This article was first published in 2010. All information is accurate as at 2010.
Earlier this year we published a series of articles which found out what happened to the fighters featured in The Ultimate Fighter series who didn’t make it in the UFC.
At the time we covered seasons 1-8, but held back from going any further as not enough time had passed between the most recent seasons. Now, over a year after TUF Season 9 aired and with a new season of the show about to air on Spike TV this month, we’re heading back to discover what became of the cast of season 9, AKA ‘United States Vs United Kingdom.’
The Ultimate Fighter Season 9
Fighters still under contract with the UFC: 5
(Damarques Johnson, Ross Pearson, Andre Winner, Nick Osipczack, James Wilks)
Note: Damarques Johnson is the only remaining member of the eight-man US team still competing in the promotion.
The fact that Santino DeFranco competed in TUF season 9 at all is remarkable. Years earlier during the tryouts for TUF 2 a routine medical exam discovered that he had two brain aneurysms. After undergoing brain surgery it appeared his career was over, but remarkably after seeking a second opinion in 2007 and undergoing numerous tests he was cleared to fight again.
A 3-2 record following his return, taking his overall record to 13-4 led to him successfully reapplying to the TUF show. He then fought his way though the elimination round but then came undone in the quarter-finals against eventual finalist Andre Winner.
DeFranco didn’t make it to the season finale, and hasn’t fought in MMA since, though he has featured in grappling tournaments. While he may not be fighting he continues to have a very active presence in the sport of mixed martial arts. He is currently the owner and chief instructor at Southwest MMA in Arizona, and is also the matchmaker for the Shine Fights promotion, including putting together the line-up for their forthcoming lightweight grand-prix on pay-per-view.
Jason Dent entered the show the most experienced member of the U.S team with a record of 18-9 and two prior fights in the UFC, albeit both being losses to tough opposition in Roger Huerta and Gleison Tibau. His experience showed as he then navigated his way to the semi-finals on TUF before dropping to a unanimous decision ldefeat against eventual winner Ross Pearson.
He earned himself a place in the finale though where he defeated Cameron Dollar. Dent’s knack for drawing tough opponents came back to haunt him again though as he lost to an emerging force in George Sotiropoulos in his next visit to the octagon and was subsequently released from his contract.
Since then Dent has returned to running the GriffonRawl MMA Academy in Ohio. He’s fought just once since in June of 2010 against Chris Lozano, a fighter from a rival gym. Dent broke his arm in the first round of the grudge match, but continued fighting until losing by TKO due to a doctor stoppage at the end of the fourth.
“I thought about retiring at one point but I still love the sport too much and feel I have a lot left,” the 30 year-old told profighting-fans.com days after the fight.
Just 21 at the time, Cameron Dollar entered into the house with a 4-1 record. Despite being shown to be extremely nervous before his fights, Dollar made his way through to the semi-finals before becoming another victim of UK fighter Andre Winner.
Despite the loss his performances earned him a spot on the season finale, but he was unable to capitalize on it, succumbing to Jason Dent’s first round Anaconda Choke in what would be his only fight in the UFC.
Still just 23, Dollar continues to pursue his MMA career. Since the show he has racked up two wins, firstly defeating former UFC and WEC fighter Kit Cope, and most recently Ian stonehouse. Now fighting at 145lbs, Dollar’s sights are set on making his way into the WEC. His next challenge is just days away as he takes on Brett Roller on September 11th at ‘Bring The Thunder MMA’.
Alaskan fighter Richie Whitson felt right at home on TUF 9 given that his Coach at Team Quest, Dan Henderson, was also his coach on the show. Whitson would prove his worth by earning a first round submission victory in the elimination round, but lost in the quarter-finals to Ross Pearson.
Whitson was not invited back for the finale, but with time still on his side at the age of 24 he has continued to pursue a career in MMA. He remains a member of the Team Quest gym where he is now a coach, and has produced a 3-1 record since the show. He was rumored to be under consideration for a fight with the Bellator promotion earlier in 2010, but so far that has failed to materialize.
His next fight comes on the 19th of September when he headlines a Prestige FC event in Alberta, Canada against 9-5 Brad Cardinal.
It’s probably fair to say that Frank Lester had one of the strangest journey’s through TUF in the history of the show. Lester found himself winning his elimination bout after his opponent knocked himself out with a slam. He was less lucky in the quarter-finals however when he had four of his front teeth knocked out as he slumped to tough defeat against eventual winner James Wilkes.
Lester was then unexpectedly brought back in as a replacement after another fighter pulled out, and despite still being battered and bruised from his previous fight he pulled off an upset win over David Faulkner. Unfortunately for Lester he was again paired with Wilkes in the semi-finals and lost by TKO. His willingness to fight impressed the UFC though who booked him for the season finale, but a quick submission defeat at the hands of Nick Osipczak brought an end to his brief spell in the promotion.
After the show Lester moved to California to train at Team Quest with his TUF coach Dan Henderson. Since then he’s fought twice in MMA, going 1-1, and also traveled to China to compete in his first kickboxing bout, winning by KO.
A former IFL veteran, Mark Miller earned his spot in the TUF house by defeating his team-mate and friend Kevin Knabjian in the elimination round. By the fourth episode Miller was out of the competition however after suffering a head kick KO loss to the UK’s Nick Osipczak.
After not being offered a place in the season finale, Miller found himself back on the regional circuit where thing didn’t go according to plan, picking up two more losses on his record, one by KO. He rallied in June however with a win, taking his record to 10-7.
Miller was all set to fight Josh Shockley at Bellator 25 in August, with the winner expected to be offered a place in the promotion’s season four lightweight tournament. Unfortunately this golden opportunity to get back in the spotlight eluded the 31 year-old when he suffered a rib injury prior to the bout.
Jason Pierce didn’t exactly make the best of impressions on The Ultimate Fighter’s ninth season. Things started badly when he passed out during Dana White’s first speech to the fighters, but he rallied round to claim a decision win during the elimination round. Pierce continued to fumble his way through the show, angering his team-mates due to his work ethic, or lack thereof, before declaring that he had a staph infection.
With his place in the quarter finals in jeopardy Pierce continued to show an apparent lack of desire and motivation to compete. Not impressed, Dana White decided that Pierce would not be allowed to continue in the competition. Needless to say Pierce was not on the short-list of fighters asked back for the season finale.
After the show Pierce spoke out regarding his apparent unhappiness with the way he had been portrayed on the show. He partially blamed Zuffa for not getting him to a hospital quicker after he told them he had staph, and suggested they tried to cover it up by not showing how badly his foot had swollen, or the fact his weight increased to 195lbs due to IVs he was being given.
Pierce did finally get back into the cage at a regional show in October of 2009, picking up a win. He hasn’t fought since.
A first round victory in the eliminators got the UK’s Jeff Lawson off to a good start, but while many of his team-mates ran rampant during the show, Lawson came unstuck in the quarter-finals against Jason Dent.
Lawson wasn’t kept on by the UFC, but nonetheless he’s stayed active in the MMA scene. First came two fights for regional promotions, losing the first by KO before rebounding with a first round submission win in the second.
Since then Lawson has had two higher profile fights. The first saw him compete on British promotion BAMMA’s third show which was shown on British cable station Bravo. On that occasion he pulled off another quick submission win against fellow UK veteran Dave Lee.
Gaining some momentum Lawson then traveled to Japan in August to fight Shooto champion Hatsu Hioki at Senguko 14. He wasn’t able to pull off the biggest win of his career however, losing by triangle choke in the opening round.
In some ways Martin Stapleton could have been viewed as the UK’s answer to Strikeforce’s Tim Kennedy given his background in the Royal-Marines Commandos and combat experience in war zones around the globe. Despite his early promise, breezing through the preliminary round, Stapleton was himself then eliminated by Cameron Dollar.
Stapleton wasted no time after the show getting back on the circuit, producing two wins in three months between July and September of 2009 to take his career record to 7-1.
Unfortunately Stapleton was unable to continue competing for the remainder of the year after suffering an injury. Then in 2010 his sporting ambitions had to be put on hold again as his continued involvement in the military saw him deployed in Afghanistan where he remains to this day.
Despite the fact that he’s now fighting a completely different kind of fight, Stapleton’s desire to return to the cage has not diminished and he has plans to return to the cage in early 2011.
The UK’s David Faulkner had a few memorable moments on the show, though they are one’s he’d perhaps rather forget. He is best remembered for having a particularly sensitive gag reflex which meant he spent his bouts fighting not only his opponents, but also an urge to spit out his mouthpiece.
In his quarter-final bout with Frank Lester, Faulkner quit on his stool prior to the third round complaining that he couldn’t catch his breath. That provoked an angry reaction from Bisping who suggested a lack of heart was the real reason he failed to answer the bell.
After receiving his fair share of criticism after the show aired, Faulkner spoke out on the real reason for his lackluster performance. After the fight doctor’s discovered that he had in fact been suffering from Bronchitis, with x-rays revealing that had essentially caused his left lung to cease functioning. After hearing of the doctor’s assessment Faulkner says that Bisping apologized to him for jumping to conclusions.
Continued bad luck with injuries, from a slipped disc to knee injury has so far kept Faulkner from returning to the cage. Undeterred the Brit has stated that his real desire now is to compete as an Olympian in wrestling or judo, though he still intends to continue fighting in MMA as well.