteen getting in the house, and seven regular fights—the eighth fight being between two of the fighters who had lost their "get in the house" fights, chosen by the coaches and White. Court McGee would get back in through a wild-card fight due to his attitude of wanting to get back in by any means possible, and go on to win the season. Season 12 would reuse this format, except with the wild-card berth being chosen from the losing fighters already in the house.
- TUF Brazil 2 had Yan Cabral with a broken hand and Neilson Gomes with torn knee ligament sent home. Then, Daniel Oliveira was unable to make weight and he was promptly booted from the show.
- Season 18 saw not one, but TWO fighters expelled for not making weight. Anthony Gutierrez got a bye in the quarterfinals straight to the semis because of Cody Bollinger's failure to make weight. But then, he proceeded to not take his diet serious, despite essentially having a break the other still contending fighters did not have the luxury of. Gutierrez kept brushing off everyone's nagging at him about his eating habits, put on two pounds overnight magically the day of weigh in, and went on to miss weight by four pounds. He got zero sympathy from his opponent and coaches, and Dana White could barely look at him. Later on, Gutierrez was ripped online by fans due to him having wasted time for people who wanted to see a fight.
- Escalating War: The two teams often get into prank wars that escalate until contestants come to blows. The pranks reached a critical mass when one contestant ate sushi that another contestant had masturbated into. From that point on, later seasons had fighters Genre Savvy enough to not take their pranks too far.
- Face–Heel Turn:
- Matt Hughes in Season 2. Through most of his fighting career, Hughes was generally liked and seen to be a down-to-earth country boy. During his stint as a coach, however, he came off as much more of a Jerk Ass. It was especially pronounced during his stint as a guest coach on Season 4, when he repeatedly antagonized fellow guest coach Georges St-Pierre, earning him the ire of Matt Serra. He continued this trend during his second coach stint on Season 6. His attempts to connect with his team through Bible study backfired, and he ultimately came off as self-important and condescending.
- Ken Shamrock as a Season 3 coach to some. While a beloved legend, he didn't seem to be the best coach, giving guys days off they would rather be training, not bringing in a submission specialist to coach (opting for a "strength and conditioning" guy who seemed more suited for training bodybuilders than fighters), and being a bit full of himself.
- Quinton Jackson managed to avoid this during his first stint as coach opposite Forrest Griffin, but he came off quite badly during his second stint, against Rashad Evans. Though Jackson is a beloved Pride FC superstar, he quickly developed a bad attitude about losing, focusing on his own glory at the expense of his fighters. In one notable example, he abandoned a fighter who had just lost and left him to be consoled by the opposite team. Evans, who is generally a heel himself, missed no opportunity to call out Jackson for his immature behavior.
- Many started to dislike B.J. Penn after his disjointed coaching during Season 5. His dislike for opposing coach Jens Pulver seemed to consume all of his attention, at the expense of sanity and coaching skill. He started off the show by demanding to select team members based on whether they disliked Pulver or not.
- Tony Ferguson started off the show as a nice, tough, clean-cut kid. Toward the end of the show, Ferguson had too many drinks and went ballistic on Charlie Rader, mocking him about being unable to see his son due to child support issues. The other contestants were flabbergasted by his repeated and unmotivated personal attacks and his complete refusal to let the issue die. His apology during the finale did little to mitigate his tarnished reputation.
- Depending on your preferences, either Miesha Tate or Ronda Rousey as the coaches of Season 18. Both were well-liked (Tate in general, Rousey was a huge babyface star) before the show, but their behavior towards each other on the show turned people off to one or the other (and for some, both).
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Some fighters seem to show a surprising lack of skill and dedication for being on such a large stage.
- Jason Thacker on the first season, who struggled to even finish practice. He was the first to be cut from the show, without even being given the opportunity to fight.
- Wayne Weems of Season 5. During training, coach Jen Pulver noted he had difficulty doing even the most basic of MMA drills (like hitting the pads) and did not have any real skills. Later, the website Pro Wrestling Torch investigated his record, and while he did have a few legitimate fights, most of it was seemingly padded from pro wrestling events.
- Blake Bowman. Eventual season winner Mac Danzig repeatedly insisted that he was a nice guy, but not a fighter.
- Fat Bastard: Several contestants talk trash but fail to make weight.
- Gabe Ruediger from TUF 5.
- Cody Bollinger and Anthony Gutierrez from TUF 18.
- Bobby Southworth's struggle to cut weight in Season One (though he managed to make the weight, with the help of buddy Josh Koscheck and coach Chuck Liddell). This was also the first time most people ever saw how much cutting a large amount of water weight can suuuuuuuuck.
- Friday Night Death Slot: One possible reason why season 15 got such low ratings.
- Genre Savvy:
- Junie Browning, who insisted that a lot of his Axe-Crazy antics were intentional to get more camera time and recognition.
- His brother on the following season was the same, though he did not last long.
- Forrest Griffin has said he would often change his look every few days (mostly wildly varying his hair color) in order to make Manipulative Editing and out of sequence events more noticeable should it occur. It's been speculated that because of this, the producers have asked the fighters since to not alter their looks too much to facilitate editing (and could also explain the Limited Wardrobe).
- Good Colors, Evil Colors: Season 17 embraced this trope by putting the LHW champion Jon Jones in American colors, (red, white, and blue), while trash-talking Chael Sonnen was placed in black and grey. Sonnen repeatedly referred to his team as "the bad guys" in case the color scheme was too subtle. Ironically, Sonnen made a particular effort to be gracious, while Jones' team arguably had more heels.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Averted. The bloodier the wound, the better! Though in certain foreign markets, the messier wounds are greyed/pixelated.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Matt Serra, who looks, sounds and acts like this trope's former name.
- Heel–Face Turn:
- Chris Leben, who spent the early part of the first season being an obnoxious drunk, became an immediate sympathetic face after Bobby Southworth called him a "fatherless bastard." He had just told his housemates he recently met his birth father for the first time. Leben attempted to avoid Southworth to prevent a career-ending brawl, going as far as to sleep on the front lawn, but Southworth and fellow heel Josh Koscheck sprayed him with a garden hose. Enraged but still savvy enough not to attack his nemeses directly, he took his anger out on doors throughout the house. Although he lost the show, he would soon become a fan favorite fighter known for his willingness to put it all on the line.
- Tito Ortiz as a coach of Season 3. As the season started, most figured beloved legend Ken Shamrock would be the favorite and hated cocky heel Ortiz would be reviled; however, the season showed Ortiz to be a caring and effective coach and Shamrock to be somewhat bumbling and not into it much.
- To some extent Kimbo Slice, who was hated by many hardcore MMA fans and most expected to come off bad on the show; however Slice was shown to be very humble and eager to learn, earning him a lot of respect for even doing the show.
- Chael Sonnen as a coach of Season 17. People thought that the champion Jon Jones would be the better coach, while the outspoken heel Sonnen would stir up controversy. Surprisingly enough, Sonnen was well-behaved and earnest for his care for his team, while Jones allowed more discord to be spread on his team.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episode titles are fairly generic, although a few gems have slipped in. Notably "Waaaah!" (the Andy Wang crying like a baby one), "Titties" (Rampage Jackson's nickname for Darrill Schoonover throughout the episode, although apparently its been renamed since as "Sharks"), "Chicken Salad" from Brock Lesnar's comment to take "chicken shit and make chicken salad," and "Use the Force," based on Roxanne "The Happy Warrior" Modaferri quoting the Jedi Code before a fight.
- Insult Backfire: A lot of this happened to Josh Koscheck throughout Season 12.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Fighters are forbidden to leave the house grounds. The only cast member who hopped the fence (for a midnight rendezvous) has been caught. He was immediately ejected from the show and blacklisted from the UFC. Hope it was worth it!
- Technically, Chris Leben did also in the first season. Soon after the famous incident with him destroying the house after being sprayed with a hose, he walked out of the house late one night to make a phone call from a pay phone. Inexplicably, he was never punished for it, and it was never addressed again after showing him walking out. One can only assume the producers were begging Dana to keep him on the show at this point (being the most exciting part of the show so far), plus the confusion of what to do in that kind of situation (it was the first season, they were stil figuring out what they were doing). Ever since then Dana has been firmly adamant on bouncing out rulebreakers (with only maybe Junie Browning coming close).
- Insistent Terminology:
- Brock Lesnar told his fighters that he was going to "turn chicken shit into chicken salad." His fighters immediately balked at apparently being called "chicken shit." Even after Lesnar learned about his team's reaction, he stood by the expression and used it several times afterwards.
- Season 3's "Team Dagger!"
- In Season 12, Josh Koscheck decided to pick a fight with a medic that had been hired by Georges St-Pierre's team by repeatedly calling him a "male nurse." Male nurses are actually pretty common and make a good living, but the medic still took exception to Koscheck's attempt to insult him.
- Jerk Ass:
- Matt Hughes, who has been on the show in some way three times as a coach and has displayed some boorish behavior. In Season 2, his former "Aw Shucks" Farmboy persona crumbled in many viewers' eyes as he verbally abused several of the fighters. As a guest coach on Season 4, he managed to stir shit between Matt Serra and a trainer, insult Georges St-Pierre, and bizarrely referred to an African American fighter's "big lips." He made a concerted effort to try NOT to come off as a jerkass when he coached Season 6 against Matt Serra.
- During a short visit to his cousin Manvel Gamburyen, Karo Parisyan immediately started picking a fight with Nate Diaz, who is the brother of Nick Diaz, whom Parisyan had previously defeated. The confrontation culminated with Karo screaming "Do you know who I am, bro?!? You know what I could do to you?" Cousin Manny was left completely baffled by what had just occurred.
- Josh Koscheck in Season 1 (notable the taunting of Chris Leben). By Season 12, Koscheck had settled comfortably into his career as a heel and seemed determined to be as obnoxious as possible. He was a poor winner, a poor loser, and even stooped to picking a fight with a medic.
- Tony Ferguson in Season 13 seemed like a tough, clean guy. After a minor confrontation at the house, he mocked Charlie Rader's difficulty with child support and how the man was unable to see his son. The episode was appropriately titled, "Then It Turned Ugly."
- Kick the Dog: Josh Koscheck to Chris Leben. Leben was less than pleased.
- Let Me at Him!: A common motif. Many instances of fighters having to be held back from attacking another cast mate, being told to save it for the cage. Occasionally the coaches too,
- Ken Shamrock in Season 3, who had to be restrained several times from attacking hated rival Tito Ortiz. Season 11 had Chuck Liddell being similarly restrained, presumably from attacking, surprise, hated rival Ortiz (he seems to bring out the best in people).
- A particularly amusing example in Season 12 has Team Koscheck fighter Sevak Magakian responds to Team GSP fighter Alex "Bruce Leroy" Cacares' insults by flinging a napkin at him... before taking the long way around the table, freezing up once he was within reach of Cacares, and then screaming as he was finally held back by Team Koscheck fighter Nam Phan.
- Koscheck's own physical attack on GSP's team medic after a war of words.
- Julian Lane in Season 16, aka "let me bang, bro." He was constantly challenging people to fights when throwing temper tantrums. But one time came when he took it too far. Lane got so loud and swollen when challenging Dom Waters to a fight, and when he did not get what he wanted, he started bawling like a baby.
- Limited Wardrobe: Fighters are not allowed to bring anything with a logo on it. They are supplied with UFC and Tapout brand gear to make up the difference. Wearing their team jersey seems to be all but required for fight picks and fight days.
- Manipulative Editing: Several fighters and a few coaches have accused the show of this, but notably less so than other shows of this type.
- Ken Shamrock accused the UFC of editing the show specifically to make him look bad. Genre Savvy
- Forrest Griffin attempted an interesting subversion of this by altering his look every few days so any manipulative editing would be more apparent. In the commentary on Season 1, he pointed out several instances where this is apparent just by him being in the background with different colored hair in the same sequence.
- In Season 12, some very suspicious editing was done with the confrontation between Josh Koscheck and the medic. On the show, Koscheck looked especially inconsiderate in his war of words that ended in him getting physical with the medic. However, the unedited version of the event on the UFC webpage showed that the medic had made some pretty low comments about one of Koscheck's fighters, including making fun of his English among other things. While it does not excuse Koscheck, it does paint him in a little better light, but given that he was being made out to be the bad guy of the show (not that he needed much help)...
- Possibly in Season 18. On screen, Ronda Rousey talked to Dana White about wanting to cut weight with no prep in one day as a training example to her team post the weight failure in the semi finals. It appeared through editing, White talked her out of it. However, word leaked on the internet that she did, in fact, cut 20 something pounds in a day with no prep, along with the fact that the Coaches' Challenge shown in the next episode (rock climbing) was done during the weight cut. And Rousey won. Just to prove a point about heart to her team. It is unclear why this was left out of the show.
- Men Don't Cry:
- Many instances averted, but most famously Andy Wang, who bawled like a baby after losing his match, prompting his own coach, B.J. Penn, to make fun of him on national TV... and in fact, the episode title was "Waaaah!" This was, of course, after Penn yelled at the BJJ blackbelt the entire fight to go to the ground; Wang instead choosing to stand, bang, and lose. Penn later kicked Wang off his team, the first time this has ever happened.
- Gabe Ruediger multiple times.
- Mistaken for Racist: Matt Hughes claims this, after the uproar on the online forums when he made fun of Din Thomas' "big lips" in Season 4. Thomas is African American, and many found the comment racist. Matt insists it was just good-natured ribbing between friends.
- This is compounded with his singling out African American fighter Rashad Evans for showboating (See "Stop Having Fun" Guys on YMMV) for no apparent reason in Season 2, and has made several public remarks over the years about his dislike for half-Mexican Tito Ortiz, who does not even fight in his weight class (although to be fair, it's Ortiz we are talking about, and Evans rubs a lot of people the wrong way), and recently culminated with pictures of him holding white supremacist paraphernalia (he claims he had no knowledge of the meanings of the symbols). Hughes is retired now and works for the UFC in Talent Relations, and this could jeapordize his job.
- On TUF 18, Team Tate pranked Edmond Tarverdyan with "Edmond Rousey," which was a picture of Missi Pyle from Dodgeball. Even though Dana White tried to take down all the pictures, he missed one and Rousey eventually found out about this. She went ballistic and called Team Tate racists about the facial stereotypes of Armenians.
- Chael Sonnen insists he is not racist against Brazilians, despite several remarks he has made about the country and its natives in the past. Whether he actually believes anything he's said or was just doing his schtick was immaterial to Wanderlei Silva, who demanded he apologize and held up team picks until he did in TUF Brazil 3 (he refused and Silva eventually caved in and returned).
- Muscles Are Meaningless:
- In season 10, obese Roy Nelson stopped the jacked Kimbo Slice with ground and pound.
- In season 17, Luke Barnatt, a lanky giant from the UK, knocked out the heavily built Gilbert Smith with a flying knee.
- Nice Hat: In season 14, Akira Corrasani wore a fedora around the house to hide his bald spot.
- Not What I Signed On For: Some fighters, especially in the earlier seasons, are very put off by all the cameras and stuck in the house lifestyle. A couple have even quit the show over it. One fighter in season 11, Norman Paraisy, quit after the very first round. Five minutes was too much for him.
- Oh, Crap!: Season 11 had arch rivals Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell as coaches, and they absolutely hate each other. After one of Liddell's fighters quits, Dana White is sitting between the two and Liddell comments about how disgraced he was that his fighter tapped out to strikes. White, who is a tough guy, looks like he has soiled himself because Ortiz did in fact submit to strikes in their fight.
- Old Shame: Many of the early season fighters have gone on to become top contenders (and much better fighters), and openly wince watching some of their show fights. Forrest Griffin flat out said he could not believe he won Season 1 fighting the way he did.
- One of Us: Season 2 finalist Luke Cummo is an aspiring comic book artist. Season 5 coach Jens Pulver is an avid PC gamer, particularly in World of Warcraft. Season 6 winner Mac Danzig, an animal rights activist, photographer and a vegan. Season 10's Marcus Jones, despite looking like a Scary Black Man, is a sensitive soul who enjoys gardening and Dungeons & Dragons (though mess with his friends and you may push his Berserk Button). Season 12 coach Georges St. Pierre is very into paleontology (and history!), and Cody Mc Kenzie seems more of a hippy than a fighter. Season 18's Roxanne Modaferri began taking Tae Kwon Do lessons at 13 after watching Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and Dragonball Z, and readily quotes from the Jedi Code.
- Ordered Apology: Wanderlei Silva did this to Chael Sonnen in TUF Brazil 3 and refused to continue the show until he did (regarding past remarks about Brazil and its natives). However, Chael is The Unapologetic type and refused. Silva eventually caved in to the show's producers and returned.
- Overly Long Gag:
- Invoked during season 15, "where the magic happens."
- Hit them pads!
- Product Placement:
- So, so bad in the first two seasons. Sponsor Gillette's anti-perspirant was shown constantly, as well as being the "Team Challenge" sponsors. Additionally, supplement company Xyience got plenty of airtime in the second season, even showing "casual" conversations between the fighters and coaches on its effectiveness. Boost Mobile also got plenty of air time. Sequences also featured the contestants playing the latest hot video games.
- For many seasons, White would announce before each fight that the stoppage bonus is brought to you by the show's main sponsor.
- The main sponsor of the show gets a large decal in the center of the cage. The center of the cage is a strategic position, and the decals often have better traction than the rest of the cage. Coaches sometimes instruct their fighter to position himself on the decal. "Stay on Burger King!"
- Perhaps due to cultural differences, The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil is far more blatant with its product placement than the American show. Shots often zoom in on the brand logos of complimentary items the fighters are using. A number of sequences are also staged purely to pitch various items, such as protein bars, energy drinks, shaving cream, and Ford trucks. The show also has public service announcements, such as Dos Santos' lecture on preventing Dengue fever.
- Put Me In, Coach!:
- Said verbatim by Gabe Ruediger while weight cutting in the sauna. Written off as him being a drama queen.
- When contestants become too injured to fight, their replacements (selected from the pool of the defeated) are often chosen by their willingness to fight. One fighter chased Dana out of the house to beg him for the opportunity. Dana was so impressed that he gave him the fight on the spot.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Matt Serra, twice. After one of the trainers slights Royce Gracie for losing a fight to Matt Hughes, Serra takes it personally because he earned his BJJ black belt under the Gracies. Later, he overhears Hughes antagonizing Georges St-Pierre, prompting Serra to rant about what a "penis" Hughes is.
- Reality Show Genre Blindness: Some fighters, despite the show being on for several years, still fail to grasp the concept of showing up in shape, following the rules, and winning fights.
- Red Herring: Or possibly a Bait-and-Switch, heavily abused in Season 10. Kimbo Slice, the largest ratings grabber in the show's history, lost his first fight very decisively. After that, several subsequent episodes' previews for the next episode made it seem like Slice would be replacing someone and getting a second chance, which he never did.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: In an incredibly dumb move, Jesse Taylor went on a drunken rampage in Las Vegas after Season 7 wrapped, yelling that he was a UFC fighter and had no need to follow the rules. White immediately removed him.
- Sensual Spandex: Or at least Shonie Carter thought so. The other fighters on Season 4 were a little put off by his banana hammock fight shorts. Season 12 coach GSP was also taunted by opposing coach Josh Koscheck for his habit of wearing tight shorts in fights... by standing around in tight compression shorts, with GSP reacting by declaring, "I don't like to check out other guys."
- Serious Business: While the fighting is inherently serious, the inclusion of the "coaches challenge" and corresponding reward money turn normally mundane hobbies and activities into deathly serious competitions between rivals:
- Matt Hughes losing to Matt Serra in bowling, which neither had any real experience in.
- The ping pong match between coaches B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver in Season 5. Pulver won, and Penn's anguished scream of denial was hilarious.
- Ronda flipping off Meisha and gloating after winning an indoor rock climbing competition.
- Stepford Smiler: Roxanne "The Happy Warrior" Modaferri. After her loss, she's alternatingly shown being as chipper as ever around others and sneaking off to sob uncontrollably in private.
- Took a Level in Badass: Several of the contestants on the show have gone on to become coaches, including Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Matt Serra, Michael Bisping, Josh Koscheck and most recently, Roy Nelson.
- Future LW champ and TUF 19 coach Frankie Edgar applied to be a contestant on Season 5, but was ultimately rejected by the producers. He would go on to get into the UFC anyway, and beat one of the coaches, BJ Penn, for tge Lightweight Championship, draw once with and then knocked out contestant Gray Maynard (in two back-to-back fight of nights), and besting BJ Penn two more times. Each more impressive than the last.
- The Unintelligible: Pretty much any time a British fighter is on the show. Starting from Ross Pointon and Michael Bisping in Season 3, a LOT of the Brits get subtitled in the US run of the show. Bisping's English/Cypriot accent was so hard for some people to understand, that a common joke among the fans was that it was easier to understand Matt Hamill, and he was deaf. This made Season 9, US vs. UK, into a reading assignment for many. During Team UK's preliminary fights, one a UK fighter jokingly asks, "Please don't subtitle me." They had to subtitle him. It's interesting to note that the Armenian-born fighter speaking American English with a foreign accent is not subtitled, but the native English speakers using British English are.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In Season 13, the doorway leading to the cage area becomes increasingly damaged as the season goes on, to the point of being near destroyed during the semi finals. This is never addressed on screen.
- You Keep Using That Word: Clay in Season 13 kept referring to his closed injury as a compound fracture. A compound fracture doesn't mean you can see the bone under the skin due to deformity. A compound fracture means the skin is broken and the bone is exposed. In the end, it was a nasty dislocation. Here's a moulage (false) compound fracture for those who want to see the difference. It is still fairly graphic.