When UFC President Dana White and then owners of the UFC, Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, launched the Ultimate Fighter television reality series in 2005, they did so as a last hope and prayer, looking to propel the promotion to very next level.
The Fertitta’s had already sunk $40 million dollar into the UFC and were unable to turn a profit. They initially bought the entire promotion for just $2 million. The brothers sank another $10 million into filming season 1 of the Ultimate Fighter and were turned down by almost every television network imaginable, but that was when the crew finally found a home in Spike TV.
While the series brought in less than desirable numbers and things looked as if they were drawing to a close, the inaugural season’s finale helped save not on the show, but also the promotion.
“As soon as that fight was over, that was when I knew that we had made it,” White told ESPN. “I didn’t give a s— about if Spike re-signed us or not. I knew we had a winner.”
Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar put on a fight for the ages, and although it was Griffin who had his hand raised, both fighters would earn contracts with the promotion that night. The season’s other winner, Diego Sanchez, also became a star for the company and now 15-years later, he is the only member of the first season to still be competing for the UFC.
After 28 seasons and a brief hiatus, the UFC is interested in bringing the Ultimate Fighter back to life.
The show provided the top MMA promotion with 105 regular competitors, meaning each of those 105 athletes have competed 10 or more times for the UFC.
Six UFC Hall of Famers have been produced from the series including Griffin, Bonnar, Sanchez, and former champions Rashad Evans, Matt Serra, and Michael Bisping.
10 competitors on the show have gone on to win UFC titles. Again, Griffin, Evans, Serra, Bisping, but also Carla Esparza, Nicco Montano, T.J. Dillashaw, Robert Whittaker, Kamaru Usman, and Rose Namajunas.
The true impact is summarized below as Betway highlight notable alumni.
To go even further when detailing the amount of talent the show has produced, 22 TUF competitors have competed for a UFC title.
Let’s keep talking numbers
439 post-fight bonuses have been awarded to TUF alumni including 212 Fights of the Night and 227 Performances of the Night.
The boost the promotion saw from the Ultimate Fighter was incredible and it reflected in the amount of pay-per-view buys. The 3 events prior to the finale of the inaugural season of the Ultimate Fighter had a combined 225,000 buys. The PPV immediately following the Finale brought in 300,000 buys on its own.
From there, it just kept on going and eventually in 2016, the Fertittas sold their beloved Zuffa LLC, which was the parent organization to the UFC, for a whopping $4.025 billion. To date, it is the single largest sports trade in the world.
Not too shabby!
All of this happened because of the success of the Ultimate Fighter.