LAS VEGAS – Wednesday night’s Ultimate Fight Night card served as the backdrop to the premiere of Spike TV's “The Ultimate Fighter,” the show that helped lift the UFC out of financial struggle and put mixed martial arts on the path toward mainstream sports acceptance.
This season, the show's sixth, features two teams of eight welterweights coached by two fighters who have already seen the inside of the infamous “Ultimate Fighter” house in Las Vegas: Matt Hughes and Matt Serra.
Hughes, the two-time former UFC welterweight champion, was a coach on the second season of the show. Serra is the biggest success story to emerge from the series. “TUF 4: The Comeback” featured a second chance at fame for fighters who didn't pan out in the UFC the first time, with a title shot going to the winner. Serra won the welterweight division on the show and then went on to upset Georges St. Pierre to win the 170-lb. title in April.
Neither fighter was available Wednesday night, as Hughes did not attend the event and Serra went to the hospital with protégé Pete Sell, who was knocked out by Nate Quarry. That left UFC president Dana White on hand to talk about season six.
“To me, the only two reality shows that matter are “The Ultimate Fighter” and “American Idol,” said White. “You know why? Because the other reality shows, these people get their time in the limelight and then you never hear from them again. But in "American Idol," you get to follow the careers of the winners afterwards.
“And in 'The Ultimate Fighter,' these guys go on to become legitimate mixed martial arts stars. They finish on the show and you see them back on Spike TV fighting and the best of them go to pay-per-view.”
The mutual dislike between Hughes and Serra was well-established long before the idea came about to match the two as coaches on the show.
“I barely even have to hype this one,” White said. "Hughes and Serra really don’t like each other. Throw them in the same house and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Serra and Hughes will meet Dec. 29 at the MGM Grand with Serra’s title on the line.
*White was also asked about the idea of adding more weight classes to mixed martial arts, which was proposed by rival promoter Gary Shaw of EliteXC last weekend. White, per usual, didn’t mince words.
“Gary Shaw is a f------ moron,” White said. “One of the reasons the fans love UFC is because there’s only five weight classes and you know who is the real champion in each class. The stuff he wants to do in MMA are exactly the same thing they’ve done to ruin boxing.
“Five years ago he was laughing at MMA, and now he wants to get in on it,” White continued. “He lost every fighter he ever had in boxing and he’s not going anywhere in MMA, believe me.”
Shaw says he wants to add weight classes in the interests of safety for the fighters.
*Meaningless stat of the night: Fighters stationed in the red corner won all nine fights Wednesday night, shutting out blue-corner fighters.