Nearly every season since the UFC created the reality series 'The Ultimate Fighter,' UFC president Dana White raves about the bouts and promises it will be the "best season ever." That's the promoter in him.
But as the 15th season is about to begin, White's focus is slightly different. The series, now known as 'The Ultimate Fighter Fridays,' seems to be as much about the battle between White and coach Roy Nelson as it is about the fighters or Nelson's upcoming fight with opposing coach Shane Carwin.
The series will return to the taped format on Sept. 14 with a two-hour special that will include all 16 fights to get into the house. The season features welterweight fighters, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Cameron Diffley, who served as the jiu jitsu instructor when Forrest Griffin was the coach.
There have been plenty of times a fighter has fought on the show and then coached, but this might be the first time a man coached and then showed up as the contestant.
But the big news seems to be about the battles between White and the outspoken Nelson, the winner of Season 10.
"Carwin and Nelson are two guys who just can't stand each other and Roy and I haven't exactly seen eye to eye either," White said in a statement. "He's been a nightmare for me to work with on this show with all of his stupid b.s."
Nelson kicked things off in an interview with MMA Junkie in which he publicly blasted White. That is big news in and of itself, since so few of the UFC fighters are willing to take White on publicly.
Nelson, though, had no such qualms. He tore into White in an interview with MMA Junkie's Steven Marrocco.
It's probably because he wants to be a fighter, and he's not
Nelson continued to poke at White, painting himself as a guy looking to carry the sport to the next level.
I'm always at the back of the bus when it comes to the UFC. I'm just trying to further MMA to the next level, hold journalism up to higher standards, holding fights to higher standards, holding promotions to higher standards, holding athletic commissions to higher standards, and even holding the fans to higher standards.
White responded to Nelson following the UFC on Fox 4 card in Los Angeles, telling MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani that Nelson "is a huge pain in the [expletive]."
The dynamic between White and Nelson may wind up being the highlight of the season.
The 32 fighters who will compete on Sept. 14 for the 16 slots in the house and the chance at the UFC contract are:
Bristol Marunde, 30, Las Vegas
Cameron Diffley, 27, Las Vegas
Colton Smith, 30, Fort Hood, Texas, via Ankeny, Iowa
Cortez Coleman, 30, Hugo, Okla.
David Michaud, 23, Pine Ridge, S.D.
Diego Bautista, 26, Lakewood, Calif.
Dom Waters, 23, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Eddy Ellis, 29, Olympia, Wash.
Frank Camacho, 23, Camp Springs, Md.
George Lockhart, 29, Atlanta, Ga.
Igor Araujo, 31, Albuquerque, N.M., via Patos De Minas, Brazil
James Chaney, 25, Klamath Falls, Ore.
Jason South, 34, West Jordan, Utah
Jerel Clark, 23, Reno, Nev.
Jesse Barrett, 26, Tempe, Ariz.
Joey Rivera, 32, Tucson, Ariz.
Jon Manley, 26, Ludlow, Mass.
Julian Lane, 25, Mansfield, Ohio
Kevin Nowaczyk, 23, Chicago
Leo Kuntz, 28, Bismarck, N.D.
Lev Magen, 25, Las Vegas
Matt Secor, 25, South Glens Falls, N.Y.
Max Griffin, 26, Sacramento, Calif.
Michael Hill, 25, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Mike Ricci, 26, Montreal
Neil Magny, 24, Chicago
Nic Herron-Webb, 22, Anchorage, Alaska
Ricky Legere Jr., 26, Corona, Calif.
Saad Awad, 23, San Bernardino, Calif.
Sam Alvey, 26, Murrieta, Calif.
Tim Ruberg, 30, Harrison, Ohio
Zane Kamaka, 23, Klaianae, Hawaii