Jeff Chiu/AP/Press Association Images Dan Henderson: not to be messed with.

Un-caged: a look back at ‘The Ultimate Fighter’

The UFC’s subtly propagandistic talent show has been running for fourteen seasons and, in addition to winning hearts and minds, has served up some first-class fighting.

Over the course of its 14 seasons, The Ultimate Fighter– the MMA’s talent search reality show– was rarely anything other than entertaining. A sports channel mainstay since 2005, TUF is about to undergo a radical overhaul that will see live fights take their place alongside its edited behind-the-scenes footage.

But before we say goodbye to the current format, it’s worth casting our minds over the series’ most memorable moments, both good and bad.

The Good: Great fights and great fighters

Season 1 of TUF finished with a fight that has been described by many as the most influential fight in MMA history.

When Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar– trained by Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, respectively– faced off inside the Otagaon, the result was a violent back and forth that would, over time, come to be regarded as central to boosting both the public profile and reputation of the sport.

Broadcast live on Spike TV, the event subsequently claimed a handful of accolades, including “Fight of the Year”.

Remarkably, every series of TUF has identified at least one fighter who has gone on to have a long and successful careers in the UFC. Josh Koschek, Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez and Rashad Evans all got their break on the series and, between them, have gone on to win or compete for the title in each of their respective weight classes.

The Bad: Coaches battles

Quite often, watching the bad blood between the coaches brew was almost as entertaining as watching their charges scrap their way through the contest. In 2009, for example, the exchanges between Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans were reason enough to watch the show.

The two almost came to blows on numerous occasions.

The next series pitted the best the USA had to offer against the UK’s most promising talent, with Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping taking charge of the teams.

Henderson and Bisping had a number of run-ins over the course of the contest, but the elegant simplicity of the format meant that every dispute found its resolution in the octagon. Here’s how Henderson finally put Bisping’s griping to bed:

Josh Koscheck tried his best to get under Georges St. Pierre’s skin when the two were assigned coaching roles during Season 11, but alas, GSP proved every bit as classy a performer inside the Octagon as outside, and emerged victorious with a one-sided decision over Kos in the season’s finale.

The Ugly: House fights

Isolating a large group of testosterone-charged fighters in a house and depriving them of contact with the outside world for weeks at a time is never going to end prettily, but it does make for some good TV.

Arguments and fights were a regular occurrence until Dana White, ever-sensitive to the show’s value as a PR tool, implemented a hard-line policy of expelling fighters ivolved in (unsanctioned) physical altercations.

The finale of TUF’s 14the season airs on Fx this Saturday.

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