It's hard to believe that it was exactly nine years ago that The Ultimate Fighter launched its first season in January 2005. There were sixteen mixed martial arts fighters competing under the guidance of Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, eight middleweights and eight light heavyweights. From the sixteen fighters who competed in 2005, there are only three fighters remaining on the UFC roster, including Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, and Mike Swick. Swick hasn't fought since 2012 and was hoping to make a return at middleweight, while Koscheck hinted at retirement following his devastating loss after UFC 167 against Tyron Woodley.
The proof istruly in the pudding, that if you last a decade within the UFC, you're either a genetic freak, or simply too tough for your own good. It was only this month that Chris Leben gave a final salute to fans after nine years of loyal service and it appears that Sanchez may be the last man standing from TUF 1.
Following the TUF Finale in 2005, Koscheck has been the most active fighter with 22 fights inside the Octagon, followed by Leben with 21. By the time a fighter enters TUF, they have typically already developed a respectable professional record and the career that follows in the UFC is often very short-lived due to ageing bodies, injuries and the reality of being cut due to losses inside the cage.
While there is big bucks to be made in the sport, chances are that most employees on the roster will never see riches unless they can secure a coaching stint on TUF, headline a major card, or win a title. Very few fighters are on the PPV percentage program and rely on a carrot being dangled in the form of a FOTN, Submission or KO bonuses. Nate Diaz for example, collected only $30,000 in base pay at TUF 18 Finale after an astonishing 19 fights for the UFC.
After following the careers of the TUF 1 cast members, many of the original cast members were on the way out of the sport by the initial show's five-year anniversary. And for the fighters who managed to make their millions, it came at a significant cost with lifelong injuries, surgery, rehabilitation, and suspected long term neurological damage as a result of accumulated strikes from training and any KO or TKO losses suffered during their careers. Koscheck now has permanent facial nerve damage after a broken orbital courtesy of George St. Pierre, while Forrest Griffin has serious shoulder injuries.
Let's now take a look at the original cast members and their activity since TUF 1 in 2005.
Bobby Southworth- Bobby was one of the instigators in the TUF house along with Koscheck (remember the water being hosed on Chris Leben) Bobby lost his TUF Finale to Sam Hoger and then signed with Strikeforce competing six times. His final fight was in July 2010 with Xtreme promotion in Australia, a total of seven fights since TUF finale in 2005.
Sam Hoger won against Bobby in the TUF Finale and was signed with the UFC. His success was short lived, he went 1-3 in his next four fights with the UFC and was then released in 2007. He then fought for smaller organizations and finished strongly in 2010 collecting his fourth consecutive win. Sam had nine fights following TUF finale.
Forrest Griffin-The most successful TUF 1 contestant, winning The Ultimate Fighter and finally claiming the UFC Light Heavyweight title. The title may have been short lived but Forrest fought 14 times since the TUF Finale retiring in 2013 after complicated shoulder injuries.
Alex Schoenauer-Alex lost to Mike Swick in the final by KO twenty seconds into round 1. He then fought under Strikeforce and other smaller organization fighting 17 times. His last fight was in 2009 losing against Paulo Filho in BC.
Stephan Bonnar- A fighter who needs no introduction. Stephan fought exactly the same number of times in the UFC after the TUF Finale as Griffin (14 times) He retired in 2012 after a quick beating at the hands of Anderson Silva and finished his career on a low after a positive steroid test to Drostanolone. However, Stephan did more good than evil, always generous to fans.
Mike Swick- Often regarded as the unluckiest fighter due to his constant injuries and illness. Swick never got to settle the score with Leben who beat him by KO in the second round in WEC 9 in 2004. This created some bad blood in the TUF house with Leben letting it be known who was the king of the castle. Swick has fought 13 times since TUF Finale. Another rematch fans never got to enjoy.
Lodune Sincaid- Lodune lost By KO to Southworth in the first elimiation rounds during TUF and was also later TKO'd by Nate Quarry in TUF finale. He went on to claim the vacant WEC light heavyweight title and fought 17 times since TUF Finale with his last fight in 2010.
Jason Thacker-completely fell off the radar after a KO loss in round one to Leben in the TUF finale.
Josh Koscheck-always controversial but an amazing athlete and only millimetres from UFC Gold. Josh has fought an amazing 22 times for the UFC following his TUF finale ist round KO victory over Chris Sanford. Say what you want, but this guy is a work horse and takes on any fight. This is a fighter that definitely has earnt a ticket into the UFC Hall of Fame based on his workload.
Diego Sanchez-Sanchez won the Ultimate Fighter Middleweight category defeating Kenny Florian by TKO in round one. Diego has fought 18 times following TUF Finale.
Kenny Florian- Now known as a professional analysis and commentator, Kenny had 15 fights following his TUF Finale loss to Diego. Kenny's last fight was in 2011 against Jose Aldo, a unanimous decision loss.
Josh Rafferty-Josh lost his fight by TKO to Alex Karalexis during TUF Finale and had seven other fights in smaller organizations with his last fight in 2010.
Nathan Quarry- Nate was the peacemaker in the TUF House and guidance counsellor for Leben. Nate commenced his professional MMA career in 2001. Nate had nine fights in the UFC following his TUF FInale win over Lodune Sincaid. He retired in 2010 requiring facial reconstruction after a TKO loss to Jorge Rivera. Rich Franklin also delivered a devastating KO that has been on highlight reels ever since.
Chris Leben- Chris was another workhouse in the UFC similar to Josh Koscheck. Chris retired in January 2014, boasting 21 fights following the TUF finale.
Alex Karalexis-Got off to a TKO win at TUF Finale over Josh Rafferty but was released after two consecutive losses in the UFC. He had 11 fights following the TUF finale and finished in 2011.