In 13 years and 27 series’ of The Ultimate Fighter, we have been treated to some great fights and all-around entertainment. The majority of the castmates never achieve their aspirations, but every now and again a real gem is born who takes the UFC by storm and proves that they belonged there all along. Now let’s take a look at the top 10 fighters to ever come out of MMA’s greatest reality show.
10. Matt Brown
Matt “The Immortal” Brown has been ever-present inside the UFC for the past 10 years. Brown was on season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter and reached the quarterfinals, but lost to Amir Sadollah. Despite this, Brown got his shot on the finale card and made the most of the opportunity by knocking out fellow contestant Matt Arroyo in the second round. That performance was enough for “The Immortal” to gain a UFC contract. Since then Brown has earned victories over the likes of Stephen Thompson, Jordan Mein and Diego Sanchez. Thus cementing his well-deserved place on this list.
9. Diego Sanchez
Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez is a fan favourite for good reason. You know as soon as the octagon door closes, if Sanchez is present inside the cage, you’re going to be treated to an all-out war. “The Nightmare’s” fighting style of bite down on your mouthpiece and swing for the fences has done the longevity of his career no favours, but nobody can name a boring fight which Sanchez has taken part in, and he will forever be remembered for his sheer determination to entertain everyone who was lucky enough to watch his fights.
8. Rashad Evans
Rashad “Suga” Evans won season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter as a heavyweight despite being much smaller than his counterparts. However, Evans moved back down to light heavyweight after winning the competition and has been present inside the UFC for 13 years and is still competing at the highest level of mixed martial arts. The pinnacle of “Suga’s” career has to be when he won the UFC light heavyweight title after knocking out Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 in 2009, but notable wins over Chuck Liddel, Tito Ortiz and Michael Bisping are all massive high points of Evans’ incredible career inside MMA’s greatest proving ground.
7. Ryan Bader
Ryan “Darth” Bader first appeared on our screens on The Ultimate Fighter season 8. He made light work of the other competitors on the show and proved that being the No.1 pick was the right decision as Bader cruised through the competition to lift the trophy. Since winning the show, Bader has picked up many notable wins against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Quinton Rampage Jackon and Rashad Evans just to name a few. Bader never got to taste title glory in the UFC, but since signing for Bellator and making his debut in 2017, he has become their light heavyweight champion. He is also partaking in the grand prix tournament where the winner will be crowned the heavyweight titleholder. Bader won in his first round fight against Muhammed Lawal where it took only 15 seconds for the American to knockout his opposition.
6. Forrest Griffin
Winner of the first ever series of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin has to be given a spot on this list. Griffin had given up on his hopes of being a mixed martial artist, but UFC President Dana White was able to convince the American to take part, and thank god he did. Griffin beat Stephen Bonnar in the finale in what was voted the 2005 fight of the year. He went on to become the UFC light heavyweight champion when he beat Quinton Rampage Jackson at UFC 86. Griffin ended his career with a 19-7 pro record and was rightfully inducted into the UFC hall of fame.
5. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz competed in Pancrase, Strikeforce, and the WEC before winning season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter. The second degree BJJ black belt under Cesar Gracie has been present in the UFC for 11 years now and has some impressive wins on his resume. Stockton’s own Diaz has never won UFC gold but wins over Donald Cerrone, Gray Maynard, Michael Johnson and a certain Conor McGregor, are all incredible highlights in the 33-year-old’s career.
4. Tony Ferguson
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson applied countless times to be on The Ultimate Fighter but constantly got knocked back. Finally in 2010, after becoming the welterweight champion for PureCombat, “El Cucuy” got his call-up to feature on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter. Ferguson found his feet fast with the step up of class of his opposition and was able to win the season in impressive fashion. Since winning the contract, Ferguson has had 13 UFC fights and has only lost one. Sitting on a 10 fight win streak “El Cucuy” is one of the top lightweights in the world, and the former interim lightweight champion will surely be in for a title shot when he comes back from injury.
3. Rose Namajunas
Since losing to Carla Esparza in the finale of season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, “Thug” Rose Namajunas has been on a mission. Despite a close split decision loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the 25-year-old has won every other fight she’s been in. “Thug” Rose’s ability to finish fights no doubt played a huge part in her getting a title shot against the Polish assassin Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas beat the champion twice and is now the queen of the UFC’s strawweight division.
2. TJ Dillashaw
It seems like an age ago, but it was only season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter we got our first glimpses of TJ Dillashaw. At the time Dillashaw seemed unsure of his own abilities and was quite picky about his opponents. Despite this, the American still made it through to the finale but lost to John Dodson. Since then, he has had a well-documented change of fight camps, and we have really seen Dillashaw blossom into one of the greatest fighters we’ve ever seen at 135lbs. Dillashaw has had two spells as the champion of the division, firstly beating Brazilian mastermind Renan Barao in spectacular fashion, and again by defeating Cody Garbrandt. A rematch has been scheduled between Dillashaw and Garbrandt and we can only hope its half as entertaining as their first encounter.
1. Michael Bisping
Michael “The Count” Bisping won season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter and has been one of the most active fighters inside the UFC for 12 years. Bisping suffered knock-back after knock-back in title eliminators throughout his career but never was he distracted from his goal of becoming a UFC champion. Finally, in 2016, Bisping got his title shot in a short notice fight against the champion Luke Rockhold, which he won by first-round knockout. Bisping announced his retirement last week and hung up his gloves with a 30-9 pro record. The Hall Of Fame surely awaits England’s own Michael Bisping.