It’s now been over a decade since the UFC first launched their reality show ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ and over the years a number of the competitors have gone on to become some of the biggest and best known stars in the Octagon.
Who are the most successful fighters ever to emerge from TUF though?
We’ll seek to answer that question in this article, but before we go any further, let’s define what what ‘success’ means in this instance.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll be taking into account the fighters record in the UFC, the level of competition they’ve been successful against, and of course, also paying close attention to any titles and accolades they’ve won.
At the same time, we’ll also be adding extra emphasis to those who’ve been able to find fame and fortune inside the Octagon, and in some cases even leveraged that to become successful outside of the cage too.
So without further ado, let’s get straight into our TUF Top 10.
10. Ryan Bader
There were a number of respected TUF veterans vying for the tenth spot on this list, but in the end Ryan Bader just edged it by the narrowest of margins.
Consistency is a big key to Bader earning his place. While he’s never been a marquee name for the promotion, he has managed to stay relevant in the light heavyweight division throughout his run in the UFC since winning TUF Season 8 back in 2008.
Along the way, he’s compiled a very respectable 13-5 record, and his resume includes wins over well known stars like Rashad Evans, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Phil Davis and Ovince St. Preux.
Eight years after his debut, the 32 year-old Bader is the No.5 ranked fighter in the world at 205 pounds and recently built a five-fight winning streak, though a loss to Anthony Johnson left him short of a title shot.
9. Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck was a key member of the cast on the very first season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ where he happily embraced the role of the villain and used that, along with his skills in the cage, to carve himself a memorable career in the UFC.
Over the course of 10 years, Koscheck fought no less than 25 times in the Octagon, an impressive tally that to this day remains the third most in UFC history, helping ensure that he’s a fighter who is instantly recognizable to any non-casual MMA fan.
Along the way, Koscheck notched up 15 victories in the promotion, defeating the likes of Matt Hughes, Anthony Johnson, Diego Sanchez, Paul Daley, and Frank Trigg.
At his peak, Koscheck fought for the UFC welterweight title against Georges St. Pierre, and he was able to remain a significant player in the upper reaches of the 170-pound rankings for many years.
8. Diego Sanchez
Diego Sanchez holds the distinction of being the first man to ever be crowned ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ and 11 years later he is the last man standing in the UFC from that first season.
Sanchez’s entertaining, do-or-die style of fighting has made him a fan favorite and resulted in six ‘Fight Of The Night’ bonus awards; the second most in UFC history, and so even during some rough patches in his career, the UFC has always had a place on the roster for him.
In total Sanchez has 23 UFC fights, the fifth most of all-time, and he’s also fought in four different weight classes, beginning with his TUF win at middleweight, then bouncing between lightweight and welterweight, in addition to a brief spell at featherweight.
Among Sanchez’s fifteen career victories in the Octagon sit wins over the likes of Nick Diaz, Kenny Florian, Karo Parisyan, Clay Guida and Martin Kampmann, and he fought for the lightweight title against BJ Penn at UFC 107 in 2009.
Now 34, Sanchez recently revived his career with a win over Jim Miller and is set to fight fellow crowd pleaser Joe Lauzon at the historic UFC 200 event in July.
7. TJ Dillashaw
There are many ways to define success in the sport, but one that stands out from most is actually having reached the very top of the mountain and won a UFC title.
With that in mind, while TJ Dillashaw might not have had quite as many big fights as some of the others on the list (yet), but he’s definitely earned his spot among them.
Dillashaw actually lost to John Dodson in the Finale of TUF 14, but has since gone on to be a major force in the bantamweight division, holding an 8-3 record to date in the Octagon.
Two-and-a-half years into his UFC stint he earned himself a title shot against dominant champion Renan Barao, who had stayed undefeated for nine years, but Dillashaw shocked the world by defeating him handily, and would defend his title twice (including a rematch with Barao), before losing the belt to Dominick Cruz by narrow split decision earlier this year.
At 30 years of age, Dillashaw remains in his prime prior to his next fight versus Raphael Assuncao on the blockbuster UFC 200 card this summer, and could well end up earning a higher place on this list in the years to come.
6. Matt Serra
There’s a debate to be made whether it’s fair to include Matt Serra here, since he was already an established fighter in the UFC before winning the special TUF 4 ‘comeback’ series.
Winning the show really did take Serra’s career to the next level, though, with his win in the Finale granting him the opportunity of a lifetime to fight St. Pierre for the welterweight title.
He seized that chance with both hands and wrote himself into the record books by producing one of the biggest upsets in UFC history when he TKO’d the superstar to become the 170-pound champion.
Though he’d then lose the belt to St. Pierre in a rematch, Serra’s charismatic, larger-than-life personality made him a firm favorite with fans, and he’d go on to coach TUF Season 6, which further cemented him as a star.
Serra only went 3-3 in his second stint in the UFC, and overall held a 7-7 record in the Octagon, but he remains a much-loved figure in the sport and is currently one of Dana White’s companions on the popular ‘Looking For A Fight’ video series which sees him scouting for new talent for the promotion.
5. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz has done an excellent job of stepping out from under his older brother Nick’s shadow and building a successful MMA career in his own right since winning TUF Season 5 back in 2007.
Diaz has a total of 22 fights in the UFC, leaving him tied for 6th place on the all-time list, and also holds the distinction of having received the most bonus awards in UFC history.
The Stockton native holds a 14-8 record in the Octagon, has headlined several events and fought for the lightweight title in 2012, but the biggest moment of his career so far came earlier this year at UFC 196 when he became the first man to defeat Conor McGregor in the UFC.
That fight catapulted Diaz to fame and fortune beyond anything he had achieved up until that point, making him a millionaire overnight, with a potential rematch with McGregor likely to be even more lucrative.
4. Kenny Florian
Kenny Florian may have lost out to Diego Sanchez in the final of the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2005, but he still managed to become one of the best and most successful stars the show has ever produced.
Over the course of his six and-a-half-year career in the UFC, Florian competed in no less than four different weight classes and compiled a 12-5 record, before a back injury cut his career short.
During his UFC run he fought no less than three times for a title, twice at lightweight and once at featherweight, but would come up short on each occasion.
Nevertheless, as one of the most well-spoken and well-liked fighters of his generation, Florian was able to successfully transition to a successful career on TV after hanging up his gloves, becoming a FOX Sports host and analyst, a UFC color commentator, and even spreading his wings further afield by providing color commentary for ABC’s popular ‘Battlebots’ series.
3. Michael Bisping
Michael Bisping rose to prominence as the champion of TUF Season 3, becoming the UK’s first major star in the UFC, and he’s been a fixture in the promotion ever since.
Bisping has fought 25 time in the Octagon since his debut in 2006, the third most in UFC history along with Josh Koscheck and Matt Hughes, and he’s not finished adding to that total yet.
Having fought at both middleweight and light heavyweight, ’The Count’ has amassed 18 victories in the Octagon, the second most in UFC history, and is currently ranked No.4 in the world at 185 pounds, with his biggest victory undoubtedly coming this year in a unanimous decision win over legendary former 185-pound champion Anderson Silva.
That’s left Bisping as close to his dream of fighting for a title as he’s ever been, but even if that doesn’t materialize, his career has still been a big success, as the British star is one of the UFC’s best paid stars with a base salary of over $400,000 for every victory, while he’s also appeared twice as a coach on TUF. He also currently serves as a FOX Sports UFC analyst.
In addition, Bisping has also managed to branch out into acting, including an up-coming role in the blockbuster movie ‘XXX – The Return Of Zander Cage’, a bit part in the first episode of ‘Twin Peaks’ series reboot, and a recurring role a few years ago in popular UK TV series, ‘Hollyoaks Later’.
2. Rashad Evans
Rashad Evans won the second season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ competing at heavyweight, and would then go on to become a major force in the UFC’s light heavyweight division for many years.
To date the 36-year-old has fought 20 times in the UFC, wielding a 14-5-1 record in the Octagon, and it could be argued that in terms of his skillset, he’s as good a fighter as the TUF series has ever produced.
Evans’ crowning achievement was winning the light heavyweight title in 2008, and while he didn’t successfully defend it, he would continue to remain relevant in the division and worked his way back to another title shot in 2012.
Over the course of his career, Evans has headlined two UFC events that did over one million buys on pay-per-view, and also starred as a coach opposite his rival Quinton Jackson on TUF 10, the most-watched season of the show ever.
Evans remains a Top 10 light heavyweight to this day, while also serving as an analyst for FOX Sports’ UFC coverage.
1. Forrest Griffin
From the moment Forrest Griffin stepped into the cage with Stephan Bonnar at the TUF 1 Finale in 2005, his UFC career has been something of a modern day fairytale.
The full-blooded, back-and-forth bloody battle between the two, which Griffin won to become the first ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, would go down as an all-time classic and is widely credited as being one of the main catalysts for the UFC’s future success.
For that fact alone Griffin had cemented his place in the history books, but the icing on the cake was the fact that he was then able to become the first TUF winner to actually win a title, defeating Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson to earn the light heavyweight title at UFC 92 in 2008.
During his 10-5 stint in the UFC, Griffin also defeated other major stars like Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, Tito Ortiz (twice), and Rich Franklin, before retiring and later being inducted into the UFC ‘Hall Of Fame’ as well as landing a cushy job as an ambassador for the UFC.
The charismatic fan favorite has also coached two seasons of TUF, written two successful books including a New York Times best-seller, served as the cover star for the first ever ‘UFC Undisputed’ video game, and according to Dana White, has made enough money from his fight career that he never has to work another day in his life.