First airing in 2005, The Ultimate Fighter is the longest running sports reality show airing today. Praised by many for being the catalyst for the rise of the popularity of MMA in the eyes of the masses, the show continues to draw new fans to the UFC with its constantly changing show themes, such as in the case in the ninth season which employed a country vs. country theme, with the United States competing against the United Kingdom, or that time they highly marketed a certain cast member on the tenth season, Kimbo Slice. After twenty three seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, the show has produced a number of champions, top contenders who have stayed in the top ten rankings of their divisions for multiple years, and sadly its fair share of fighters who only fought a few fights in the UFC.
With so many seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, many of the winners of the show are forgotten, or, in some cases, their time on the show was forgotten. Amongst these forgotten fighters are some of the best fighters in the UFC today, while others sadly were dropped from the UFC so quickly, no one saw them fight past their Ultimate Fighter Finale Bout. With the 23rd season of the show, The Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs. Team Cláudia, recently coming to an end, it's the perfect time to take a look back at these forgotten Ultimate Fighter winners and shine a light on where they are now.
15 Mac Danzig
In The Ultimate Fighter 6 tournament, The Ultimate Fighter: Team Hughes vs. Team Serra, we saw the elite wrestling prowess of Mac Danzig who dominated the tournament by employing his superior ground skills. In the season’s finale, using the aforementioned ground skills, Danzig submitted Tom Speer via rear naked choke in the very first round to become The Ultimate Fighter Season 6 winner. In the UFC, Danzig went through his share of wins and losses, amassing a record of 5-8 in the UFC, dropping three in a row from 2012 to 2013. Unfortunately, Danzig would not have the opportunity to rebound from the run of losses. In 2014, Mac Danzig announced his retirement from fighting as a result of severe concussions, stating “I must take into consideration how important my sustained brain function is and how tragic it would be to have Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s, dementia, etc”. Mac most recently worked as a mixed martial arts consultant for the The Legend of Korra, a Nickelodeon television series.
14 Ryan Bader
Ryan Bader, who attended Arizona State University where he was college wrestling teammates with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and UFC middleweight CB Dollaway, was the first light heavyweight selected by coach Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter. Once on the show, Bader defeated all three of his opponents to fight Vinicius Magalhaes on the finale of the show. He defeated Magalhaes by way of TKO in the first round, becoming The Ultimate Fighter season 8 winner. Bader went on to fight in the UFC, winning his first five fights, notably defeating his former Ultimate Fighter coach Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Since that time Bader has gone on to amass a 21-5 record. He is currently ranked 5th in the light heavyweight division and is set to fight Ilir Latifi at UFC Fight Night: Arlovski vs. Barnett later this summer, aiming to rebound from his recent TKO loss to Anthony Johnson.
13 Matt Serra
Matt Serra competed on The Ultimate Fighter 4 Welterweight Tournament. He defeated all three of his opponents on route to winning the tournament, earning him a shot at the UFC welterweight belt against Georges St-Pierre. In a fight that the odds makers had Serra at a ten to one underdog, he rose to the challenge, forcing a TKO in the first round with a devastating session of punches. After a decade in the UFC, Serra called it quits in 2011, ending his career with a 17-7 record. Serra has kept himself intertwined with the sport after retirement, having served a period as a UFC on Fox analyst. He is currently one half of the UFC radio show UFC Unfiltered with Jim Norton and Matt Serra as well as a stable character on the UFC miniseries Dana White: Lookin' for a Fight. He started Serra/Longo Competition Team with MMA trainer Ray Longo, which currently trains former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman and Ultimate Fighter 15 finalist Al Iaquinta.
12 Rashad Evans
The New York native Rashad Evans was introduced to the UFC scene with his inclusion as one of nine heavyweights selected to compete on The Ultimate Fighter 2. Evans went on to defeat three opponents on route to defeating Brad Imes by split decision to become The Ultimate Fighter 2 winner. After the show, Evans opted to move down a weight division from Heavyweight to Light Heavyweight. Going through his 7 fights without a loss, Rashad was granted a shot at the Light Heavyweight belt against another Ultimate Fighter winner, Forrest Griffin. Though Griffin seemed to be winning the fight early, Evans blasted Griffin with a head kick in the third round, knocking him out. Unfortunately, after losing the belt in his next bout, Evans' career would be sidelined for multiple years due to a torn ACL and later a rejected cadaver ACL. In 2015 Evans returned from his absence to fight Ryan Bader. Since then Evans has amassed a 0-2 record. Aside from fighting, Evans is currently a commentator for UFC on Fox.
11 Michael Bisping
The Ultimate Fighter 3 was the second time the television series featured light heavyweight fighters. The UK native Michael Bisping, a light heavy champion in another organization, was selected as one of the fighters to compete on the show. During his time on the show, Bisping displayed his superior skills, defeating all of his opponents by TKO on route to becoming The Ultimate Fighter 3 winner. After the show, Bisping went on to have a few more fights in the light heavyweight division, eventually deciding to move down to the Middleweight Division. For the next several years Bisping would go through periods of wins and losses. Beginning in 2015 Bisping ignited his career, going on a three fight win streak, defeating the likes of C.B. Dollaway and Anderson Silva, earning him a shot at the middleweight title against Luke Rockhold on a 17-day notice after an injury forced Rockhold’s original opponent, Chris Weidman, to drop out of the bout. Going into the fight, Bisping was given little chance to win due to the limited amount of time he had to prepare for the bout and the fact that he had previously been defeated by Luke Rockhold. However, this did not discourage Michael Bisping who surprised the world, landing a devastating combination on Luke Rockhold in the very first minute of the first round becoming the first British fighter to win a UFC championship belt.
10 Nate Diaz
The fighter who brings his Stockton pride to every fight, Nate Diaz competed on The Ultimate Fighter 5. The JiuJitsu black belt Diaz defeated all of his opponents by submission on route to becoming the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 5. Nate is one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster as a result of his brash attitude and highpaced fighting style. Notably in 2012 Nate fought for the UFC lightweight championship against Benson Henderson ultimately losing in a decision. Shortly afterward a discourage Nate took a self-imposed leave from fighting returning in 2014 to fight Rafael Dos Anjos losing via decision. After yet another loss Diaz took another hiatus from the fighting returning in 2015 to fight Michael Johnson winning a one-sided fight against the top ten lightweight. Replacing Rafael Dos Anjos two weeks from the bout against Conor McGregor at UFC 198 Diaz shocked the world defeating the favored Conor in a submission. Nate is scheduled to fight in a rematch bout against Conor McGregor at UFC 202.
9 Travis Lutter
Yet another Ultimate Fighter winner who was thought to have so much potential but ultimately would not live up to the hype. Travis Lutter competed and ultimately went on to win The Ultimate Fighter 4 earning a shot at the middleweight title against Anderson Silva. Lutter was unable to meet the 186 weight limit for middleweight fights subsequently causing the bout to be changed to a threeround nontitle fight. The bout itself seem to be going Lutter’s way up until the third round where Lutter was submitted by Silva via a Triangle submission. After the bout, Lutter went on to lose two consecutive bouts leading to his released from his UFC contract making him the first Ultimate Fighter winner to be released from a UFC contract. Lutter went on to fight in two other fighting organizations Moosin: God of Martial Arts and Maximum Fighting Championship. Travis now owns and operates two martial arts training centers in Fort Worth, TX.
8 Diego Sanchez
In one of the most competitive seasons of The Ultimate Fighter Diego Sanchez defeated the likes of Josh Koscheck and Kenny Florian, two fighters who would go on to fight in multiple UFC champion fights on route to winning The Ultimate Fighter 1 middleweight tournament. The king of Fight of the Night bonus with six in total Diego has amassed a 289 record fighting in the featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, and middleweight at some point in his UFC career. A career highlighted by a Lightweight championship fight against Bj Penn and an epic back and forth fight against Gilbert Melendez. Even though he lost both bouts fans respected the all-out style Sanchez brought to the fights. In his last four bouts, Sanchez has amassed a record of 2-2. Sanchez is currently training at Jackson’s MMA, the training center for fighters of the likes of Jon Jones, Holly Holm, and Alistair Overeem preparing for his next bout.
7 Forrest Griffin
On the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, the popularity of the UFC was not in the realm it is today. Little was known in the eyes of masses about the sport of Mixed Martial Arts let alone the fighting promotion company, UFC. However on that night when Forrest had that emphatic bout with Stephen Broner on the finals of The Ultimate Fighter 1 the sport of MMA and the UFC itself were pushed into another level of popularity. Dania White president of the UFC stated that the fight was the "most important fight in UFC history”. After winning The Ultimate Fighter Griffin went on to win the light heavyweight championship in a controversial decision against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. On May 2013 Griffin announced his retirement from fighting as a result of chronic injuries, ending his career with a 19 -7 record. Shortly after his retirement Griffin was inducted into the UFC hall of fame. He now serves as UFC ambassador.
6 James Wilks
The Ultimate Fighter 9 The United States Vs. The United Kingdom was the first to feature a country against country theme of the show. The competing teams featured fighters from the respective regions. James Wilks was the first fighter selected by fellow Ultimate fighter Alumni Michael Bisping to represent the United Kingdom. Wilks defeated all three of his opponents by submission on route to The Ultimate Fighter 9 finale. In the finale, Wilks was initially intended to fight Jason Pierce. However, Jason Pierce was removed from the competition by Dana White. Despite the change Wilks defeated his new opponent Frank Lester winning The Ultimate Fighter 9. Once crowned the season’s winner Wilks went on to Fight in the UFC garnering a 1 2 record in his first three fights. In preparing for his next bout Wilks suffered an injury that would force him to step down from fighting for the entire 2011. In 2012 Wilks announced his retirement from MMA competition facing the possibility of sclerosis from the aforementioned injuries.
5 Roy Nelson
“Big Country” has been a crowd favorite since appearing on the scene on the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights. His allure has been his truck driver appearance and allout fighting style. In Nelson’s first fight in the Ultimate Fighter he fought and defeated popular former streetfighter Kimbo Slice with over six million television viewers tuning into the bout making the episode the highestrated in MMA history. Nelson went on to win the season of The Ultimate Fighter knocking out Brendan Schaub in the first round of the finale bout. Since that time Nelson has had fights in the UFC against some of the best fighters in the heavyweight division including the last UFC heavyweight champions Stripe Miroc, Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez, and Junior Dos Santos. With a 22 13 record Nelson is currently ranked number 12th in the heavyweight division. He recently fought on UFC Fight Night losing the bout to Derrick Lewis by decision.
4 Tony Ferguson
Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson competed on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Lesnar vs. Team dos Santos. As the third pick of Brook Lesner, Ferguson went on to dominate the competition winning all his bouts by either TKO or KO on the show. After winning The Ultimate fighter Ferguson proceeded to fight in the lightweight division of the UFC. After defeating his first two opponents in the UFC he suffered his first defeat against Michael Johnson. Rebounding from the defeat Ferguson went on to amass an 8 fight win streak, the longest active win streak in the lightweight division defeating the likes of Edson Barboza, Michael Johnson, and Josh Thomson. Ferguson currently has the best record for anyone coming out of the show with a record of 101 after The Ultimate Fighter.Tony recently fought at UFC Fight Night: McDonald vs. Lineker defeating Lando Vannata by submission. He is currently ranked 3rd in the UFC lightweight rankings.
3 John Dodson
John Dodson competed on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller as a Bantamweight. Dodson went on to defeat T.J. Dillashaw via TKO in the first round to become the season’s Bantamweight winner. After his capture of The Ultimate Fighter crown Dodson moved down to the flyweight division where he has won all but two of his eight fights. Notably, Dodson has had two attempts at the flyweight title both bouts against Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Unfortunately neither attempt yielded John the belt. Shortly after his second unsuccessful attempt at the flyweight belt, Dodson decided to return to the bantamweight division. In his first bout in the bantamweight division, he defeated Manvel Gamburyan by TKO in 37 seconds of the first round. He stated after the bout his intentions to remain in the division and pursue the bantamweight belt. He is currently ranked 9th in the UFC bantamweight rankings.
2 Kelvin Gastelum
The last pick of Chael Sonnen on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen Kevin Gastelum defeated all three of his opponents on route The Ultimate Fighter final. Odds were against Gastelum in the eyes of the public going into the final of the Ultimate fighter. He was set to fight Uriah Hall a man at the time garnering MMA press because of his domination in his fights in the show with his highlight reel knockouts. However, this did not affect Gastelum’s performance in the bout winning the match in a decision. After The Ultimate Fighter Gastelum went on to win his first five fights in the UFC. Although Gastelum’s career has been successful it has been at times overshadowed by weight issues which led to a temporary move to middleweight a decision made by the UFC execs. Since moving back to Welterweight Gastelum has gone 1-1 and is currently ranked 6th in the division.
1 Diego Brandao
Diego Brandao competed on the fourteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Bisping vs. Team Miller. The number one featherweight pick of team Bisping was a controversial character of the show involved in a couple out of fight altercations with Marcus Brimage and Steven Siler two other contestants of the show. Despite his out of fight actions Brandao went on to win The Ultimate Fighter with an armbar against Dennis Bermudez in the season finale. After his victory Brandao was thought by many to have a successful career in the UFC, however this unfortunately would not come to be. After winning his first four fights Brandao missed weight by an astonishing seven pounds in his fifth bout against Dustin Poirier. In preparation for his next bout Brandao suffered an injury forcing him to step down. Brandao was recently was released from the UFC as a result of a recent fail drug test and a felony arrest.
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