Top 15 Best Coaches on The Ultimate Fighter

Recently, we made a list for the absolute worst coaches for The Ultimate Fighter, based on the results of each coach’s respective season. The results spoke for themselves as the coaches listed were never able to have a fighter on their team win the tournament or beat their rival coach in the coaches’ fight at the end of the season, for the most part. This list is designed to look at those who excelled at coaching while wearing the jersey, according to the overall results of the season. These coaches were able to pick the best fighters and fights, train the fighters to succeed, and beat the opposing coach

Note: As the season is still ongoing, Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez were not considered for this list.

Coaches were ranked according to the following guidelines:

- Coaches with tournament winners will be ranked above those who do not. This is the most important ranking as this is the overall goal for each season. Coaches who have done multiple seasons do receive a bump up in the ratings because of this, but it is equaled out by the fact of the difficulty involved with coaching a single fighter to winning the tournament, let alone multiple tournaments. This also has the equal negative effect for coaches who worked multiple seasons and never won.

- If there is a tie between coaches, then the coach who has won the most coaches’ fight at the end of the season is ranked higher. If a fighter was a replacement for an absent or injured coach, the win/loss goes for the person who actually fought. Coaches who did not fight at the end of the season will be ranked lower than a coach with a losing record.

- If there is still a tie then the coach with more wins in the first round of the tournament will be ranked higher. For example, Rashad Evan’s team had a first round record of 7 – 1 which would be ranked higher than Brock Lesnar’s record of 4 – 4. If there is still a tie, then both coaches will be listed as a tie.

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15 Roy Nelson (TUF Season 16)

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 1 – 0 (Colton Smith)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat Matt Mitrione at TUF 16 Finale)

First Round Record: 4 – 4

Despite having one of the most lackadaisical philosophies to coaching his fighters, Roy Nelson seemed to have it right when it came to how to win the TUF tournament. By telling his fighters that the best way to win would be to grind out decisions in the leadup to the finals, Team Nelson member Colton Smith would do just that and beat Team Carwin member Mike Ricci in order to win the tournament. Nelson would then win the coaches’ fight against replacement fighter Matt Mitrione, knocking him out in the first round.

14 Georges St. Pierre (TUF Season 12)

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Tournament Winner: 1 – 0 (Johnathan Brookins)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat Josh Koscheck at UFC 124)

First Round Record: 5 – 3

Deciding to go a different route than other coaches on TUF, GSP decided to act more as a training partner to his fighters and have his coach, Greg Jackson, act as head coach during training sessions. This system would work as Team GSP would completely shut out Team Koscheck of the tournament finals, which featured Michael Johnson and eventual winner Jonathan Brookins. St. Pierre would then go on to demolish rival coach Josh Koscheck in their title fight at UFC 124, winning by unanimous decision and breaking Koscheck’s orbital bone in the process.

13 Forrest Griffin (TUF Season 7) 

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Tournament Winner: 1 – 0 (Amir Sadollah)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat Rampage Jackson at UFC 86)

First Round Record: 6 – 2

In the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin would coach against then-Lightheavyweight Champion Rampage Jackson. Team Griffin would complete school Team Rampage, winning six out of eight preliminary round matches. Team Griffin would even shut out Team Rampage in the finals until Jesse Taylor was removed from the fight due to incidents that occurred in Las Vegas, with CB Dollaway eventually replacing him and losing to Team Griffin fighter Amir Sadollah. Griffin would then go on to beat Rampage for the title, beating him by unanimous decision at UFC 86. 

12 Rashad Evans (TUF Season 10)

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Tournament Winner: 1 – 0 (Roy Nelson)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat Rampage Jackson at UFC 114)

First Round Record: 7 – 1

Speaking of guys who completely schooled Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans almost did something only one other coach on The Ultimate Fighter has ever been close to doing, by almost completely shutting out his opposing coach in the preliminary round of the tournament. Team Evans went on a seven fight win streak before Team Rampage fighter Marcus Jones won his prelim fight against Team Rashad member Mike Wessel. The finals would eventually be between Team Evans fighters Roy Nelson and Brendan Schaub, with Nelson winning by first round knockout. Evans would then beat Rampage by unanimous decision at UFC 114 after Rampage had finished filming The A-Team movie.

11 Wanderlei Silva (TUF Brazil 1 and 3) 

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Tournament Winner: 2 – 2 (Rony Jason in Brazil 1 and Antonio Carlos Junior in Brazil 3)

Coach Fight Record: 0 – 1* (lost to Rich Franklin who replaced an injured Vitor Belfort at UFC 147, Wanderlei Silva did not compete in fight against Chael Sonnen after Silva was pulled due to not obtaining a fight license and refusing to take a random drug test)

First Round Record: 5 – 11

Despite having a .313 win percentage in preliminary fights, Pride legend Wanderlei Silva has been able to get his fighters to the finals of TUF tournaments. With one of his fighters winning in each of the seasons that he has coached, Wanderlei has a .500 record in regards to fighters winning the tournament. Unfortunately he could not find the same success in the coaches’ fights as he lost the only one he was involved in, losing by unanimous decision to replacement fighter Rich Franklin, in a rematch of their UFC 99 fight.

10 Matt Hughes (TUF Season 2 and 6)

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 2 – 1 (Joe Stevenson in Season 2 and Mac Danzig in Season 6)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat Matt Serra at UFC 98)

First Round Record: 6 – 10

With a .375 prelim fight record, it seemed like Matt Hughes would find it hard to get his fighters to the finals, yet he has had two fighters win in the finals, with his only loss coming from Team Franklin member Rashad Evans beating Brad Imes in the Heavyweight finals of The Ultimate Fighter season 2. Hughes would only have one coaches’ fight as his first time coaching was against Middleweight Rich Franklin which made a fight against him not an option. His one coaches’ fight would be against another former Welterweight Champion when he beat Matt Serra at UFC 98 by unanimous decision.

9 Chael Sonnen (TUF Season 17 and Brazil 3)

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 2 – 1 (Kelvin Gastelum in Season 17 and Warlley Alves in Brazil 3))

Coach Fight Record: 0 – 1* (lost to Jon Jones at UFC 159, pulled from fight with Wanderlei Silva due to failed drug test)

First Round Record: 8 – 8

Coaching two seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, Chael Sonnen has shown himself to be a competent coach for up and coming fighters. In his first season coaching he would completely shut out rival coach Jon Jones of the finals, with Kelvin Gastelum eventually winning. Then in the third season of TUF Brazil, he would almost shut out Wanderlei Silva from the finals with three of his fighters making it and Warlley Alves winning the Middleweight tournament. Sonnen would lose the coaches’ fight against Jon Jones by TKO in the first round and would never have the coaches’ match against Silva as both men faced drug test and licensing issues prior to the fight.

8 Tito Ortiz (TUF Season 3 and 11)

Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 2 – 1 (Kendall Grove and Michael Bisping in Season 3)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0* (beat Ken Shamrock at UFC 61, pulled from fight with Chuck Liddell due to injury)

First Round Record: 10 – 6

“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” has really excelled at coaching on The Ultimate Fighter, especially in the third season against Ken Shamrock where he went 6-2 in the prelim round and almost shutting out Team Shamrock from the finals. Tito would then beat Shamrock at UFC 61 by TKO in the first round. In his second coaching effort he would struggle against longtime rival Chuck Liddell, himself almost having his team shut out of the finals. Even worse, Tito would be pulled from the coaches’ fight due to a recurring neck injury, and replaced by go-to replacement coach Rich Franklin.

7 Cain Velasquez (TUF: Latin America)

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Tournament Winner: 2 – 0 (Alejandro Perez and Yair Rodriguez)

Coach Fight Record: NA (pulled from fight against Fabricio Werdum due to injury)

First Round Record: 6 – 2

In the first season of the Latin American edition of The Ultimate Fighter, Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez faced off against top contender Fabricio Werdum. Cain excelled at coaching his team to victory, going 6-2 in the prelim round and getting three fighters to the finals, almost shutting out Werdum. Team Velasquez would win both tournaments giving Velasquez a perfect record for tournament winners, although he would eventually drop out of the coaches’ fight due to an injury and causing Werdum to face off against Mark Hunt for the Interim Heavyweight Title.

6 Miesha Tate (TUF Season 18)

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 2 – 0 (Chris Holdsworth and Julianna Pena)

Coach Fight Record: 0 – 1 (lost to Ronda Rousey at UFC 168)

First Round Record: 4 – 4

In the first season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring both female fighters and coaches, bitter rivals Miesha Tate and Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey faced off against one another, coaching both female and male Bantamweights. With two very different coaching styles, it was Team Tate that would emerge victorious, with Chris Holdsworth and Julianna Pena winning their respective tournaments. Tate would then have a fight against Rousey for the Women’s Bantamweight belt, losing to her again by armbar.

5 Patrick Cote (TUF Nations: Canada vs. Australia)

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 2 – 0 (Chad Laprise and Elias Theodorou)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat Kyle Noke at The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale: Bisping vs. Kennedy)

First Round Record: 5 – 3

In a season coached by two former Ultimate Fighter competitors, Patrick Cote faced off against Kyle Noke in coaching Welterweight and Middleweight fighters. Team Canada would do fairly well winning five out of eight prelim fights and would eventually pull off a double shut out in the finals, which has been done only one other time during the entire run of The Ultimate Fighter. So with both tournament winners being from Team Canada, Cote would cap off a great season as TUF coach by beating Noke by unanimous decision in the season finale.

4 Frankie Edgar (TUF Season 19)

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 2 – 0 (Eddie Gordon and Corey Anderson)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 0 (beat BJ Penn at TUF 19 Finale)

First Round Record: 5 – 3

In the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Frankie Edgar coached Middleweights and Lightheavyweights opposite rival fighter BJ Penn, who came out of retirement to coach on the show and face Edgar for a third time. Team Edgar would dominate the season, completely shutting Team Penn out of both tournament finals. It would only get worse for Penn as Edgar would absolutely demolish him in the coaches’ fight, winning in the third round by TKO and causing the former Welterweight and Lightweight Champion to announce his retirement once again.

3 Michael Bisping (TUF Team USA vs. UK and Season 15)

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Tournament Winner: 3 – 1 (Ross Pearson and James Wilks in USA vs. UK and Diego Brandao in Season 15)

Coach Fight Record: 1 – 1 (lost to Dan Henderson at UFC 100 and beat Jason Miller at TUF 15 Finale)

First Round Record: 7 – 9

Proving that he could be successful as a coach as well as a fighter on The Ultimate Fighter, Michael Bisping has been able to find immense success on the show. In his first season as a coach he faced off against Dan Henderson in a USA vs. UK themed season, almost shutting Team USA out of the finals, but still winning both tournaments. He would then face off against Jason “Mayhem” Miller in the 15th season of the show, winning the Flyweight tournament with Diego Brandao. Bisping would break even on coaches’ fights as he would lose to Henderson at UFC 100 in one of the most memorable knockouts in MMA history, but he would beat Miller by TKO in a lopsided fight at the TUF 15 season finale.

2 “Big Nog” Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (TUF Season 8 and Brazil 2)

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Tournament Winner: 3 – 0 (Efrain Escudero and Ryan Bader in Season 8 and Leonardo Santos in Brazil 2)

Coach Fight Record: 0 –2 (lost to Frank Mir at UFC 92 and lost to Fabricio Werdum at UFC on Fuel TV: Nogueira vs. Werdum)

First Round Record: 7 – 9

Pride legend and former UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has been able to share his MMA knowledge in two seasons as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. In his first time coaching, he would falter in the prelims going 3-5, but having each of those fighters make the finals, with Efrain Escudero and Ryan Bader winning their respective tournaments. Then in the second season of TUF Brazil, he would shut out Team Werdum in the finals of the tournament, giving him a record of 3-0 with tournament winners. Unfortunately, he would not find the same success in the coaches’ fights as he would lose by TKO to Frank Mir at UFC 92 and then lose by submission to Fabricio Werdum at UFC on Fuel TV: Nogueira vs. Werdum.

1 Chuck Liddell (TUF Season 1 and 11)

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Tournament Winner: 3 – 0 (Diego Sanchez and Forrest Griffin in Season 1 and Court McGee in Season 11)

Coach Fight Record: 1 –1 (beat Randy Couture at UFC 52 and lost to Rich Franklin at UFC 115 after Franklin replaced Tito Ortiz)

First Round Record: 9 – 5

It should not be a surprise that “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell is the number one ranked coach from The Ultimate Fighter. In the two seasons he coached on the show, he not only had an impressive win/loss record in preliminary fights, but also won all three of the tournaments he coached and won one of his coaches’ fights. In fact, that win against Randy Couture at UFC 52 is what pushed Liddell into the top spot over Big Nog as top coach. Though he would still get the top spot regardless as his win/loss record was slightly better than Noguiera’s .

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