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9 TUF contestants who went on to hold UFC titles

Can Paulo Costa become the 10th TUF contestant to win a UFC title when he faces Israel Adesanya this weekend?
Can Paulo Costa become the 10th TUF contestant to win a UFC title when he faces Israel Adesanya this weekend?
Scott Newman
Modified 22 Sep 2020
Top 5 / Top 10

This weekend sees UFC 253 go down from Abu Dhabi's Fight Island. In the main event, Paulo Costa will be attempting to become the new UFC Middleweight champion when he takes on current titleholder Israel Adesanya.

'The Eraser' has seen plenty of UFC success thus far – winning five straight bouts in the Octagon. Thanks to this, it's easy to forget that, like many UFC stars, he's a graduate of the promotion's Ultimate Fighter reality show.

But Costa did, in fact, compete on the third season of TUF: Brazil, where he lost in the quarter-finals – his only career loss to date. If he manages to defeat Adesanya this weekend, though, he'll become the 10th graduate of TUF to hold UFC gold.

Here is a look at the previous nine TUF graduates to win a UFC title.

Note: As TUF 20 and TUF 26 featured tournaments for the inaugural UFC Strawweight and UFC Flyweight titles, respectively, winners Carla Esparza and Nicco Montano have not been considered for this list.

#1 Forrest Griffin (TUF 1) – UFC Light Heavyweight title

One of the original TUF winners, Forrest Griffin, became an unlikely UFC champion in 2008.
One of the original TUF winners, Forrest Griffin, became an unlikely UFC champion in 2008.

Forrest Griffin became an overnight sensation back in 2005, thanks to his wild brawl with Stephan Bonnar at the TUF 1 season finale. But nobody really expected him to go as far as he did. Seen as a talented journeyman at the time, Griffin appeared to hit his ceiling a year later when he dropped a decision to former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz.

However, the native of Georgia improved dramatically in 2007 and ended the year by pulling off one of the UFC's all-time great upsets. Griffin defeated former PRIDE champion Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua, ruining the Brazilian's UFC debut.


The win netted Griffin a shot at then-UFC Light Heavyweight champ 'Rampage' Jackson – as well as his own coaching spot on TUF 7. But even then, nobody really expected him to win the title. Griffin proved everyone wrong once again, though, edging out Jackson in an epic fight at UFC 86 to claim the gold.

Unfortunately, Griffin's title reign only lasted five months, before he was dethroned by another TUF graduate – Rashad Evans – at UFC 92. Injuries then took their toll on his career, and he hung up his gloves in 2012 before being inducted into the UFC's Hall of Fame in 2013.

#2 Rashad Evans (TUF 2) – UFC Light Heavyweight title

TUF 2's Rashad Evans claimed UFC gold in 2008.

Rashad Evans' run to the finals of TUF 2 was hardly inspiring, as he put on a number of dull fights. However, his war with Brad Imes at the show's finale made him a firm fan favorite. And when he got to the UFC proper, he began to improve rapidly and reeled off a series of impressive wins.


By 2008, 'Suga' was seen as one of the Light Heavyweight division's top prospects. And when he stopped former UFC champion and legend Chuck Liddell with a brutal right hook at UFC 88, it was clear that he was ready for a shot at the title.

Evans faced off with Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 in the first-ever all-TUF UFC title fight, and came out on top in the third round by TKO. Unfortunately, it wasn't a long title reign. 'Suga' would lose the title in his first defense, being knocked out by Lyoto Machida, but remained one of the promotion's top stars.

A mega-feud with 'Rampage' Jackson led to one of the UFC's biggest pay-per-view buy-rates when UFC 114 drew over a million buys. And another feud with former training partner Jon Jones captured the imagination of the fans two years later.

A late-career slide saw Evans end his UFC career with five straight losses. But as one of the best fighters of his generation, he was deservedly entered into the promotion's Hall of Fame in 2019.

#3 Michael Bisping (TUF 3) – UFC Middleweight title

Michael Bisping became the UFC
Michael Bisping became the UFC's first British titleholder in 2016.

Michael Bisping became the UFC's first British star when he won the Light Heavyweight tournament on the third season of TUF. And a drop to Middleweight in 2008 saw him quickly fly up the rankings. Thanks to his sharp tongue and brash attitude, 'The Count' also became one of the UFC's most notorious villains too.

Bisping was able to beat some great fighters over the years, from Chris Leben and Denis Kang to Yoshihiro Akiyama and Alan Belcher. However, for a long time, it seemed like he was destined to be recognized as one of the greatest fighters to never earn a shot at UFC gold.

That all changed in 2016. Despite being 37 years old and at the tail end of his career, Bisping picked up the biggest win of his UFC tenure by edging out former Middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva. And when Chris Weidman was forced out of his title fight with reigning UFC Middleweight champ Luke Rockhold, the promotion called on Bisping to take the fight on late notice.

Nobody could've predicted what happened next. Rockhold – who had beaten Bisping less than 12 months prior – simply came into the fight with far too much confidence. And 'The Count' capitalized, knocking him out in the first round to claim the title.

Bisping's title reign lasted for just over a year, but while he lost his crown in his second title defense, by that point, it didn't really matter. 'The Count' had reached the top of the mountain in the UFC – something that didn't seem possible at one point – and is now recognized as the best MMA fighter to be produced by the UK.

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Published 22 Sep 2020, 23:41 IST
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