If you’re a UFC fan who is hoping to see current bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt face former titleholder T.J. Dillashaw, then you may get your wish – kind of – as the two will coach opposite of each other on the upcoming “The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption.”
After days of speculation, the UFC announced that Garbrandt and Dillashaw, his former Team Alpha Male teammate, will coach opposite each other on the show. Like most “TUF” seasons, the two are expected to face off in 2017.
The organization added that the cast for this season will feature past “TUF” competitors, including previous winners, as well as a fighter currently on the UFC’s roster.
No names have been announced at this time and seeing as how strict the UFC is when it comes “TUF,” leaks, there aren’t any fighters who will announce their participation on the show until the promotion reveals the cast.
The Coaches’ Rivalry
One of the more entertaining aspects of “TUF” is the rivalry between coaches. In the past, fans watched feuds between fighters unfold and escalate on screen – Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock had some good exchanges in “TUF 3.” One of my favorites was during season six when Matt Serra and Matt Hughes coached on opposite sides. Then you had the altercations between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate in “TUF 18″ that added to what was an exciting season.
This season with Garbrandt and Dillashaw could be one for the ages in terms of coaching rivalries. The bad blood between these two has been brewing for quite some time. In October 2015, during UFC bantamweight title reign, T.J. Dillashaw left Team Alpha Male to join Elevation Fight Team. Right around that time, Garbrandt was beginning his ascension up the 135-pound ladder.
At UFC 207, Garbrandt defeated Dominick Cruz to win the UFC bantamweight title and immediately called out Dillashaw, who defeated John Lineker minutes earlier.
The format for this upcoming season of “TUF” is a welcome one. It’s not the first time the UFC has done this type of tournament – the show’s fourth season was dubbed “The Comeback” and featured welterweight and middleweight fighters who had fought in the UFC but had yet to win a world title.
The show’s 24th season, dubbed “TUF: Tournament of Champions,” which aired from August to December, had UFC veterans Tim Elliott and Damacio Page, who were later released and won championships in other promotions before the tournament.
Although no participants for “Redemption,” have been announced, fans can start speculating on which “TUF” alum will compete on the show. One of my picks would be “TUF 2” welterweight tournament winner Joe “Daddy” Stevenson.
Stevenson (33-16) had a pretty decent UFC run from 2005-2011. He had wins over Nate Diaz, Kurt Pellegrino and Melvin Guillard, as well as six “Fight Night” bonuses – four of those were “Fight of the Night.” He never captured a championship – his only title opportunity was at UFC 80 where B.J. Penn submitted him to win the UFC lightweight title – and he had a four-match losing streak before the promotion released him.
After his release, Stevenson found himself in a new role, becoming the fight coordinator on the series “Kingdom.” He’s had recent success in MMA competition, winning his last two fights – a first-round finish over Daniel McWilliams in July 2016 and a decision victory over Gabriel Miglioli that December.
Before you get after me about Stevenson, note that this is just my pick and there’s no hints that he’s going to be on “TUF: Redemption.”
The other mystery heading into “Redemption” is who the UFC fighter competing on the show?
Perhaps it’s a fighter who has experienced a string of defeats and this tournament is a way for them to get back on the road to victory. Maybe it’s a former title contender wants to earn their way back into the title picture and this competition is the thing that will get them there.
Maybe the UFC fighter competing in this tournament is Phil Brooks a.k.a. C.M. Punk. After all, losing to Mickey Gall in 2 minutes and 14 seconds – mind you, he did have more experience coming into the fight – Punk needs something to rejuvenate his UFC career and this change for redemption could be it.