It’s time for the third part in our ‘Where Are They Now?’ series focusing on The Ultimate Fighter. In this part we look at seasons 5 and 6 of the show.
TUF Season 5:
Fighters Still Contracted To The UFC: 3
Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard, Joe Lauzon
Despite holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Andy Wang came into TUF season 5 with a reputation for being a brawler. It had up until that point earned him a dubious record of 5-6, but despite being warned by his coach BJ Penn not to, he brought the same fighting philosophy (amusingly nicknamed ‘Stand And Wang’ by fans of the show) into his first fight with Brandon Melendez. He lost by unanimous decision, and was later kick off his team by Penn for ignoring his instructions.
In the season finale Wang vowed to show off his ground game, but in the opening minute of the fight Cole Miller knocked him down with a head kick and finished the fight by TKO with just 70 seconds gone. Wang was cut from the promotion, and disillusioned by how things had worked out for him, he didn’t fight again for almost two years. In April of 2009 Wang returned to MMA, determined to repair his reputation and prove his fighting ability. Fighting for Gladiator Challenge he defeated a newcomer in just over a minute of the first round by TKO – and yes, he did take the fight to the mat! Three months later he fought for the promotion again and defeated another relatively green opponent in the first round.
Wang’s last fight was for the Chinese promotion Art Of War in September of ’09, where he fought Atsuhiro Tsuboi (6-13-3), earning a draw which leaves him with a 7-7-1 career record. The 32 year old has since kept busy helping other fighters train for their bouts, including the likes of Diego Sanchez, Mac Danzig, Frank Trigg and Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos. In addition to fighting Wang holds a degree in history, and he has recently went back to school to study Educational Leadership.
Gabe Ruediger arrived on The Ultimate Fighter with a solid professional record that included a previous fight in the UFC (a loss to Melvin Guillard at UFC 63) and a 17 month reign as the WEC’s lightweight champion. Despite his experience Ruediger entered the show 20lbs overweight, and then failed to cut it in time for his fight with Corey Hill. This angered Dana White who promptly threw Ruediger of the show, and did not recall him for the end of season finale.
Later Ruediger admitted to having seen the show as a marketing tool, and claimed that antics, such as going for a colonic in order to cut weight, had been done deliberately to ensure that he got air-time. While he did gain a certain amount of notoriety it’s questionable how much of a positive impact it’s had on his career. He was set to fight at the K1-Dynamite: USA event soon after the show, but the opportunity fell through. Since then Ruediger has fought for a number of promotions such as Gladiator Challenge, MMA Extreme and PFC, going 5-2 during that period.
Now 32, Ruediger last fought as recently as the 4th of February at Tachi Palace Fights 3. He took on Dominique Robinson (4-4) and won by rear naked choke in the second round. The victory takes his unbeaten run to five fights and raises his career record to 16-5. In a recent radio interview he admitted that people still remember him from the weight cutting debacle in TUF, though he was keen to stress that it was a one-off incident in his career.
Noah Thomas will be remembered for a fight he had in The Ultimate Fighter, though not one that took place inside the octagon. Out of the competition at the first huddle after being submitted by Manny Gamburyan, Thomas went on later in the series to have a drunken fight outside the house with Marlon Sims. During this Thomas learned the hard way why martial arts doesn’t always work in a street-fight when he was lifted up and slammed head-first into the concrete while attempting an armbar. The next day Dana White was on-scene to reprimand both fighters for casting the sport in a bad light, and gave them their marching orders from the show.
At one stage it appeared that a fight between the two was to to take place at the season finale, but the bout was later cancelled by Dana White who said that due to their actions neither would fight in the UFC again. Things went from bad to worse for Thomas when he later blew out his ACL in training, and so it would be well over a year after TUF had ended before he had the opportunity to compete again. His fortunes changed after that however as he compiled a three fight winning streak in the smaller promotions, and then found himself back under the Zuffa banner – albeit in the UFC’s sister organization, the WEC.
Now fighting at 135lbs, Thomas has so far had two fights in the WEC, where he has struggled to make headway so far, going 0-2 against Frank Gomez and Scott Jorgensen. At 28 years of age Thomas has begun contemplating his longer term future, and as a result is currently taking a break from fighting to attend Police Academy. He does however hope to return to fight in April or May.
A cousin of former UFC fighter Karo Parisyan, 5ft 5″ Manny Gamburyan was considered an underdog by many, including Dana White, during TUF 5, but he went on to make a significant impact on the show. He quickly disposed of Noah Thomas by kimura in his first fight, followed by a unanimous decision over Matt Wiman. The semi-finals saw him paired off with a tough opponent in Joe Lauzon, but again he earned a decision victory to secure a spot in the final opposite Nate Diaz.
Disaster struck in the finale though when he suffered a dislocated shoulder while attempting to takedown Diaz, and lost the fight as a result. Despite the disappointment Gamburyan signed a deal with the UFC, and started strongly, getting two submission wins under his belt in a fourth month spell. A 12 knockout loss in just 12 seconds to Rob Emerson at UFC 87 undid his good work however, and then a unanimous decision loss to Thiago Tavares followed in January of 2009 at UFC 94. Considered undersized for the division, Gamburyan made the decision to move down to the featherweight division, and as a result found himself in the WEC.
Gamburyan has so far fought twice in the WEC, picking up decision wins over John Franchi and Leonard Garcia to mark himself out as a genuine contender in the division. It was recently announced that he will now have the honor of fighting on the main card of the WEC’s first ever Pay Per View event in April, where he will face his toughest opponent yet in former champion Mike Brown.
Though still contracted to the UFC, Corey Hill’s post TUF story is worth repeating here. Hill immediately stood out on the show since he had an unusual build for the 155lb lightweight division being that he was 6ft 4″ tall. He also had limited experience having had just one pro fight under his belt before entering the show. Despite that he made it through the first round, defeating the more experienced Rob Emerson. He came undone in the next round however, succumbing to eventual winner Nate Diaz’s triangle choke.
Hill got his official UFC debut at UFN 12, picking up his second pro win against Joe Veres. His next fight ended in disappointment though with a submission loss to Justin Buchholz, but several months later at UFC: Fight For The Troops in December of ’08 things were about to get much worse. Early in the second round Hill threw a leg kick that was checked by Dale Hartt, unexpectedly causing Hill’s leg to break cleanly at the shin. It was one of the worst injuries ever seen in the octagon, and it threatened to end his career. Hill had other ideas. Firstly he required surgery, and the UFC stepped in to cover his medical expenses. With rods and pins holding his leg together Hill was bed-ridden for four months, and that was just the start of a long and grueling road to recovery, with some doctor’s estimating he may be out for as much as two and a half years.
Remarkably, in January of 2010, 13 months after his injury, Corey Hill made his return to competitive action. Though still under contract with the UFC, the promotion had given him permission to compete in smaller promotions while he continued his recovery. Up against local fighter Jason trzewieczynski (3-2) at Raging Wolf VI, Hill battled his way to a unanimous decision victory. He hopes it’s the first step towards a return to the UFC.
Other TUF Season 5 Competitors:
Marlon Sims (3-3): Kicked off the show after a fight with Noah Thomas, Sims has lost twice since, most notably a KO defeat to Billy Evangalista at Strikeforce: Shamrock Vs Le March of 2008.
Brandon Melendez (22-15): After losing out to Joe Lauzon in the season finale Melendez has continued fighting, going 3-4 since. His most recent fight was a KO loss to another former TUF competitor Josh Burkman back in November.
Allen Berube (4-2): A loss to Leonard Garcia in the season finale was Berube’s only UFC fight. Since then he has fought only twice – once in 2007 and once in 2009, and won on both occasions. After the show he continued to run his ‘Monstah Lobstah’ seafood restaurant.
Brian Geraghty (21-14-1): Tasting defeat in the TUF 5 finale to Matt Wiman didn’t stop Geraghty from competing in MMA, and he’s went 4-3 since for a host of smaller scale promotions. His most recent fight was a win over a newcomer in November.
Wayne Weems (12-2): Weems wasn’t called back for the finale, and he has only logged fight since – a win in July of 2007. There have been doubts over some of the fights Weems 12-2 record, with a number of them coming via opponents who had never fought professionally before. On the up-side he did once fight someone named ‘Trip Shatfires’. That’s got to count for something.
TUF Season 6:
Fighters Still Contracted To The UFC: 0
Tommy ‘The Farmboy’ Speer had a successful run in the sixth season of TUF, despite facing a series of tough opponents. Firstly he claimed a hard fought decision win over Jon Koppenhaver, and then another over Ben Saunders. George Sotiropoulos was the last fighter that stood in the way of Speers earning a place in the finals, and he didn’t let the opportunity pass him by, winning with a first round KO. After all the hard work that went into getting into the final, the resulting bout was a disappointment with Mac Danzig quickly submitting Speer in just under two minutes of the opening round.
Speer had an opportunity to bounce back from the loss at Ultimate Fight Night 13, but things did not go according to plan and he was knocked out in just 51 seconds by the heavy-handed Anthony Johnson. After a little under three minutes of cage time in his two UFC fights Speer’s spell in the promotion had come to an end. After that it appeared he was set to return to the WEC where he had fought once before. Unfortunately Speer was then bitten by a recluse spider which forced him out of action for several months, and the opportunity passed him by. Instead Speer got back into action for the smaller promotions, fighting three times between October and November of ’08. He won the first two bouts, but the third ended in defeat . After the fight the 25 year old announced his retirement, saying that he couldn’t keep up with the demands of fighting in MMA while also working on his family’s farm.
It appeared that the competitive urge hadn’t yet left Speer however, and he returned to MMA competition six months later, picking up a win at an Extreme Challenge event. Another victory followed in October of 2009 taking his career record to 13-4. Next up for the Minnesotan is a welterweight title fight with 11-2 fighter Ryan Ford at Canadian promotion TFC in March.
Richie Hightower wasn’t the most popular fighter on season 6, with the eventual winner of the show Mac Danzig in particular taking an instant dislike to him. Despite that Hightower took out his first opponent, Blake Bowman, in just 49 seconds. It would be his only victory on the show though as he lost out to one of the early favorites to win the show, George Sotiropoulos, by Kimura in the following round. At the season finale Hightower faced Troy Mandaloniz and came off second best, losing by TKO in the first round. It proved to be his one and only fight in the UFC.
It would be over a year before Hightower emerged again, fighting at Shark Fights first event in October of 2008. It wasn’t to be a successful return however as he picked up another loss on his record. A few months later he was back in action against a member of Greg Jackson’s camp, Marcus Foran. The fight ended in a ‘no contest’ when Hightower was adjudged to have landed an illegal strike to the back of Foran’s head.
With his form sliding the 28 year old desperately needed a win, and in December of ’09 he found it in a fight against a local fighter Jordan McKay in the Canadian promotion TFC. The victory took his record to 8-3.
Ranking as one of the briefest appearances ever on The Ultimate Fighter, Roman Mitichyan found himself out of the show as early as the first episode when it emerged during the initial evaluations that he had a broken elbow. An emotional Mitichyan begged with the doctor to let him fight but it wasn’t to be and he was subsequently replaced by a certain Jon ‘War Machine’ Koppenhaver.
The UFC did the honorable thing however and invited him back for the season finale, to face Dorian Price. Mitichyan took just 23 seconds to secure the victory by way of an ankle lock. At UFN 13 in April of 2008 Mitichyan returned to action against fellow TUF competitor George Sotoropoulos, but lost out via a second round TKO. Despite holding a UFC record of 1-1 Mitichyan was cut from the roster after the defeat. Since then the Armenian born fighter has picked up a further win (against TUF 7’s Mike Dolce) and a loss in 2009 to take his career record to 6-3.
Fighting is not Mitichyan’s only career path however. Even before his time on TUF he had found work as a stuntman and taking on small roles in film and television, and he has continued to do. Since leaving the UFC he has featured in small parts for TV shows like ’24’, ‘Numb3rs’ and ‘Dexter’, along with appearances in a handful of films. He is listed as one of the stuntmen for the forthcoming Hollywood movie ‘Takers’ .
Jon Koppenhaver (War Machine)
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable fighters from The Ultimate Fighter, Jon Koppenhaver made his mark during and after the show for a host of reasons. He almost didn’t appear at all however, as he was only a stand-by for the season until Roman Mitichyan broke his elbow. ‘War Machine’ as he preferred to be known, fought Tommy Speer in the opening round, but despite a strong start he ended up losing the fight. Later in the season Koppenhaver got into a scuffle with Jared Rollins after he ‘dropped a deuce’ in their toilet tank. The fight was quickly broken up, but the two would get a chance to resolve their differences at the season finale. It ended up being a three round war which War Machine ended by KO, earning ‘Fight Of The Night’ honors in the process.
Koppenhaver signed a ten fight contract with the UFC, yet he had only one more fight in the octagon, a loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 84. He wasn’t cut for the loss, but rather for controversial comments he later made on his myspace blog regarding the death of UFC fighter Evan Tanner. It wouldn’t be the only time his blog would get him in trouble – the following year he would also be cut from the Bellator promotion’s first season for implying that he hoped Barack Obama would be assassinated. In August of 2008 he had his name legally changed to ‘War Machine’. In February of ’09 he found himself in trouble with the police for the second time in two years after fighting a bouncer at the nightclub he was working at as a waiter. Despite all this he did find time to compete, and between November 2008 – September of 2009 he logged five consecutive wins.
War Machine’s last fight came in October of last year for Tachi Palace Fights. Facing undefeated prospect David Mitchell he lost for the first time since leaving the UFC by split decision, leaving his record at 10-3. It’s the 27 year old’s antics outside the cage that continue to grab the headlines though. In late October he announced that he was to become a porn star. In November though it became clear that he was still more of a fighter than a lover when he went on a rampage at a porn star’s birthday party and hit a number of different people, including his agent, sending several of them to hospital. His twitter account became infamous during this time as he spoke about being on the run from the police, and drunkenly posted about wanting to kill himself. War Machine turned himself in to the police in December and is currently out on bail. His long term future remains uncertain.
Despite a successful career in the computer industry, John Kolosci’s love for mixed martial arts drove him to compete in TUF season 6. Things started off well as he claimed his first win on the show with a first round guillotine choke over Billy Miles, but he subsequently lost to Mac Danzig in the quarter finals. Kolosci then faced Matt Arroyo in the season finale, and with his future in the promotion at stake he was defeated by an armbar in the first round.
A series of injury setbacks meant that Kolosci spent 2008 on the sidelines, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for the sport. Towards the end of the year he came to the realization that he couldn’t continue to juggle his full time job and remain a professional fighter. Remarkably, despite his day job earning him in the region of $120,000 a year, Kolosci decided to quit it in order to follow his dream of being an MMA fighter. In 2009 he then went on a four fight win streak. Though the wins came in smaller scale promotions, he caught the attention of Strikeforce, who offered him a place on the un-aired prelims of their Strikeforce: Fedor Vs Rogers event against the 9-1 Shamar Bailey. It was a foothold back into one of the major promotions, but unfortunately he lost the bout by unanimous decision.
Branching out Kolosci started his own promotion, Hoosier Fight Club that same month. He also marked the occasion by marrying his partner Cathy in the cage during the intermission for the show. In January the 35 tear old got back to winning ways at the second Hoosier event, taking his career record to 10-6. The promotion is not the only additional string to his bow however as he also manages some fighters and has a teaching role at L.A Boxing in Indiana to help make ends meet.
Joe Scarola entered into The Ultimate Fighter as a protege of Matt Serra, one of the the coaches on season 6. As well as being one of the assistant coaches at Serra’s martial arts academy, Scarola had also been the best man at his wedding. Despite Serra’s support Scarola was submitted by Mac Danzig in the opening episode of the show.
After the disappointing defeat Serra was still keen for Scarola to help him train the other fighters on their team, but he had other ideas, confessing that he was homesick and missing his girlfriend. A clearly dissapointed Serra pleaded with him to stay and not throw away the opportunity but Scarola had made up his mind, and left the show.
At the time Serra vowed to disown the fighter if he walked out on his commitment to the show, and indeed he did just that. Scarola lost his job at Serra’s BJJ academy, and his friendship with the fighter. Scarola hasn’t fought since, but he is continues to be involved in martial arts. He now owns his own Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school, Scarola BJJ, also known as Gracie Barra Long Island.
Other TUF Season 6 Competitors:
Matt Arroyo (3-3): After winning his bout with John Kolosci in the finale Arroyo stuck around for a further two fights, but after failing to pick up another win during that time he was cut from the promotion in January of last year. He hasn’t fought since, but has been busy teaching at his school, ‘Gracie Tampa South’, competing in submission grappling tournaments, and recently earned his BJJ black belt.
Dan Barrera (2-1): Lost to Ben Saunders in the finale and went on to pick up two victories in 2008. Hasn’t fought since.
Blake Bowman (2-4): After losing to Richie Hightower on the show Bowman didn’t get an opportunity to fight in the UFC. He did however win his next two fights in smaller promotions, but he has since lost four fights, all in the first round. He still plans to continue fighting though.
Troy Mandaloniz (3-2): After posting a 1-1 record in the UFC with a win over Richie Hightower and loss to Paul Kelly, Mandaloniz found himself cut from the roster. It’s been over a year since he last fought, but he currently helps run and teach at the I & I Training center in Maui, Hawaii owned by his long-time friend and training partner Kendall Grove.
Paul Georgieff (5-2): Georgieff had to leave the show to attend a funeral, but not before losing to Troy Mandeloniz. He was then defeated by Jonathon Goulet at the finale and hasn’t fought since.
Billy Miles (2-2): Lost out to John Kolosci on the show, and Georges Sotoropoulos in the finale. Hasn’t fought since.
Dorian Price (8-3): Lost to Matt Arroyo on TUF, then Roman Mitichyan in the finale. Hasn’t fought since.
Jared Rollins (8-4): Despite losing a ‘Fight Of The Night’ performance against War Machine, Rollins hasn’t returned to MMA competition so far, though he does still train. He currently lives in O.C with his wife and child.
Stay tuned for Part 4 of this feature, which looks at Seasons 7-8, next week. In the mean time feel free to check out some of the other recent featured articles on the site: