If you are a fan of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and thought Matt Secor, Eddy Ellis and/or Nic Herron-Webb got screwed on decisions over the past three weeks, but figured it's not that bad because they'll get another shot, that is not likely to happen.
The announcement of Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner on Thursday by UFC officials now brings the number of fights already announced for The Ultimate Fighter 16 finals on Dec. 15 to 11. That doesn't include The Ultimate Fighter final match itself, which would bring the show from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to 12 fights. That is generally considered to be a full card. At most, one more fight will be added.
In the past, The Ultimate Fighter finals would consist of a few fights involving established UFC fighters, but the bulk of the fights (usually seven or eight) would involve people from the reality show. Those fighters were usually matched up against each other. As a general rule, the winner of all those fights would become a UFC regular. Generally, the losers wouldn't be signed, unless they looked impressive. Even those injured during the season and unable to compete in the finals were usually given one more shot to make it on a later show.
But based on so many outside fights being signed, it could be only the two finalists, or at best two others, who will even get a shot to fight there way into the UFC.
One UFC source confirmed that very few members of this season's casts are going to get regular contracts, noting the company already has a deep welterweight roster with little roster room for additions. If names were added, they would want those names to be fighters who have the potential to be at some point in the title picture. With the exception of flyweight John Dodson from season 14, it has been years since a fighter coming off the reality show has become a title contender.
Another aspect of this decision is the uncertainty of the future of Strikeforce. If the Showtime deal up early next year isn't renewed, that would likely result in a few Strikeforce welterweights also moving to UFC.
The tournament winner is a lock to get in based on the premise of the show. The loser of the championship fight, if they put on an exciting fight in what will be a featured match on television, would also have a good shot. From there, the odds are not good for anyone to even get a shot, let alone get in.
On the show that aired on Oct. 12, Heron-Webb lost a majority decision to Igor Araujo where Dana White publicly said he thought it was even after two rounds and should have gone to overtime. A similar situation happened on Oct. 19, where Ellis lost a majority decision to Colton Smith when White thought it should have gone to round three. On Oct. 26, the Secor vs. Michael Hill fight went into the overtime third round after the two fighters split rounds, with Hill winning the third. That was another decision White and most viewers disagreed with.
Given the number of fighters from the past few seasons who have not been able to breakthrough and become major stars, the decision makes sense. But it makes those weekly controversial judging decisions this season that much worse for the losers.