The Ultimate Fighter Winners: In Numbers

Forrest Griffin

For the longest time, The Ultimate Fighter has been a highly-controversial reality TV show that seems to give the sport of MMA a bad reputation. Why? Because none of the fighters seem to have much legitimacy inside of the major leagues. That’s just one piece of the pie, however. One could argue that the directors involved in shooting the show seem to focus on the drama, domestic violence, and alcohol consumption more than the actual tournament. With that being said, The Ultimate Fighter is approaching its eighteenth season (twentieth if you count the foreign versions), and has seemed to be have changed its approach, focusing more on the fighters and less on the drunken vandalism, fighting, and dramatic scenes in the house.

But is the show really doing that great of a job? I’m not talking about ratings, as they’re doing just fine. But how good of a job is the show doing to produce a real “ultimate fighter”. We’ve seen first-hand how embarrassingly poor the competition can be, and those who win the tournament don’t seem to do very well when they finally face the upper-echelon of competition. The Ultimate Fighter is a great way to get into the big leagues, but it’s a whole other battle when it comes to staying in. Continue reading for an in-depth analysis of the past Ultimate Fighter winners, how good they seem to be doing, and how much time they likely have left.



Season 1
Winners: Diego Sanchez & Forrest Griffin

Diego Sanchez

Weight Class: Middleweight, Welterweight, Lightweight
Status: UFC contender
UFC Record: 13-5

Diego Sanchez is an extremely experienced fighter. Since being a part of the first season, he’s had the chance to get eight-years worth of fighting experience in the sport’s largest promotion. Sanchez has fought in three different weight classes in the UFC, and has challenged for UFC gold one time. While Sanchez may have never held a strap, he’s a highly respected fighter whose aggression and pressure is unmatched. The only thing that has stopped, or will stop, Sanchez from achieving a title is himself. He’s known for being a little mentally off, and his conspicuous nature has turned him away from being a likable fan-favorite fighter. Nevertheless, his talents inside of the cage have been shown, which makes Sanchez a very solid Ultimate Fighter winner.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 3-5 more years

Forrest Griffin

Weight Class: Light-Heavyweight
Status: Retired
UFC Record: 10-5

Forrest Griffin is one of the most well-known fighters to originate from The Ultimate Fighter. Most notably, he’s known for his back-and forth-barnburner slugfests with Stephan Bonnar. His crazy desire, exciting personality, and heart has made him a fan-favorite in the UFC. While he may not be the most technically sound fighter, he’s efficient and has faced the best of the best in the fighting world. On top of that, he is a one-time UFC light heavyweight champion; he defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson by decision to capture it, but lost it in his first title defense to Rashad Evans. Most recently, Griffin retired from competition, and will now work in the UFC’s back office.

Season 2
Winners: Joe Stevenson & Rashad Evans

Joe Stevenson

Weight Class: Welterweight, Lightweight, Featherweight
Status: Released
UFC Record: 8-8

Joe “Daddy” Stevenson for a very long time was considered one of the best at 155lbs. He won the second season of The Ultimate Fighter at 170, but moved down to 155 where he won seven of his eight UFC bouts. Stevenson was known for his aggressive wrestling and proficient submissions, which he put on display through-out his career and on The Ultimate Fighter. Stevenson fought for the lightweight title once during his seven-year career in the UFC, but fell short. Now, Stevenson is on the down-hill slope of his career after being released from the UFC after a four-fight skid.

Life Expectancy as a Fighter: 1 more year

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Rashad Evans

Weight Class: Heavyweight, Light-Heavyweight
Status: UFC contender
UFC Record: 12-3-1

Rashad Evans is by far one of the most accomplished fighters in the UFC to have originated out of the Ultimate Fighter house. He’s compiled a great record in the UFC, has held the belt once before, challenged for the belt on a separate occasion, and is currently in the top 10 of the 205-pound division. Evans is still a promising fighter who, right now, is trying to do what it takes to get back into title mix. He lost his last bout in lackluster fashion to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and is expected to face Dan Henderson this June for a chance to propel himself back into the mix. However, he doesn’t have every opportunity in the world; he’s on a two-fight losing streak and at the age of 33, doesn’t have much time.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 2-3 more years.

Season 3
Winners: Kendall Grove & Michael Bisping

Kendall Grove

Weight Class: Middleweight
Status: Released
UFC Record: 7-6

Kendall Grove, otherwise known as “Da Spyder”, was Season 3’s middleweight winner. He was known for his crafty submission game; being 6’6″, Grove was one of the tallest middleweights on the roster and that made him a dangerous fighter. However, he was unable fulfill his potential in the UFC, as he cut five years later while never making it to a title shot. Now, he’s 6-3 since leaving the UFC and fighting in various promotions around the world.

Life Expectancy as a Fighter: 2-4 more years

Michael Bisping

Weight Class: Light-Heavyweight, Middleweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 14-5

Michael Bisping, along with Evans, make up perhaps the most accomplished fighters in the UFC to have come from The Ultimate Fighter. Bisping is an extremely talented contender who just has not quite made it to a title shot. He’s been involved in three different title eliminator match ups, and will most likely be in another one after his technical decision over Alan Belcher. Bisping may not be everyone’s favorite fighter, but he knows how to win and is one of 185’s hardest workers.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 2-3 more years

Season 4
Winners: Matt Serra & Travis Lutter

Matt Serra

Weight Class: Welterweight, Lightweight
Status: Retired
UFC Record: 7-7

Matt Serra, the former UFC welterweight champion, won season 4 of the Ultimate Fighter with eight fights already in the UFC. While Serra struggled to maintain consistency throughout his fighting career, Serra is now an accomplished coach in New York.

Travis Lutter

Weight Class: Middleweight
Status: Retired
UFC Record: 2-4

Travis Lutter probably makes an entrance into any discussion concerning the worst fighters to win The Ultimate Fighter. Lutter is a highly-decorated grappler who won Season 4 of the Ultimate Fighter with a 1-2 record in the UFC already. After he won the finale and became the Ultimate Fighter, he was set up to challenge Anderson Silva. He failed to make weight, lost the bout, and then lost a follow-up match against Rich Franklin before being released from the promotion. After that, he went 1-2 outside of the UFC before finally calling it quits.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Season 5
Winner: Nate Diaz

Nate Diaz
Weight Class: Welterweight, Lightweight
Status: UFC contender
UFC Record: 11-7

Nate Diaz is another fighter who has been able to catch his stride in the UFC upon winning his season of the Ultimate Fighter. His brother, Nick, is/was a fighter in the UFC’s welterweight division at the time, so Nate knew exactly what he was getting into when he won his season. Diaz is a love-hate fighter due to his vulgar, no-care personality. However, he’s fought for the title once before, and has racked up a fair share of UFC wins and bonuses. Right now, Diaz is coming off of a disappointing loss where he was finished by strikes at the hands of Josh Thomson. He’s already made one trip up to 170 before, where he went 2-2 before going back to 155, but has been contemplating moving back up.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: *1-6 more years
*Given that he’s on a losing streak, he could very well be released if he loses his next fight(s). However, if he stays away from long losing streaks, expect Diaz to fight for as long as his body will let him.

Season 6
Winner: Mac Danzig

Mac Danzig

Weight Class: Welterweight, Lightweight
Status: UFC contender
UFC Record: 5-6

Mac Danzig was a part of one of the most least-skilled Ultimate Fighter’s to date. Danzig had 21 fights to his name going into the tournament, and was clearly unmatched compared to the rest of the competitors. Upon winning the Ultimate Fighter, Danzig dropped down to 155. There, he’s been battling inconsistency as he has yet to string any consecutive victories together. Danzig, at 33-years old and a having a losing UFC record, could very well be put up on the chopping block soon.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 1-2 years

Season 7
Winner: Amir Sadollah

Amir Sadollah

Weight Class: Middleweight, Welterweight
Status: UFC contender
UFC Record: 6-4

Amir Sadollah is one of the rare cases where you have a guy with his entire MMA career in the UFC. He entered the Ultimate Fighter with a 0-0 professional record, and won the tournament by defeating CB Dolloway in the finale. Since then, he’s been a bit back-and-forth, not gaining anything more than a two-fight streak. Now, he’s coming off of a loss to Dan Hardy, and is battling injuries.

Season 8
Winners: Efrain Escudero & Ryan Bader

Efrain Escudero

Weight Class: Lightweight
Status: Released (Twice)
UFC Record: 3-5

Efrain Escudero is another guy who just couldn’t really do anything inside of the UFC. He won a fairly talented Ultimate Fighter against such hype machines such as Phillipe Nover and Junie Browning. However, Escudero was cut once from the UFC after failing to make weight and losing. Then he earned himself another shot at a UFC career, but went 0-2 in that attempt and is now on a three-fight losing streak.

Life Expectancy of being a Fighter: 3-5 more years (Now that he’s away from the big leagues)

Ryan Bader

Weight Class: Light-Heavyweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 8-3

Ryan Bader may not be the greatest fighter to come from The Ultimate Fighter, but he’s a damn good one. Bader fit in nearly perfectly with the rest of the other light-heavies and even earned himself a title eliminator match-up against Jon Jones. While he may not be a top five fighter, he’s definitely hanging around the top ten. Expect Bader to be a solid contender throughout the majority of his career.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 4-6 more years

Season 9
Winners: Ross Pearson & James Wilks

Ross Pearson

Weight Class: Lightweight, Featherweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 7-3

Ross Pearson is slowly becoming one of the Britain’s other favorite fighters, especially since Bisping and Ross Pearson are about all the UK has to root for in terms of hometown heroes in the UFC. Pearson won the Ultimate Fighter displaying outstanding striking skills, and went on to become a real exciting lightweight contender. However, he made a brief stop at 145, going 1-1, before going back up to 155. Now Pearson finds himself on a two-fight win streak, both via stoppage, and a very important position where he could potentially put himself among the top ten.

James Wilks

Weight Class: Welterweight
Status: Retired
UFC Record: 2-2

A bit of a sad tale for Mr. James Wilks. He won the Ultimate Fighter, defeating a talented prospect in DaMarques Johnson in the process, but went on to have a very short UFC career. While he didn’t display anything too memorable, Wilks could have very well been a solid gatekeeper. Unfortunately, a serious back injury forced Wilks to retire and hang his gloves up early.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Season 10
Winner: Roy Nelson

Roy Nelson

Weight Class: Heavyweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 6-3

Roy Nelson, easily a fan favorite, is quickly becoming one of the most beloved heavyweights under the UFC’s roster. While he may appear to be a little deranged, Nelson is a serious heavyweight contender. Known for defeating the street-fighting sensation Kimbo Slice, Nelson made it known that he is a force to be reckoned with. He possesses powerful one-punch KO ability, and with his grappling credentials to go along with it, Nelson is dangerous.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: *1 to 2 more years
*While Nelson may be a solid contender, he’s 36-years old. If the next year or two doesn’t work out in his favor, expect him to hang up the gloves in a very memorable career.

Season 11
Winner: Court McGee

Court McGee

Weight Class: Middleweight, Welterweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 4-2

Court McGee is truly an underdog story when it comes to his time on the Ultimate Fighter. McGee was an 11th round pick, was defeated earlier on in the show, and came back to win it all. He’s a tough, durable, gritty fighter who shines the most when on the mat. However, in his last performance, McGee showcased his boxing skills which really made everyone realize the true potential behind McGee. I don’t think he’ll be in any form of title consideration, but he’ll definitely be a solid mid-tier fighter.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 2-5 more years

Season 12
Winner: Jonathan Brookins

Jonathan Brookins

Weight Class: Lightweight, Featherweight
Status: Temporarily Retired
UFC Record: 2-3

Jonathan Brookins is another eligible candidate for “worst TUF winner”. While his personality is likable, his skills in the Octagon didn’t seem to impress too many fans. He utilized his wrestling, heart, and chin to edge Michael Johnson in the finals. Since winning TUF, he’s been 1-3. His last two bouts saw Brookins get submitted, which raised the question as to where Brookins could possibly have any advantage over any fighters at 145. However, Brookins seemed to answer that question himself when he temporarily retired from MMA.

Season 13
Winner: Tony Ferguson

Tony Ferguson

Weight Class: Lightweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 3-1

Tony Ferguson is perhaps one of the most unknown fighters to win the Ultimate Fighter, especially considering his exciting striking style. Ferguson won the finale by KO, and went on to win two other bouts before losing to Michael Johnson last May. With injuries keeping him sidelined, Ferguson’s true potential in the UFC has been severely hindered.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 3 more years

Season 14
Winners: John Dodson & Diego Brandao

John Dodson

Weight Class: Bantamweight, Flyweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 3-1

John Dodson is quickly becoming one of the most exciting flyweights on the planet. He brings unique one-punch KO power, lightning fast hands, and an obnoxious personality to give the small 125lbs division a bit of flavor and fire that it needs. He blasted through the Ultimate Fighter, scoring multiple KO’s along the way, and then proceeded to earn himself a title a shot. While he lost the decision to “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, he displayed his striking skills when he dropped Johnson twice during the bout. Dodson is an energetic, talented slugger who could have a very bright future in MMA, and is a part of the few individuals leading the flyweight division to the masses.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 4-7 more years

Diego Brandao

Weight Class: Featherweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 3-1

Diego Brandao also made splashes when being introduced to the big leagues. While Dodson displayed explosive striking, Brandao has displayed explosive submission skills. Though Brandao may not be close to title contention, he definitely has the skills and ability to get there. He’s extremely young at just 25-years old, he’s talented, and he’s only getting better. This particular season of The Ultimate Fighter could have very well produced two of the most talented lighter-weight fighters who may be champions in the future.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 6-8 more years

Season 15
Winner: Michael Chiesa

Michael Chiesa

Weight Class: Lightweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 2-0

Michael Chiesa was a fifth-pick fighter, and had to battle through the loss of his dad in order to rise to the top of the 15th season of The Ultimate Fighter. He’s a crafty ground fighter who often finishes his fights. Since winning in the finale, Chiesa has just won one other fight in the UFC. He only fought once in 2012, but is looking to get things going as he takes on Jorge Masvidal this summer. Chiesa has a lot of potential at 155lbs, especially considering the fact that he is so young at just 25-years old. However, the only thing hindering him at this point would be that so far, Chiesa appears to be fairly one-dimensional. Good thing for Chiesa is the fact that if he finds himself on the short side of the stick at any time, he can always drop to 145lbs. That’s the “cool new thing” it seems like.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 3-6 more years.

Season 16
Winner: Colton Smith

Colton Smith

Weight Class: Welterweight
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 1-0

U.S. Army member Colton Smith is the winner of the 16th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Unfortunately, Smith’s path to being a TUF winner wasn’t too memorable. His fights often displayed his strength, athleticism, and wrestling skills as he controlled and dominated his opponents for decision victories. It’s very well-known that in the welterweight division, “lay n’ pray” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Unless Smith really showcases some serious improvement, expect him to be taken out fairly quickly.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 1-3 more years

Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports

Season 17
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum

Kelvin Gastelum

Weight Class: Middleweight, (Welterweight)
Status: UFC Contender
UFC Record: 1-0

Kelvin Gastelum had the honor to compete in probably the best Ultimate Fighter season to date. He was in a tournament full of killers, including the hyped up KO-artist Uriah Hall, and more importantly overcame extreme odds. Gastelum was a last pick fighter, and no one gave him a chance to get past any of his fights, not even his own team. However, Gastelum proved them all wrong and caused one upset after another, before finally defeating Hall in the finale. Gastelum is a work-horse type fighter, but I’m not sure how well he’ll do against the gigantic behemoths at 185lbs. It’s been rumored that he’ll drop to 170, where I think he belongs. Gastelum has the potential to be in the UFC as long as up to ten years, but he’ll have to make improvements. Fortunately, Gastelum is the type of guy to never stop working and never stop improving. I’m predicting a fairly promising career for him.

Life Expectancy in the UFC: 4-10 more years


About the author: Casey Hodgin lives in the Midwest, loves numbers, and writes for MMALinker.com.

More About: