Wednesday night the UFC world got a whole lot bigger with the announcement of how the UFC will introduce their new 115 lbs women division. The long running reality series, The Ultimate Fighter, will bring the new division to television audiences in its classic tournament format in order to crown their first women's straw-weight champion.
It has been a long time since TUF had such high stakes, the closest would probably be all the way back in 2006 with The Ultimate Fighter 4: Comeback when the winner of the season got an immediate title shot. The stakes are even higher this time where the winner of the season becomes the champ.
And to up the stakes even more, TUF 20 brings up the best of the 115 lbs division unlike the recently finished TUF 18 which brought some fresh faces and interesting talent, but far from the top of the women's bantamweight division. At first it looked like the UFC would be at least a year or two from a serious straw-weight division since all the top fighters were signed to Invicta FC, but Shannon Knapp's benevolence has allowed the top of the division to move over to MMA's top agency.
TUF has typically consisted of 16 fighters competing in a tournament style format which culminates in a live finale to crown the champion of the season. 11 of the 16 spots have now been spoken for thanks to Invicta's graciousness. The 11 fighters are; current Invicta FC straw-weight champion Carla Esparza, Claudia Gadelha, the always entertaining Felice Herrig, Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres, Pat Barry's girlfriend Rose Namajunas, the brash former number one contender Bec Hyatt, Emily Kagan, Alex Chambers, Julianna Lima, and Paige Van Zant.
The Ultimate Fighter has, in more recent seasons, become tedious and repetitive. TUF 18 with the co-ed cast brought some fresh life to the show, but TUF 19 does not seem to promise anything new or fresh with an all male cast coached by Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn looking to have their trilogy match at 145 lbs. The stakes get significantly higher at TUF 20, while introducing the top of the division to television audience in order to get them to invest in their future we also will receive high quality fights for free.
Personally I am glad to see this as four of my favorite WMMA fights will be making the move in Herrig, Hyatt, Namajunas, and Van Zant. The personalities and rivalries with poentential rematches is also as big as it has ever been. Hyatt lost a good match to Esparza, has also beaten Herrig. Herrig also lost recently to Tecia Torres. Torres, who is undefeated, is also the only blemish on Van Zant and Namajunas' records. This is just the tip of the iceberg. TUF 20 promises intensity, violence, big personalities, and wicked television. TUF finally feels relevant again.