It’s official – after an absence of over two years, the UFC’s famed reality show, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), will be making a return in March 2021.
Season 29 of TUF is all set to be broadcast for the first time on the ESPN+ streaming service, and naturally, the UFC will be hoping to capture some new fans at the same time.
There can be no doubt then that the UFC will want to go all out in order to make this a mega season of TUF. With that in mind, who will the promotion choose to be the two coaches on the show?
Traditionally, the coaches build to a fight between themselves at the end of the season. And with pairings like Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva to live up to, there will definitely be pressure on the UFC to select the right pairing this time around.
Here, then, are five potential pairings to coach the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
#1 Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal
Historically, TUF's best seasons were always the ones with coaches who had a really bitter rivalry. Fans still fondly recall the TUF coaching feuds between pairings like Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans, and BJ Penn and Jens Pulver years after their seasons aired.
That means that the UFC will probably want two TUF coaches who genuinely dislike each other for maximum impact. That’s why perhaps the best pairing would be Welterweight rivals Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal.
The two men have been sniping at one another in the MMA media for some time now, despite formerly being training partners and friends. Covington recently claimed that Masvidal was “scared of the style match” and was attempting to hold the UFC up for more money to take the fight.
However, a coaching spot on what should be a major season of TUF could be the carrot that the UFC needs to dangle towards Masvidal to get him to sign on the dotted line. One can only imagine the type of chaos – no pun intended – that could go down if these two agreed to coach on TUF 29.
Covington’s pro-wrestling style persona seems made for a spot like this – just as Ortiz and Conor McGregor were before him. On the other hand, Masvidal’s street brawler persona would act as the perfect foil to him. It’d definitely be must-see TV, which is exactly what the UFC will be looking for.
#2 Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson
December’s UFC 256 was supposed to see UFC Featherweight champion Amanda Nunes defend her title against top contender Megan Anderson. But earlier this week, it was announced that The Lioness has been forced to withdraw due to injury.
The fight now seems set for early 2021, so could the UFC look to build it up further by choosing the two Featherweights as the coaches for TUF 29? There are definitely a number of reasons why it’d make sense.
Firstly, while there’s no rivalry as such between the two, TUF coaching spots have also historically been used to build up UFC title fights, meaning these two would qualify in that sense.
And equally, coaching on a season of TUF has always been one of the UFC’s traditional methods to increase the popularity of a fighter who might not have caught on with the fans all that well.
That definitely applies to both Nunes and Anderson. Nunes is almost certainly the greatest female fighter in MMA history now. But her popularity with the UFC fans has never reached the heights of Ronda Rousey, or even Miesha Tate or Rose Namajunas.
Anderson, meanwhile, appears to have an extremely likable personality as well as a marketable look. But with only four UFC fights to her name, she’s largely unknown in the eyes of casual fans. Essentially, the Australian is just the kind of fighter who would benefit from the exposure that coaching on TUF would give her.
Would the interactions between these two be as wild as, say, Covington and Masvidal? Almost certainly not. But there’s an argument that Covington and Masvidal don’t need this kind of spotlight, while a pairing like Nunes and Anderson could definitely benefit from it. Therefore, they’d definitely be a logical choice.