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The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 changes weight classes, stiffens requirements

Season nine of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) is starting to take shape after UFC President Dana White recently confirmed the participation of future coach Michael "The Count" Bisping, fresh off his unanimous decision victory over Chris Leben at UFC 89.

Bisping — TUF 3 winner and current British UFC posterboy — is a clear choice for the position, considering TUF 9 will be themed, "U.S. vs. U.K." White did not confirm the opposing coach, however, he did indicate that Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson are both under consideration.

Perhaps that decision will be made a little easier when "Ace" and "Hollywood" clash in the main event at UFC 93: "Dublin" on January 17.

Time will tell.

TUF 9 was originally set to feature a mix of middleweight and welterweight hopefuls competing for a "six figure" UFC contract in a tournament-style format. However the 185lb weight class was recently scrapped in favor of lightweight.

No reason was given for the change, but tryouts held at London on October 20 yielded over 200 aspiring fighters - a far cry from the mere 25 who auditioned for season three.

Perhaps there was an abundance of talented lightweights at the London evaluations that led to the change?

Even TUF 3 alum Ross Pointon got in on the action, showing up with the letters U-F-C buzzed into his hair.

Tryouts are also scheduled for Chicago, Illinois on October 27 to finish selecting the 32-member cast, which will eventually be whittled down to 16 in the first few days of taping.

That's not to suggest the UFC is looking for every Tom, Dick and Harry that knows how to shadowbox or submit their five-year old nephew. The UFC recently sent out a memo asking for applicants to have a verifiable background in professional mixed martial arts.

The production schedule has not been revealed at this time; however, if the promotion decides to wait for either Franklin and Henderson then it could be pushed back until January 2009.

Stay tuned to as more details become available for season nine of The Ultimate Fighter.

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