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The Irishman set to feature on the next series of The Ultimate Fighter

Richie Smullen is part of the cast for the show, which will feature Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic as coaches.

Rhys McKee grapples with Richie Smullen Richie Smullen (blue shorts) in action against Rhys McKee at BAMMA 30. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

IT WAS CONFIRMED over the weekend that two current champions will meet at UFC 226, with Stipe Miocic set to defend his heavyweight belt against reigning light-heavyweight title-holder Daniel Cormier in Las Vegas on 7 July.

Slightly overshadowed by the announcement of such a major bout was the fact that Miocic and Cormier will also serve as opposing coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Filming for TUF 27 is scheduled to begin in Las Vegas later this week and the first episode is due to air on 18 April.

Not for the first time, there will be Irish interest in the show. Having advanced through the tryouts, Arklow lightweight Richie Smullen (3-0-1) has been revealed as a member of the 16-strong cast, which is made up of eight featherweights and eight lightweights — all of whom hold undefeated records in their professional MMA careers so far.

For the uninitiated, The Ultimate Fighter is a reality TV show which features fighters from two teams facing each other in a tournament format in a bid to earn a UFC contract.

Smullen, a Straight Blast Gym team-mate of UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of some of his SBG colleagues who have previously made the cast for the show. The likes of Cathal Pendred, Aisling Daly, Artem Lobov and Paddy Holohan were all signed by the UFC following their TUF appearances.

Well-regarded for the quality of his grappling in particular, Smullen has made a big impression on the MMA circuit in the UK and Ireland. After a successful three-year amateur career, he made his debut as a professional in July 2016 and submitted his first two opponents via heel-hook.

Having moved to 3-0 with a first-round TKO victory last February, Smullen was matched with the highly-rated Rhys McKee back in July at BAMMA 30. A memorable contest at Dublin’s 3Arena ended in a majority draw, but Smullen showed on the night that he’s a fighter with a potentially promising future in mixed martial arts.

“He has a devastating skillset,” Paddy Holohan said when speaking about Smullen on a recent episode of his Limor ‘No Shame’ podcast. “He’s viciously aggressive when it comes to grappling. He has heavy hands — heavy striking — as well.

“He’s not what’s out there now. There’s a lot of flashy guys out there. When Richie walks out on BAMMA you can hear the people behind him because he’s one of them. He’s coming from Arklow, he’s putting the hard work in, he cuts no corners, he puts in 10 hours a day. People see that and it resonates with them.”

Speaking to The42 last year following Smullen’s draw against Rhys McKee, SBG head coach John Kavanagh said: “People might see Richie Smullen as a grappler but he showed what he can do on the feet against a really good striker like Rhys. He has taken a lot of confidence from that.

U6M2vs2M Smullen will be coached by either Stipe Miocic or Daniel Cormier on The Ultimate Fighter. Source: Gregory Payan/AP/Press Association Images

“Richie is one of my top guys and that opinion is shared by his team-mates in the gym. His name is probably the one that’s almost always mentioned first when you ask around about who to look out for.”

Smullen will be joined on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter by athletes from USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Spain, Italy and Costa Rica.

TUF 27 cast

Lightweights

Thailand Clark (7-0)
Joe Giannetti (6-0)
John Gunther (6-0)
José Martinez Jr (4-0)
Luis Peña (4-0)
Richie Smullen (3-0-1)
Mike Trizano (6-0)
Allan Zuniga (13-0)

Featherweights

Jay Cucciniello (8-0)
Tyler Diamond (9-0)
Brad Katona (6-0)
Bryce Mitchell (9-0)
Suman Mokhtarian (8-0)
Dulani Perry (4-0)
Kyler Phillips (5-0)
Ricky Steele (5-0)

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