Conor McGregor has returned to The Ultimate Fighter.
“The Notorious” and opposing coach Michael Chandler were front and center on the season premiere of TUF 31 on Tuesday, preparing to pit two teams of UFC hopefuls against each other over a 10-week run.
This is McGregor’s second time appearing as a coach on the long-running reality television program, while Chandler dons the TUF jersey as a featured player for the first time.
The drama between coaches was muted on Episode 1, with much of the premiere focused on McGregor and Chandler being assigned teams. Their interaction was limited to a cordial introduction and a few half-hearted taunts.
This season, the cast features eight lightweights and eight bantamweights, with each weight class divided further into two groups: prospects (fighters who have yet to compete in the UFC) and veterans (fighters who have previously competed in the UFC). In a deviation from a normal TUF draft, where fighters work out for the coaches and are then picked one-by-one, McGregor and Chandler were asked to pick their teams by grouping.
McGregor won the coin toss and picked first, choosing four lightweight prospects (Lee Hammond, Nate Jennerman, Aaron McKenzie, Landon Quinones). That meant the four lightweight veterans (Kurt Holobaugh, Austin Hubbard, Jason Knight, Roosevelt Roberts) automatically went to Chandler.
When it was Chandler’s turn to pick between bantamweight prospects or veterans, he went with veterans (Hunter Azure, Cody Gibson, Brad Katona, Timur Valiev), creating a clear divide with the remaining bantamweights (Rico DiSciullo, Mando Gutierrez, Carlos Vera, Trevor Wells) on McGregor’s team of prospects.
Fighters then worked out for coaches to decide tournament seeds, which determine the season’s opening round matchups. Chandler appeared to favor a more traditional training session, while McGregor leaned more toward having his fighters spar.
Here are the teams and each fighter’s ranking (age and record in parentheses):
Team McGregor (prospects)
- Lee Hammond (27, 5-0)
- Nate Jennerman (29, 16-5)
- Aaron McKenzie (34, 11-2-1)
- Landon Quinones (27, 7-1-1)
- Mando Gutierrez (26, 8-2)
- Trevor Wells (27, 8-3)
- Carlos Vera (35, 11-3)
- Rico DiSciullo (36, 11-2, 1 NC)
Team Chandler (veterans)
- Jason Knight (30, 23-7)
- Austin Hubbard (31, 15-6)
- Roosevelt Roberts (28, 12-3, 1 NC)
- Kurt Holobaugh (36, 19-7, 1 NC)
- Hunter Azure (31, 10-3)
- Brad Katona (31, 12-2)
- Timur Valiev (33, 18-3, 1 NC)
- Cody Gibson (35, 19-8)
The quarterfinal matchups are as follows, with No. 1 and No. 2 being matched up with No. 3 and No. 4 on the opposing team, respectively.
Lee Hammond vs. Kurt Holobaugh
Nate Jennerman vs. Roosevelt Roberts
Jason Knight vs. Landon Quinones
Austin Hubbard vs. Aaron McKenzie
Mando Gutierrez vs. Cody Gibson
Trevor Wells vs. Timur Valiev
Hunter Azure vs. Rico DiSciullo
Brad Katona vs. Carlos Vera
In the first fight of the season, one-time LFA title challenger Nate Jennerman faced 2018 Contender Series signing Roosevelt Roberts.
Unfortunately for Jennerman, his UFC audition was over in a flash. He was caught early by a pair of precision right hands, and he was unable to defend himself as he fell back, stunned. The fight was over in under 10 seconds (an official time was not announced on the show).
Roberts is the first fighter this season to advance to the semifinals. Afterward, Roberts climbed address UFC President Dana White at ringside, telling him he’ll be back in the octagon soon. “The Predator” went 4-3 in his first stint in the UFC before being released in 2021.
“Roosevelt came out today and made a statement and made it quick,” White said in a testimonial. “That was a fast fight. One of the fastest knockouts in TUF history, for sure. A massive win for him. What this tells you is that these veterans realize this is the last shot to get into the UFC. So that was an impressive, badass start to the competition.”
On next week’s episode, Team McGregor’s Trevor Wells fights Team Chandler’s Timur Valiev in a bantamweight bout.
The Ultimate Fighter 31 airs live every Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+.
Following the season finale, Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler are expected to face off in a welterweight bout at a date still to be determined.
The finalists of the TUF 31 lightweight and bantamweight tournaments will also compete for a six-figure UFC contract at the show’s live finale. A date for that event is also yet to be announced.
Here are the quarterfinal results so far:
Roosevelt Roberts def. Nate Jennerman via first-round KO
Advancing to semifinals: Roberts