The first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) had then-light heavyweight champ Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell as its coaches. Two competitors, yes, but no animosity existed between the two. They were simply two athletes who happened to be at odds inside the Octagon.
If there was no ill will between the two 205-pounders, there was even less between season two coaches Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes. Not only were they separated by a weight class which made an end of season showdown between the two impossible, they were chummy beyond belief, like two best friends at summer camp. It seemed the only tension the two had existed in their own desire to avoid "losing."
The first couple of seasons of TUF hinged its drama on the men fighting for a spot on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster, rather than the coaches chosen to lead them towards their goal.
That all changed in 2006.
Much like Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, TUF 15 coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber have a bit of history. "The California Kid" defeated Cruz at 145 pounds while the current bantamweight champ bested Faber last year at 135 pounds.
Their three month journey begins tomorrow (Mar. 9) when the first FX season of TUF premieres. We'll use this opportunity to take a look back at another TUF blood feud, its first and likely its most infamous.
After his UFC 51 victory over Vitor Belfort in early 2005, Ortiz became a free agent and pursed his option outside the Octagon. He showed up in a professional wrestling ring as a special guest enforcer -- and despite not being known for his heavy hands, managed to "knock out" Jeff Jarrett - and received some interest from PRIDE Fighting Championships but nothing materialized.
Toward the end of the year, UFC President Dana White not only announced Ortiz's return to the promotion but also named "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" as a coach for the third season of TUF opposite none other than his old rival Shamrock.
The feud dates all the way back to UFC 13 where Ortiz made his Octagon debut as a tournament alternate. When a fighter dropped out due to injury, he slid into the spot to face Lion's Den fighter Guy Mezger. Surprisingly, the younger fighter was getting the better of the Shamrock-trained veteran but a wonky doctor stoppage helped Mezger pull out the victory.
A rematch was booked two years later. This time there was no doctor stoppage and Ortiz completed the job he had started at UFC 13. One offensive t-shirt later and Shamrock was climbing up on the cage and wagging his finger in Ortiz's face.
It was right then the UFC's first great rivalry was born.
By this point, "The World's Most Dangerous Man" was waist deep in a career as a pro wrestler so the feud was kept alive mostly in interviews. So by the time they were booked to face off at UFC 40, the fight was hyped as the biggest in the sport's history.
Ortiz -- the light heavyweight champion at the time -- defended his title against Shamrock, stopping him at the end of the third round. It seemed like a decisive victory for the champ and a definitive ending to the feud. Shamrock needed only say one phrase to cast enough doubt to warrant a second fight: torn ACL.
At UFC 61, the two finally met again inside the Octagon. More than seven years after Ortiz had beaten Mezger, it looked like the rivalry between "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" and the founder of the Lion's Den would come to end.
The Las Vegas crowd had whipped themselves into frenzy by the time the bout started. The elder fighter almost instantly pushed his younger foe against the cage with a bevy of strikes. Back against the proverbial wall, Ortiz pushed forward with a huge knee and did what he was best known for when he scooped Shamrock up and dropped him down onto the canvas.
From full guard, the former champion began to rain down vicious elbows, one after the other, while Shamrock was seemingly unwilling or unable to defend himself. A handful landed against the former pro wrestler's skull before the referee jumped in to halt the fight after a little over a minute of action.
Fans were outraged. Shamrock was livid. He immediately jumped to his feet to protest the stoppage. The fury was such that White announced a third fight soon after and while it took a minute longer to finish, the result remained the same.
The third season of TUF helped prove bad blood equals ratings.
Is there enough between Cruz and Faber to make them both stars?