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The first episode of TUF: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber bodes well for the new season

The series is off to an exciting start.

A NEW SEASON of The Ultimate Fighter is officially underway, featuring UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor as a coach.

McGregor leads a team of European lightweights on TUF 22 against their counterparts from the USA, who are under the stewardship of UFC veteran Urijah Faber.

Conor McGregor UFC interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The first episode aired on BT Sport 2 in the early hours of this morning. It will be repeated on the same channel tonight at 10pm, so don’t read any further if you’re planning to avoid any spoilers until then.

The first episode featured 32 fighters with UFC aspirations — 16 each from the USA and Europe — including SBG Ireland’s Artem Lobov, who many fans will recognise as Conor McGregor’s main sparring partner.

However, only 16 fighters can enter the house to officially compete on the show, so the opening episode was dominated by the preliminary bouts which cut that initial group of 32 in half.

European fighters squared off against fellow Europeans and each US contestant also went up against one of their compatriots for the right to earn their place in the house.

That left eight fighters each to form Team McGregor (Europe) and Team Faber (USA). Faber won the coin-toss so he’ll have the benefit of picking the first fight for next week’s second episode, which will be broadcast next Thursday night at 10pm on BT Sport 1.

Artem Lobov, who was born in Russia but has been based in Ireland for the last 12 years, missed out on the chance to progress to the next stage after he suffered a disappointing defeat to highly-regarded French fighter Mehdi Baghdad.

The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs Team Faber Artem Lobov lands a knee against Mehdi Baghdad. Source: Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

After an entertaining back-and-forth battle over the two five-minute rounds — “These guys are fucking murdering each other,” said UFC president Dana White — Baghdad was awarded a majority decision by the judges.

There was plenty of talent on show during the preliminary bouts overall, from the spectacular striking of Thanh Le and David Teymur to the impressive grappling of Ryan Hall and Saul Rogers.

As you’d expect, there were also several amusing exchanges between coaches McGregor and Faber, who traded plenty of good-natured insults throughout the opening episode:

Conor McGregor: “You’re a good dude, Urijah, yeah? Just be glad that you don’t have to face me. That’s all I’ll say.
Urijah Faber: “Such fear, man. I’m overcome with it. Do you believe I’m a fearful man?”
CM: “I believe I’d kill you stone dead.”
UF: “Honestly, the only reason it would even be close between us is because you probably have about 25lbs on me walking around. That’s the only reason.”
CM: “Urijah, I would butcher you.”
UF: “I’d like to see you pull your massive head out from underneath my fucking armpit. It would not happen. Look at your hair. You’re like a cantaloupe. The Irish cantaloupe.”
CM: “What’s a cantaloupe?”

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The first episode of TUF 22 will be repeated tonight on BT Sport 2 at 10pm.

Team McGregor (Europe)

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

Team Faber (USA)

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

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UFC athlete Aisling Daly and Ultimate Fighter contestant Artem Lobov attended Setanta Sports’ advance screening of the first episode in the latest series of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ featuring Conor McGregor. Episode one was shown at 3am on Wednesday night on BT Sport 2. Each subsequent episode will air at 10pm every Thursday thereafter on Setanta Ireland & BT Sport. The Setanta Sports Pack will also have exclusively live coverage of UFC 194: Aldo v McGregor on 12 December. Visit Setanta.com.

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Paul Dollery

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