Over the years, The Ultimate Fighter has offered an opportunity for new and up and coming talent to fight their way on to the sports biggest stage, the UFC. Some have seized the opportunity and gone on to find fame and fortune as a result, with their careers playing out in front of millions of MMA fans around the world.
They are not the focus of this article, however. Instead, we will look to find out what happened to some of the memorable characters from past seasons who didn’t obtain the same level of success in the octagon, and found themselves cut from the roster as a result. Did they continue to pursue their dreams, did they find success elsewhere, or did they just fade into obscurity? Read on to find out…
Bobby Southworth gained infamy in the TUF season 1 house as part of the duo (along with Josh Koscheck) who sent Chris Leben into a drunken rage, smashing a window and breaking down a bedroom door along the way. Southworth failed to make a major impact in the competition though, losing out to eventual finalist Stephan Bonner by split decision in his second fight. He returned for the season finale, but came out on the wrong side of a decision to Sam Hoger.
Afterwards Southworth found a new home – Strikeforce. He was then involved in one of the most bizarre fights in MMA history when he and his opponent James Irvin fell out of the unlocked cage door just moments into the fight. Better days were ahead though as he claimed the vacant Strikeforce light-heavyweight title against Vernon White in his next fight. He would notch up a further three wins, including one successful title defense, in the next two years before losing his belt to Renato Sobral in December of 2008. He hasn’t fought since.
10 seasons after first appearing on The Ultimate Fighter, Southworth turned up at the tryouts for the 11th season of the show in October of 2009. It’s since been confirmed the show will only feature middleweights, ruling out the chance of him returning. Now 40, Southworth (9-6) remains without a fight deal, but is still hoping to return to the cage in the future. Meanwhile he teaches BJJ at the American Kickboxing Academy gym in California.
The Alaskan Assassin’ Sam Hoger became something of a villain in TUF Season 1 after he was accused of stealing items from other fighters. Meanwhile, good fortune meant that Hoger didn’t have to fight until the semi-finals, but his luck quickly changed when he was TKO’d by Forrest Griffin a little over a minute into the bout. He did, however, make amends at the season finale by defeating Bobby Southworth.
It would be the start of a five-fight run in the UFC in which he would post a record of 2-3, including losing out to future champions Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. The latter defeat in March of 2007 spelled an end to his UFC career. A few months later he suffered another setback when he was choked out by Vernon White in the IFL. 18 months later and now fighting at heavyweight Hoger made a successful comeback in regional promotion WCF, while in January of 2009 he claimed another win, and the URC Cruiserweight belt.
Now 29 and holding a record of 8-4, Hoger hasn’t fought in over a year. He has kept busy though, opening up the ‘Hoger MMA And Ultimate Fitness Center’ in Texas last April, and earning his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt in July. According to a recent post on his twitter account Hoger is expecting to return to fighting in April.
Alex Schoenauer’s total cage time in TUF lasted just 80 seconds before being TKO’d by Forrest Griffin, but he still made his presence felt – opening up a cut above Griffin’s eye that almost forced the eventual winner and future champion out of the competition. He would then last only 20 seconds in his only official UFC fight before being knocked out by Mike Swick.
The losses didn’t deter Schoenauer however, and he has fought on a regular basis since, most notably a two year stretch in the IFL where he went 5-5. After the IFL went under he found himself picked up by the WEC. At the time the light-heavyweight class in the WEC was preparing to be amalgamated with the UFC’s, apparently paving the way for his return to the octagon. Unfortunately he got injured, and his contract was not picked up by the UFC.
After that disappointment, he didn’t fight for over 18 months, but in December of 2009 he returned for a fight against a high profile opponent in Paulo Filho at Bitetti Combat MMA 4. Schoenauer wasn’t able to pull off an upset though, losing by unanimous decision to take the 33-year-old’s pro record to 13-9.
Alex Karalexis didn’t make a major impact in the first season of TUF, succumbing to a rear naked choke courtesy of Diego Sanchez in his opening fight. He did manage to rebound in the season finale however, defeating Josh Rafferty. That set up a fight with Season 1 runner-up Kenny Florian, where he became an early victim of ‘Ken-Flo’s’ sharp elbows. Another loss on his record, this time against Jason Von Flue, called an end to his time in the UFC.
Karalexis apparently hadn’t fallen out of favor with Zuffa though, and found himself in the WEC some seven months later where he has remained since. He won his first two fights for the promotion before dropping down to lightweight where he has received mixed results, going 2-2. He was scheduled to fight Kamal Shalorus in November at WEC 44, but a broken hand prevented him from competing.
Currently 10-4 in his pro career, there is no word yet on when the 32-year-old will fight next.
Canadian Jason Thacker had one of the most unenviable appearances in the history of The Ultimate Fighter. For example – on his first night on the show fellow contestant Chris Leben decided it would be a good idea to piss on his pillow. This came 0nly hours after being given the nickname ‘Strange Brew’ thanks to his unusual odor. Not a great start then! Things didn’t go any better in the following days as Thacker, who had no professional fights under his belt before entering the show, quickly realized that he wasn’t cut out for the intensity of the training regime.
By the second episode he had earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first ever contestant to be eliminated from the show. Despite this Thacker somehow managed to earn a place on the TUF finale to face his nemesis, Leben. Looking for revenge, he instead ended up on the wrong end of a one-sided beatdown.
So what became of Jason Thacker? What we do know is that he hasn’t fought since leaving the UFC. It appears he retreated back to the rural town in British Columbia where he came from, perhaps to resume his previous job as an animator. In 2007, a video with Thacker appeared in which he showed viewers around the abandoned truck stop that he used as a makeshift gym before going on the show. Despite his ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ appearance on TUF, ‘Strange Brew’ has gained something of an ironic cult status amongst hardcore fans, and his name still crops up in conversation from time to time.
Other TUF 1 Competitors:
- Chris Sanford (5-1 / Last Fought: August 2005)
- Lodune Sincaid (15-8 / Former WEC Light-heavyweight champion / last Fought: June 2009)
- Josh Rafferty (9-6 / Last Fought: November 2008)
Let’s Look At The Ultimate Fighter Season 2!
One of the more unusual personalities to emerge from The Ultimate Fighter show is surely Luke Cummo. A committed Vegan who wore glasses and cited a love of comic books, he certainly didn’t fit the stereotype of a fighter. Despite being picked last in the team selections he would defy expectations by going on to the TUF 2 season finale after defeating Anthony Torres and Sammy Morgan. He then lost out in a closely fought battle with Joe Stevenson, but his performance earned him the same $100,000 contract that is usually reserved for the winner of the show.
Cummo went on to fight for the UFC for three years with mixed results before leaving in in 2008 after back-to-back defeats to Lugi Fioravanti and Tamdan McCrory. He hasn’t fought since, leaving his record at 6-6 (3-4 in the UFC).
Cummo currently keeps fans up-to-date with his goings-on via the forum at his own site, lukecummo.com. Don’t be expecting to much in the way of MMA talk though. During his time in the UFC he was known to drink his own urine, believing it gave him an edge over his opponents. Nowadays he’s apparently into “flushing” his body of impurities with regular enemas, and “harvesting” his gallstones. It’s a subject he’s happy to discuss at length, and even provides photos. Did I mention that Luke Cummo is kind of weird??
After making a promising start to TUF 2 by beating Melvin Guilard, Josh Burkman was then forced to leave the show due to a broken arm sustained during the fight. It was a tough pill to swallow, but after returning to full fitness Burkman was determined to prove his worth in the season finale, and stopped Sammy Morgan in just 21 seconds.
Burkman would go on to fight for a further three years in the UFC, picking wins up over the likes of Josh Neer and Drew Fickett along the way, but struggling against the division’s top contenders like Karo Parisyan and Jon Fitch. After losing three fights in a row to Mike Swick, Dustin Hazelett and Pete Sell, taking his octagon record to 5-5, Burkman was finally cut from the UFC roster in the latter months of 2008.
After that Burkman spent over a year on the sidelines healing up from serious back problems. Now 29, Burkman returned to action in November, picking up a win over another former TUF competitor Brandon Melendez at Throwdown Showdown 5. Burkman’s first fight of 2010 is not confirmed yet, but he plans to avenge a previous defeat to Jeremy Horn in March if the veteran fighter agrees.
Jorge Gurgel appeared to have an advantage coming into The Ultimate Fighter Season 2 due to a being best friends with his coach Rich Franklin. He also handed himself a significant disadvantage however by failing to use his highly regarded Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, preferring to rely on his stand-up skills. The strategy backfired and he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Jason Von Flue on the show, followed by a further decision loss to Mark Hominick at the show’s finale.
Despite the losses, UFC bosses gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept him on the roster. Gurgel’s overconfidence in his striking and stubborn refusal to take fights to the floor would continue to hinder more than help his career, and he was finally let go in November of 2008 after compiling a disappointing 3-4 record.
Gurgel now fights for Strikeforce in their Challenger series, and despite criticism he has continued to indulge his passion for grueling three round stand-up wars in his victory over Conor Heun and loss to Billy Evangalista. Still a respected BJJ teacher he currently runs the Jorge Gurgel Mixed Martial Arts Academy. He remains close friends with Rich Franklin and helps corners him for his fights. Gurgel also recently returned to the UFC – but only to help out as a Portugese translator in-between rounds during the UFC 108 broadcast.
One of the more experienced competitors in TUF season 2, Mike Whitehead appeared among the early favorites to win the show. Unfortunately for him, he was drawn to face the eventual winner Rashad Evans in his first fight and lost out by unanimous decision. At UFC 57 in February of 2006 he was given another chance to make his mark against fellow TUF 2 alum Keith Jardine, but again he lost out, and lost his place in the UFC as a result.
In the following two years he became a relentless competitor, fighting twelve times, emerging undefeated in that period. The run included five fights in the IFL in which he defeated some familiar names from the UFC’s past and present in Krzysztof Soszynski, Mark Kerr and Vernon White. His run ended however when he dropped a unanimous decision to Renato Sobral in July of 2008 at Affliction: Banned.
Last year the 28-year-old signed for Strikeforce, and notched up his first win against another seasoned competitor, Kevin Randlemann. In December, he looked to give rising star ‘King Mo’ Lawal a tough test in his debut for the promotion, but things didn’t go according to plan and he suffered the first clean KO defeat of his 32 fight career in the first round.
Seth Petruzelli came into The Ultimate Fighter having just beaten UFC hall of famer, Dan Severn. He then progressed to the semi-finals on the show after beating Dan Christison but come undone against Brad Imes. Petruzelli didn’t fight officially in the UFC until a year later, losing out to TUF 3’s Matt Hamill. A subsequent loss to Wilson Gouveia in April of 2007 ended his spell in the UFC.
After claiming a win in a local promotion in October of ’07, Petruzelli took an expected turn when he put his fighting career on hold in order to open up a ‘Smoothie King’ in Florida. A year later Petruzelli was preparing to fight in the undercard of an Elite XC event when out of the blue he found himself upgraded to the main event. His new opponent was undefeated backyard brawler Kimbo Slice and the bout was set to broadcast to millions live on CBS. 14 seconds into the fight he handed the heavily promoted Slice a humiliating TKO loss. To this day it remains one of the most-watched fights in MMA history.
Despite the blaze of publicity that followed, Petruzelli spent another year out of the sport. He did, however, continue to show his entrepreneurial flair by starting up an MMA gym, ‘The Jungle’, along with another Smoothie King. In August, he notched up a win for a small scale promotion and recently announced that he will be fighting 45-year-old veteran Ken Shamrock (who he stepped into replace at Elite XC) in March of this year. He is still hoping for a return to the UFC in the future, and a potential rematch with Kimbo Slice.
Brad Imes entered The Ultimate Fighter off the back of victories in his first three pro fights – all in the WEC. His winning form continued on the show as he racked up wins against Rob Macdonald and Seth Petruzelli to earn a spot in the final. Their his unbeaten run would finally come to an end against Rashad Evans by split decision. Despite his early promise Imes UFC career failed to take off after the defeat, picking up further losses to Dan Christison and Heath Herring before being released in 2007.
The rest of that year would prove better though as he claimed five wins in a row fighting in smaller promotions around the U.S. During that spell he gained publicity for winning two fights in a row by the rarely seen ‘gogoplata’ submission, earning him a new nickname – ‘Mr Gogoplata’. 2008 onwards has seen a sharp contrast in his form, and he has gained just two wins in his past six fights. His most recent fight took place at ‘Arena Rumble’ in September of 2009 where he was defeated by the relatively inexperienced Josh Queen.
Currently holding a record of 12-7, the 32 year old’s fighting career appears to have come to a halt with long-term knee problems taking their toll. He has now taken up gainful employment as a firefighter which will no doubt help the people of Jefferson City sleep a little easier at night.
Other TUF 2 Competitors:
- Sammy Morgan (19-12 / Last fought: October 2008)
- Anthony Torres (5-2 / last Fought: January 2008)
- Dan Christison (17-7 / Last Fought: November 2009)
- Rob MacDonald (5-4 / Last Fought: February 2008)
- Tom Murphy (5-0 / CEO of Warrior Roots / Last Fought: October 2009 )
- Kenny Stephens (9-8 / Last Fought: June 2009)
- Kerry Schall (22-11 1nc / Last Fought: November 2008)
- Eli Joslin (2-0 / Last Fought: April 2006)