More than two dozen middleweight fighters have been selected for the upcoming 17th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and one of them is apparently capable of reducing his opponents to nervous breakdowns.
Ultimate Fighting Championship officials revealed to USA TODAY Sports the 28 fighters who will compete on the latest edition of the promotion’s long-running reality series, which debuts Jan. 22 (FX, 8 p.m. ET).
Now fight fans will inevitably try to determine which fighter UFC President Dana White recently said struck fear in the hearts of his opponents during filming of the tournament-based competition.
“The whole house is terrified of this guy. Everybody,” White said. “I picked this fight, and this guy is lined up with the guy I’m telling you about, and the guy has a nervous breakdown in the house over the weekend.
“This guy scared the living s— out of everyone. It’s awesome.”
The cast boasts talent from 16 different U.S. states and territories, as well as international prospects from England, Jamaica, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. Seven fighters bring undefeated professional records to the show, and the cast has combined for 200 pro victories. One of them will prove victorious in the tournament and earn a six-figure UFC contract, though the UFC traditionally signs at least a few cast members to deals.
In December welterweight Colton Smith claimed the “TUF 16” title in a season that White openly admits was the worst in the eight-year history of the show. The season also turned out to be the least-watched in show history, but UFC officials are hoping for a turnaround in the new season, which sees the series shift away from Friday nights to a new Tuesday timeslot.
Widely credited for the launch of the UFC’s current popularity boom, “TUF” debuted in 2005 and has produced more than 100 UFC fighters and three eventual champions. It’s also spawned international versions in Brazil and Australia, with additional countries expected to debut this year.
The two-hour season debut episode sees the 28 fighters compete in an elimination round of fights, and the 14 winners become official cast members. For the first time in the show’s history, each contestant was allowed to bring friends and family to the first round of fights.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and outspoken MMA superstar Chael Sonnen serve as opposing head coaches on the series and will face off at an April pay-per-view event.
The full lineup of UFC hopefuls includes:
Dylan Andrews (16-4-1), 32, Gold Coast, Australia (by way of New Zealand)
Kito Andrews (9-2), 34, Sacramento, Calif.
Luke Barnatt (5-0), 24, Cambridge, England
Leo Bercier (7-2), 31, Great Falls, Mont.
Ryan Bigler (9-3), 28, Yona, Guam
Kevin Casey (5-2), Hawthorne, Calif.
Adam Cella (4-0), 27, Fenton, Mo.
Zach Cummings (15-3), 28, Kansas City, Mo.
Andy Enz (6-1), 21, Anchorage, Alaska
Nik Fekete (5-1), 32, Las Vegas
Kelvin Gastelum (5-0), 20, Yuma, Ariz.
Uriah Hall (7-2), 28, New York City (by way of Jamaica)
Collin Hart (4-1-1), 23, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Clint Hester (7-3), 25, Atlanta
Jake Heun (3-2), 25, Salt Lake City
Mike Jasper (6-0), 29, Camarillo, Calif.
Nicholas Kohring (3-0), 22, Valley Springs, Calif.
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel (20-6), 29, Albuquerque, N.M.
Fraser Opie (10-5), 29, Milton Keynes, England (by way of South Africa)
Mike Persons (3-0), 28, Manteca, Calif.
Jimmy Quinlan (3-0), 26, Metheun, Mass.
Scott Rosa (4-1), 26, Sparks, Nev.
Joshua Samman (9-2), 24, Tallahassee, Fla.
Gilbert Smith Jr. (5-1), Colorado Springs, Colo.
Eldon Sproat (3-1), 27, Molokai, Hawaii
Tor Troeng (15-4-1), 29, Umea, Sweden
Eric Wahlin (5-1), 29, Taylorsville, Utah
Timothy Williams (7-1), 26, Millville, N.J.