Believe it or not, winning The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) used to mean something.
Indeed, winners of seasons one, two and four would go on to become champions, surpassing even the veterans that coached them during their time on the show. But the seasons since those early, more glorious days have been marked with mediocrity.
When Jonathan Brookins takes on Erik Koch at UFC Fight Night 25 tonight (Sept. 17, 2011) in New Orleans, Louisiana, he'll look to build on his success on the Spike TV reality show and chip away at that trend of inferiority.
Brookins won season 12 and while he did so at lightweight, storming back after a tough first round against Michael Johnson, he made the decision to drop down to 145-pounds, his more natural weight class, in his first Octagon appearance as an official member of the UFC.
He'll find the road will only get more difficult as he goes along.
Erik Koch has something to prove no different than Brookins. To the world, yes, but more to himself than anything. "The New Breed" is 12-1 in this just his fifth year in the fight game. On top of that, he's only 22-years-old.
There's plenty of time to grow and learn from past mistakes. And that's exactly what he's been trying to do ever since dropping a decision to Chad Mendes back in March 2010.
That defeat has served as an even bigger motivator for Koch than chasing a world title or becoming a legend in his chosen craft. Revenge is sweet and the quest for it may be even sweeter.
His three fights since then: three wins, all first round finishes, two "Knockout of the Night" awards. By the time he makes it back to Mendes, he just might be fighting for the featherweight title.
But not if he succumbs to Brookins, who also has his eyes set on a certain rematch within the 145-pound weight class. There's a lot of motivation to go around tonight.
Who wants it more?