The 28th edition of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) ended back in Nov. 2018 and many of us had hoped that the played-out reality show was finally done for good. Okay, maybe UFC could bring it back in China or Russia or something. That’d be fine, I guess. But, after nearly 40 seasons (including the international versions) we think it’s safe to say we’ve seen everything the format had to offer.
Alas, that is not the case. UFC is currently looking to relaunch the series on ESPN in a big way. The only problem? Well, you’d think COVID-19 would be a literal showstopper, but you know how Dana White insists the show must go on. No, delays in filming a new TUF season are currently related to finding coaches big enough for UFC and ESPN’s liking.
That may have changed now that Kamaru Usman has just defended his Welterweight title for the third time. Following that big win at UFC 258 over Gilbert Burns, Usman called out Jorge Masvidal — UFC’s breakout star of 2019-2020 — for a rematch. Now, the managers of both men are chasing that TUF deal.
First, here’s Masvidal’s manager Malki Kawa:
Dana said no percentages of fans in an arena. Full sell out. Either in vegas or Florida. Masvidal vs usman, first shoot TUF, then fight in Miami, at the triple A. What a fight to welcome fans back to. Miami would turn up big for that one. Book it!— malki kawa (@malkikawa) February 14, 2021
And now Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz:
Kamaru Usman’s manager Ali Abdelaziz just told me he’s already talking to UFC about Usman and Masvidal as TUF coaches. “It’s what Kamaru wants and Jorge deserves a full camp. But he and his team better be on their best behavior. We already beat them up inside and out of cage.”— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) February 14, 2021
For those of you wondering how long this could delay the returns of Usman and Masvidal should they end up on TUF, later seasons of the show had coaches fighting around five months after their roles are announced.
Once you’ve accepted the fact that TUF will never die so long as White is running UFC, a season featuring Coach Masvidal vs. Coach Usman doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. Well, if there wasn’t a raging pandemic on the go, that is.
UFC has been extremely lucky thus far that it hasn’t suffered a COVID-19 outbreak during its Las Vegas-based events despite shoddy bubble management toward the end of 2020. It has touted its numbers as much better than other major sports, but those stats don’t take into account the huge number of UFC fighters that caught COVID-19 while training for fights.
Taking 16 fighters and locking them down in one house and one gym may actually be safer than a traditional training camp ... until you take into account the coaches and employees and staff that will continue to live freely outside that bubble in Las Vegas.
The chances of COVID-19 making an appearance on the show seem pretty high. That probably won’t stop White, whose gambling ways now extend past blackjack into pandemic management. And hey, I guess this dystopic virus situation will help differentiate this new season from past ones.
For complete UFC 258 results and coverage click here.