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Explainer: The UFC's new TV series featuring Conor McGregor starts tonight

If you’re new to The Ultimate Fighter, here’s how it works.

A NEW SERIES of The Ultimate Fighter begins tonight, featuring the UFC’s interim featherweight champion — Irish star Conor McGregor.

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What is The Ultimate Fighter?

The Ultimate Fighter, or TUF, is a reality TV series which was created by the UFC back in 2005 as a means of discovering new talent. The new series with Conor McGregor — TUF 22 — will be the 31st season in total (there have been nine international seasons in addition to the ‘numbered’ seasons).

Some of the biggest mixed martial arts stars of both past and present were discovered via TUF, including Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Matt Serra, TJ Dillashaw, Nate Diaz and Kenny Florian. McGregor follows in the footsteps of legends like Chuck Liddell, Georges St Pierre, Randy Couture and BJ Penn in serving as a coach.

Antrim’s Norman Parke won the lightweight bracket of ‘The Smashes’ series of the show in 2012. Other Irish athletes who have featured on the show are Paul McVeigh, Joseph Duffy, Aisling Daly, Paddy Holohan and Cathal Pendred.

How does it work?

Aspiring MMA fighters attend tryouts — which took place for this season back in March — in the hope of being selected to compete on the show. The prize for the eventual season winner is a UFC contract, although other fighters who perform impressively during the season are also generally awarded contracts.

For this season, the UFC have picked 32 lightweight (155lbs) fighters — 16 from Europe and 16 from the USA. The European team will be coached by Conor McGregor, while fellow UFC star Urijah Faber will guide the US team.

UFC 189 Mixed Martial Arts UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Source: John Locher

Each contestant will then take on a fighter from their own team — over two five-minute rounds — in the prelims, with the winner progressing to the next stage and the loser being eliminated. That leaves each team with eight fighters, who will then spend six weeks training and living together in a house in Las Vegas while vying for that UFC deal.

The fighters from each team will compete against each other on a knockout basis. As the stages progress, team-mates on the show will often end up in opposition, which slightly nullifies the entire team concept. But ultimately, it’s all about being the last man standing.

Fighters who are eliminated usually remain in the house until the end of the series; some are occasionally given a route back into the competition as replacements in the event of an injury to another competitor.

Below is a sample bracket from TUF 15, which featured Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz as coaches. Team Faber fighters are in blue, Team Cruz fighters are in red.

Brackets

What happens next?

The two fighters who make it to the very last stage won’t actually square off on the TV series itself. Instead, they’ll fight live at the TUF 22 finale, a UFC event which will take place in Las Vegas on 11 December — the night before Conor McGregor faces Jose Aldo. Traditionally, the two coaches fight against each other at the TUF finale, but that won’t happen on this occasion due to McGregor’s clash with Aldo at UFC 194. December’s TUF 22 finale will be headlined by the meeting of featherweight contenders Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar.

Who are the fighters on the two teams?

Irish viewers will be keeping a close eye on Artem Lobov, who is a team-mate and sparring partner of Conor McGregor’s at SBG Ireland. Lobov was born in Russia but is now very much an Irishman, having lived in Dublin for the past 12 years.

Other notable members of the European team include Cage Warriors veterans such as Saul Rogers, Martin Svensson, Marcin Wrzosek and Sean Carter. Elite grappler Ryan Hall is the most high-profile name on the US team.

CW70 Dublin-based Artem Lobov will feature on season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter. Source: Dolly Clew

Team McGregor (Europe)

Artem Lobov, Abner Lloveras, David Teymur, Djamil Chan, Frantz Slioa, Marcin Wrzosek, Martin Delaney, Martin Svensson, Mehdi Baghdad, Mohamed Grabinski, Paulo Boer, Sascha Sharma, Saul Rogers, Sean Carter, Thibault Gouti, Vladimir Sikic.

Team Faber (USA)

Andres Quintana, Austin Springer, Billy Quarantillo, Brandon Ricetti, Brennan Sevin, Chris Gruetzemacher, Jason Soares, Johnny Nunez, James Jenkins, Jason Gonzalez, Julian Erosa, Mike Flach, Ryan Hall, Thanh Le, Tim Welch, Tom Gallicchio.

Where and when can I watch it?

Filming has already wrapped but those involved are contracted to secrecy regarding the events that took place over the course of the six weeks. The show will be broadcast to Irish viewers on BT Sport over the next 12 weeks, starting tonight — or the early hours of tomorrow morning, to be precise.

The first episode, which will be 90 minutes long, begins at 3am on BT Sport 2 and it will be shown simultaneously to the US broadcast on FOX Sports. However, the American audience will have a headstart for all subsequent episodes, with Irish viewers having to wait until 10pm each Thursday to catch up.

If you don’t fancy staying awake until 3am tonight to see the premiere, it will be repeated tomorrow night on BT Sport 2 at 10pm.

Source: UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship/YouTube

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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