The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) mixed martial arts reality series is often referred to as the single-most important development in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
When the first episode debuted on Spike TV on January 18, 2005, the promotion was in dire straits. It was already about $40 million in the hole and it had essentially bankrolled a show on television to gain critical traction and exposure.
It was a huge dice roll -- if the show flopped it could have spelled the eventual end of the Zuffa-owned organization. Fortunately for them, and the millions of fans now scattered across the globe, it was a smash hit thanks in large part to the sensational three-round light heavyweight final brawl between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar.
Griffin ended up with his arm raised in the end, along with Diego Sanchez, who was the middleweight winner after totally dominating Kenny Florian. In hindsight, however, more was won that night than just two fights -- the entire concept won over a legion of MMA fans literally overnight.
That crowd has multiplied year-over-year like Smallpox, turning the UFC eventually into the premier promotion on the planet. In fact, several reports indicate that the company now has an estimated worth of $1 billion.
Regardless of how accurate that figure is or isn't one thing is certain: The Las Vegas-based owners (and casino moguls) pushed all their chips to the center of the table with TUF and are now playing with a mountain of house money.
And it doesn't appear to be dwindling anytime soon.
To pay tribute to this seminal moment in history, as well as to honor the fighters who essentially made it all happen, MMAmania.com has learned that the UFC and Spike TV are in the process of putting together a reunion show. We have learned that several fighters are actually in "Sin City" right now filming for the episode.
Of course, several of the fighters from that season are now some of the biggest stars, meaning that there will not be any fights. It's likely an opportunity to reflect on the experience and share a few good laughs, which doesn't appear to be in short supply.
The original TUF season featured several names that are still in the UFC fold today, including Griffin (now light heavyweight champion), Sanchez, Florian, Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, Nate Quarry and others, as well as coaches Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture (currently estranged but still considered heavyweight champion for legal reasons).
Expect most of those participants to appear on the reunion show, which should air sometime in early 2009. Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more details ... this should be good.