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Brock Lesnar, Junior dos Santos to Coach 'The Ultimate Fighter'

After weeks of speculation, Dana White on Tuesday finally answered what had become the biggest mystery in MMA.

The next coaches of "The Ultimate Fighter" will be Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos, the UFC president told members of the media on a conference call. The two heavyweights will then meet "in June, definitely 100 percent," White said – likely on an as-yet unannounced pay-per-view expected to take place June 11 in Vancouver.

Lesnar is the former UFC heavyweight champion, but lost his title at UFC 124 in October to Cain Velasquez. Dos Santos was expected to get the next shot at Velasquez as the division's top contender. But with the new champ on the shelf with a shoulder injury, the Brazilian will instead act as a coach, then stay busy afterward with a fight against Lesnar – putting his top contender status in jeopardy in the process.

White said with Velasquez out, there would not be an interim heavyweight title. Instead, the winner of dos Santos-Lesnar will be the No. 1 contender for the most coveted title in the sport.

This will be the 13th season of the Spike TV reality competition, a new installment of which airs each spring and fall. Though the UFC auditioned both welterweights and middleweights in November in Las Vegas, Season 13 will feature only 170-pound fighters.
[Brock] is not exactly a happy-go-lucky guy. Who knows what's going to happen this season.
-- Dana White

As Season 12 began winding down last fall, White was questioned by the media on a growing basis if he had chosen the TUF 13 coaches. And repeatedly, he admitted he didn't have them yet, but said getting it squared away was at the top of his to-do list.

With taping of the show set to begin in Las Vegas at the end of this month, White was under increased pressure to pick the coaches. Speculation on who the opposing coaches would be was wide-ranging, and included everyone from Lesnar vs. Frank Mir to Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva to Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber.

But when Velasquez's injury came to light, White said it became pretty clear about 10 days ago what the direction of Season 13 should be.

"There were a lot of people we were looking at, and then, boom. Cain Velasquez gets hurt," White said. "And I was literally driving to work one morning and I said, 'You know what? This makes sense. Let's see if we can do this.' "

The inclusion of Lesnar is a curious one, though, as the former WWE and NCAA wrestling champion is not shy about his disdain for cameras following his every move. And White said he expects some bumps in the road with his former champion.

"I'm already prepared mentally – it's going to be a tough season," White said. "I deal with Brock in very short spurts. The guy fights two to three times a year, and it's always tough. It's going to be an interesting six weeks of filming. ... (Brock) is not exactly a happy-go-lucky guy. Who knows what's going to happen this season. I do know it's going to be very interesting to see."

There was also speculation that Lesnar was interested in revisiting his WWE roots with a Wrestlemania appearance this spring, and that a way for White to get him to agree to be a TUF coach could be to let him take a WWE payday. But White said that was never the case.

"There was no wheeling and dealing about the WWE," White said. "I think everybody knows how I feel about that. He's under contract with me."

White even said he took a little bit of joy in the rumors of who might be the next coaches – and the rumors that Lesnar wanted to return to the WWE.

"It's very rare in this sport that we actually get to announce (stuff) that doesn't get announced before we announce it," White said. "I actually liked all the rumors going around ..."

Dos Santos (12-1, 6-0 UFC) was taken to his first career decision at UFC 117 in August when he outpointed TUF 10 champion Roy Nelson. Before that, his 11 wins had all come by knockout or submission.

White said the fact the Team Black House Brazilian didn't want to wait for Velasquez to heal for his next fight – which could have had dos Santos on the shelf for at least a year – was admirable.

"The thing about Junior dos Santos, this guy's a young, up-and-coming guy," White said. "He's been knocking everybody out in the first or second round, comes off a (three-round) war with 'Big Country' ... to put this guy on the shelf for a long time is ridiculous. And much credit to him for not wanting to go on the shelf. We've seen guys who have been in similar situations who have said, 'Ya know what? I'll just sit out and wait.'"

Dos Santos counts Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, as two of his primary training partners, as well as UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. He also trains wrestling with UFC middleweight Mark Munoz. They, as well as other Black House members, are likely to be on dos Santos' short list of coaching assistants. It is likely Lesnar would employ his current coaches in Minnesota on the show, including Marty Morgan, Erik Paulson and Peter Welch.

The Season 13 debut of "The Ultimate Fighter" is scheduled to air March 30 on Spike TV.

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