Saturday, four fighters have a chance to add their names to the UFC history books.
Only two will get the title of "The Ultimate Fighter," one bantamweight and one featherweight. But history tells us the other two, as well as some of the non-finalist Season 14 contestants further down the card, could be in for nice, long UFC careers.
UFC longevity after being in the TUF house is not rare, and obviously the fighters with the most service for the company come from the earliest seasons of the show.
One of those fighters is lightweight Melvin Guillard, whose 15 career UFC fights makes him one of the promotion’s most active TUF vets. Guillard, who fought on Season 2 of the show, will headline the first UFC on FX show Jan. 20 against Jim Miller in Nashville.
Thursday, Guillard told Heavy.com his success after the show – he’s 10-5 in the UFC – was a surprise to many.
"(On Season 2 of) ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ I was one of the first guys off the show," Guillard said. "I was considered one of the guys that probably wasn’t going to make it in this business. And I’ve been in (the UFC) since 2005 and I’ve never been cut."
Guillard lost to Josh Burkman on the second episode of the second season. But he got a fight against castmate Marcus Davis on the TUF 2 Finale and won by TKO from a cut stoppage.
Guillard told Heavy the show now, compared to his stint in 2005, has changed plenty.
"It’s way different," Guillard said. "It gets more hype now, it gets more watches. Back then, we were put in another house (after we lost), partying it up, and some guys were still on the show trying to fight for a plaque. Now they put you back in the same house. The show is way different, and it’s going to be way different four or five years from now."
Guillard said credit for the success of "The Ultimate Fighter" goes to UFC president Dana White, and said he’s been fortunate enough to be along for the ride.
"Anything Dana White puts his name on, it turns into gold – but it gets better and better with time," Guillard said. "It’s almost like fine wine. Everything he puts his name on, it gets better with age. Look at the UFC now compared to when he first bought it. The sport has grown phenomenally, and I’m watching it and I’m growing with it. It’s kind of cool to see."
Though he hasn’t yet fought for or held a UFC title the way TUF vets like Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez have, he knows he’s reached big-time MMA status thanks to the UFC, and in particular thanks to the launching pad that is "The Ultimate Fighter."
"I’m the first fight (card) on FX, and that’s history right there," Guillard said of his main-event fight next month against Miller. "And I get to be the final deal on that history being made. I get to be the closer. So it’s always an honor. It’s humbling, and it’s kind of surreal. Sometimes I wake up and I can’t believe the reality of the situation – and the reality is I’m a celebrity fighter."