The UFC announced today that The Ultimate Fighter will debut on FX on Friday, March 9 as part of a two-hour season premiere beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The show will then air for one hour at 10 p.m. ET/PT every Friday for 13 weeks on FX.
UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and “The California Kid” Urijah Faber will serve as coaches on the upcoming season, with lightweight and welterweight contestants competing for two, six-figure UFC contracts.
“We’re producing ground-breaking television with The Ultimate Fighter LIVE and we can’t wait to kick this season off with FX in March,” UFC President Dana White said. “It’s going to be can’t-miss TV. Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber are two incredible personalities who also happen to be two of the best fighters in the world. They genuinely dislike each other and I expect this to make for the best season yet.”
“We believe that Dana and Lorenzo (Fertitta), along with Executive Producer Craig Piligian, have come up with exciting new changes to the format of The Ultimate Fighter that will expand and grow the series,” said Chuck Saftler, Executive Vice President, FX Networks. “The fact that the fights at the end of each episode will now be televised live is certain to create a sense of urgency for UFC fans. Furthermore, the move of TUF to Friday nights will provide a great ratings boost to the network.”
The rivalry between coaches Cruz and Faber dates back to March 2007, when Faber handed Cruz his first and only professional loss in a 145-pound bout. The 26-year-old Cruz avenged that loss this past July, defeating Faber by unanimous decision to retain the bantamweight crown in a Fight of the Year candidate. With the series now even, Cruz and Faber look to settle the score as TUF coaches, followed by a title fight in mid-2012 inside the Octagon.
Undefeated at 9-0 since dropping to bantamweight in 2008, San Diego’s Cruz (19-1) has surged to the top of the division thanks to unorthodox striking, tremendous cardio, and aggressive wrestling. Owner of wins over the likes of Faber, Demetrious Johnson, Scott Jorgensen, Joseph Benavidez (twice), and Brian Bowles, “The Dominator” has long sought an opportunity to serve as coach on The Ultimate Fighter. The chance to coach opposite his longtime rival makes the opportunity that much sweeter.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a gym rat and love learning and teaching mixed martial arts,” Cruz, who trains at Alliance MMA in San Diego, said. “This is a dream come true. To get a chance to coach TUF and beat Faber again is all the motivation I need. This is going to be an insane season of The Ultimate Fighter.”
Faber cemented his place as a pioneer in the lighter weight divisions after holding the WEC featherweight title for a span of over two years from 2006-2008. Boasting victories over the likes of Cruz, Jeff Curran and Jens Pulver at 145-pounds, “The California Kid” dropped to his more natural weight class of 135-pounds in November 2010 in search of his second world title. He’s since been on a tear, most recently submitting former champion Bowles at UFC 139.
Now, the 32-year-old turns his attention to another one of his passions – coaching.
“I can’t wait to be the next coach on The Ultimate Fighter,” Faber, whose gym in Sacramento has helped produce UFC stars Benavidez, Chad Mendes and Danny Castillo, said. “I am looking forward to mentoring a bunch of hungry and talented fighters. The new cast needs to be ready to work hard and learn! Having Dominick coach on the opposite side couldn’t be more perfect. I’m not too thrilled about being in each other’s space for an extended period of time, as I am sure we are going to get on each other’s nerves. But I can’t wait to mentally beat him up as a coach, and then literally beat him up in the cage and swipe that UFC strap.”