Do you have some spare time on your hands and are interested in founding out where some of the best UFC talents have come from? Then look no further.
In this article, we’ll look at the 10 best TUF seasons ranked in order from best, the fighters they introduced to the UFC, and what makes them such good seasons (spoilers included).
10 Best TUF Seasons Ranked
The purpose of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) is to find the best upcoming MMA talent, attract a new fanbase by turning fighting into reality TV, and promote their best fighters and upcoming PPV events by having the championship fighters as the two coaches who often fought at the end of a TUF season.
So, without further ado, here are the 10 best TUF seasons ranked.
1. TUF Season 1
>Winners: Diego Sanchez (middleweights) & Forrest Griffin (light heavyweights)
>Head Coaches: Chuck Liddell (blue) & Randy Couture (green)
Unanimously voted as the best whenever you ask any UFC fan, TUF season 1 had the most iconic TUF final fight between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin – an absolute slugfest.
What makes 1 the best TUF season is its classic, underground feel. It’s easy to see not a lot of the show was greatly planned and that it’s winged and very rough cut.
Alongside Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin, season 1 featured Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, Chris Leben, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, and Mike Swick – many legends and staples of the UFC. The high level of competition created many intense and grueling battles.
Season 1 gave MMA fans a unique insight into how fighters train, how two of the best fighters dealt with coaching a team full of new fighters, and the lifestyles of those directly involved in the sport of MMA.
Season 1 also features Dana White motivating and setting the record straight with his famous, “do you want to be a f***ing fighter” speech; as he felt some were there for fun and games.
Other great moments include Stephan Bonnar and Diego Sanchez arguing over asparagus heads and stalks, but later becoming a team of investigators after beanies and supplements go missing.
There’s also a great post-fight argument between Koscheck and Leben, Griffin morphing into a monkey through boredom, and a heartwarming moment of Quarry comforting Leben.
Overall, TUF season 1 will likely remain the best and most remembered season for as long as the show goes on.
2. TUF Season 5
>Winner: Nate Diaz (lightweights)
>Head Coaches: B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver
TUF season 5 is an epic for many reasons. Coaches BJ Penn and Jens Pulver are amazing throughout for their advice and training – especially BJ Penn who’s literally yelling his head off in every fight – and for their healthy banter.
TUF season 5 was the first time coaches fought on the finale, which added a new layer of tension in the air. Not only were they trying to be the winning coach, but they were training for the upcoming fight at the same time.
Also, every fighter in the house was a great character and personality, each bringing something unique.
Some great moments were 3 fighters getting kicked out of the house for fighting, 1 guy getting released for failing to make weight because he entered the show weighing 175 lbs (hilarious), BJ Penn cutting a fighter from his team, and also opening the fighter picks with, “Who wants to be on my team and wants nothing to do with Jens Pulver?!”
As well as the drama, the fights are entertaining and the season features huge names such as Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Corey Hill, Gray Maynard, Cole Miller, Matt Wiman, and Manny Gamburyan – all future UFC fighters.
3. TUF Season 10: Heavyweights
>Winner: Roy Nelson (heavyweights)
>Head Coaches: Rashad Evans (gold) and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson (silver)
Season 10: heavyweights is one of the most hilarious seasons because of the beef between the coaches, Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson.
They’re continuously mocking each other for how they’ve been knocked out in the past and arguing about how they’ll beat each other. At times they’re laughing and smiling together, but it’s not long before it turns hostile.
There are many memorable moments in the season such as Rampage nicknaming a fighter “Titties” because he’s out of shape – which almost turns into a fight, Rampage demolishing a door, and Roy Nelson laying his huge stomach on his opponents in a crucifix position and everyone knowing it was game over from there.
Most of the fights were sloppy but there are many finishes to make up for it. There are many great names involved too, Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub, Kimbo Slice, Wes Sims, Matt Mitrione, and a few others.
It’s also great to see Rashad’s team dominate and Roy Nelson easily beat everyone despite getting clowned throughout and receiving hate from Dana White, who believed Nelson to be cocky.
4. TUF Season 14
>Winners: John Dodson (bantamweights) and Diego Brandao (featherweights)
>Head Coaches: Michael Bisping (blue) and Jason Miller (orange)
Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter is great across the board, with the first being the featured talent. Dana White said that in all the TUF seasons so far, the 4 finalists were the most talented he’d ever seen.
Those 4 fighters were Diego Brandao vs Dennis Bermudez (featherweights) and John Dodson vs TJ Dillashaw (bantamweights) – talk about stacked. TUF season 14 also featured Marcus Brimage and Akira Corassani. All 6 of these fighters made it to the UFC after the show or not long after.
The fights also produced many great finishes such as armbar submissions and heavy knockouts. Also great was the real hatred between Dustin Neace and Akira Corassani who were on opposing teams – which built great anticipation for their quarter-final matchup. They had a scuffle at their initial face-off, which led to a big argument between Bisping against Miller and coach Ryan Parsons.
Aside from the fighting, coaches Michael Bisping and Jason Miller were great for their passion. Miller gave brilliant advice to his fighters during fights and Michael Bisping was brilliant as always. It’s also interesting to see Kamara Usman as a coach on Miller’s team.
Some of Bisping’s best moments were when he broke up a fight between Marcus Brimage and Diego Brandao by saying, “hey! f***ing pack it in!” Also, after winning the coaches’ challenge he jumped from a table and smashed his head, which got a great laugh from the orange team.
With plenty of in-house pranks to boot, season 14 is one of the best TUF seasons and well worth a watch.
5. TUF Season 17
>Winner: Kelvin Gastelum (welterweights)
>Head Coaches: Jon Jones (red) and Chael Sonnen (black)
17 is one of the best TUF seasons because it had a bit of everything. Mostly though, it’s because a last-picked underdog Kelvin Gastelum won the entire show with 3 finishes and a split-decision victory in the final to squash the Uriah Hall hype.
Both coaches were also great and very invested in their team, which created brilliant enthusiasm in the house and some funny banter between the two.
Sonnen was the better mental coach and strategist due to his age and experience, while Jones was the better technical coach with great fighting tips.
In terms of fighting, there were a lot of knockouts and submissions, which featured one of all-time great MMA knockouts, Uriah Hall’s spinning heel head kick KO, as well as a flying knee KO by Luke Barnatt in the preliminary rounds.
Overall the fights were great, due to the talent pool of Uriah Hall, Kelvin Gastelum, Josh Samman, Jimmy Quinlan, Luke Barnatt, and Bubba McDaniel. All 6 made it to the UFC.
There was also a cameo by Ronda Rousey, made possible by Kelvin Gastelum declaring his love for her and winning his first fight.
Season 17 was also the first TUF season to change up the production of the show from 30 fps to 24, as well as implementing other things to improve the quality of the show.
6. TUF Season 21
>Winner: Kamaru Usman (welterweights)
>Gym Owners: Dan Lambert (ATT) and Glenn Robinson (Blackzilians)
TUF season 21 is extremely unique because it’s the first season to feature a gym vs gym format. It’s American Top Team (ATT) vs Blackzilians, two rival gyms close to each other with their headquarters in South Florida, where the house for fighters is also based.
The rivalry is huge because Blackzilians was founded by Glenn Robinson, a former ATT coach who was banned by ATT’s founder Dan Lambert. Glenn Robinson was then joined by 3 other members from ATT.
The season features plenty of venom between the two owners, with Dan Lambert calling Glenn Robinson the most unathletic guy in the room with the least knowledge about the business. He also described him as someone who’d get beat up by a makeup artist.
These are two top MMA gyms, so there are a lot of fierce moments between the fighters too. One of the best and most hilarious moments is a fighter from ATT threatening to barricade the sauna to stop the Blackzilians from cutting weight for the upcoming fights.
The best fighters from ATT are Michael Graves, Hayder Hassan, Nathan Coy, Steve Montgomery, and Sabah Homasi.
The best fighters from Blackzilians are Kamaru Usman (now one of the best UFC welterweights of all time), Vicente Luque, Jason Jackson, and Carrington Banks. Many of these have since joined the UFC or other big MMA promotions like Bellator.
Another thing making this season great was how the winning team of each fight would host the next fight in their own gym. The atmosphere with all the teammates and coaches together cheering is great to see and adds to the intensity of the fights. Overall an impressive and unique TUF season.
7. TUF Season 12
>Winner: Jonathan Brookins (lightweights)
>Head Coaches: Georges St-Pierre (red) and Josh Koscheck (yellow)
GSP vs Koscheck features one of the most stacked coaching teams in all seasons of TUF. GSP has with him Greg Jackson, Firas Zahabi, Freddie Roach, John Danaher, and Koscheck has Daniel Cormier, Javier Mendez, Chuck Liddell, Jon Fitch, and Bob Cook.
Because of the strategic planning and Bjj coaching skills of Danaher, GSP’s team win the first 5 fights by submission; and it’s hilarious to see Koscheck’s face every time his fighters get choked out one by one.
Other memorable moments is GSP bringing in a drunk, out-of-shape trainer (JC Skarbowsky, who’s actually a world champion muay Thai champion) to beat everybody up, and Koscheck arguing and nearly coming to blows with the medic and now famous UFC Cutman, Brad Tate.
There was also a very entertaining and fun dynamic between Josh Koscheck and GSP. Koscheck would often try to annoy GSP but GSP would remain calm and make him look a fool. One of the best moments was GSP baiting Josh Koscheck to pick Marc Stevens so that he could pick Michael Johnson.
TUF season 12 also features skilled fighters and personalities: Cody McKenzie, Alex ‘Bruce Leeroy’ Caceres, Jonathan Brookins, Michael Johnson, Sako Chivitchian, and Nam Phan – 5 of whom become UFC fighters.
8. TUF Season 8
>Winners: Ryan Bader (light heavyweights) and Efrain Escudero (lightweights)
>Head Coaches: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (red) and Frank Mir (blue)
TUF season 8 is one of the most entertaining because of the in-house shenanigans and antics rather than the quality of athletes and fights – though there’s definitely some quality involved.
The best fighters in season 8 were Ryan Bader, Vinny Magalhães, Krzysztof Soszynski, Kyle Kingsbury, Tom Lawlor, Phillipe Nover, and Efrain Escudero.
While the above fighters had some great moments, the season is hilarious because it’s full of cocky fighters hyping themselves up and ultimately quitting once the going gets tough, or getting choked out.
Jose Aguilar compared himself to Napoleon, Alexander, and Hitler, and quit mid-round to protect his face. In response to forfeiting, Jose Aguilar offered a memorable quote, “Murphy’s Law bro, the sun shines on every dog’s ass sometimes.”
Other great moments were Phillipe Nover feinting in the first recorded introduction yet managing to make it to the lightweight finale, Dave Caplan getting knocked out in the house (he asked for it) by Tom Lawlor and refusing to admit he got knocked out, and Junie Browning losing his marbles (on multiple occasions) and throwing strikes at several people in the house.
Overall, 8 is the best TUF season for those interested in house confrontations, pranks, and comedy.
9. TUF Season 22
>Winner: Ryan Hall (lightweights)
>Head Coaches: Conor McGregor (gray) and Urijah Faber (blue)
Conor McGregor’s a head coach, so of course TUF season 22 is full of banter, jibes, and laughter – especially between McGregor and Faber but also between coaches and fighters.
A favorite of McGregor’s is to continuously harass Faber about how Duane Ludwig took over his gym, made his fighters much better, and then left and took champion TJ Dillashaw with him. However, throughout the show, you can see the respect and fondness both coaches have for each other.
TUF season 22 also has many exciting fights and great fighters, such as Ryan Hall, Artem Lobov, Julian Erosa, David Teymur, Billy Quarantillo, Chris Gruetzemacher, and Thanh Le. All of these eventually join the UFC except Thanh Le, who became the ONE featherweight champion instead.
One of the most memorable moments of season 22 occurred after Garbrandt pushed McGregor, and as the two teams were squaring up against each other, David Teymur said to Garbrandt, “Take care of your underwear. I’m going to f**k you, man.” The look on Garbrandt’s face is priceless and never to be repeated.
10. TUF Season 13
>Winner: Tony Ferguson (welterweight)
>Head Coaches: Brock Lesnar (green) and Junior dos Santos (gray)
TUF season 13 is memorable for creating Tony Ferguson, one of the best UFC lightweights of all time.
Ferguson was the star of the show with brilliant moments such as a clean upkick KO, winning the show with 4 knockouts, and an argument with a fellow fighter in which he continuously asks him where his son is.
One of the funniest moments of season 13 was Brock Lesnar referring to his team as chicken sh*t that can turn into a chicken salad by winning fights. He upset his team and had to gather everyone to clarify what he meant; only to repeat the exact same thing and upset them again.
Junior dos Santos was fairly quiet throughout and got on with his job coaching his team, which was smooth sailing until he had to send a coach home for trying to become the leader of sessions too often.
Fighters on the show who made it to the UFC were Myles Jury, Ramsey Nijem, Tony Ferguson, and Chris Cope. Overall, the fights were competitive and both coaches wanted to win no matter what, making season 13 all the more engaging.