The new history-making season of The Ultimate Fighter is only weeks away. But the 32 competitors of the first season to feature women as cast members and coaches have now been revealed in a FoxSports.com exclusive.
Only sixteen of the male and female bantamweight (135lbs) fighters — from the United States, Canada, England, Ireland and Sweden — will make it into the TUF House, where they will face-off in the toughest sports tournament on TV.
“This season of The Ultimate Fighter was monumental," said UFC president Dana White. "We had women as coaches and competitors — fighting and living together with the men — for the first time ever."
The series’ September 4 premiere will determine the eight men and eight women who will be divided into teams coached by UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey and her arch-rival Miesha Tate.
The competitors are listed below in alphabetical order (Name, Professional MMA record, Age, Fighting Out Of):
A 10-year pro Baszler is one of the veteran fighters coming into this year’s The Ultimate Fighter. A good student who would earn a degree in religious studies and plays the cello to this day, Baszler says her wilder side is represented when she listens to heavy metal music and fights. Along with training twice-aday throughout the week, Shayna also coaches a women’s roller hockey team. Despite her decade in MMA, she says he’s going nowhere until she achieves her dream of having a career in the UFC.
The sister of pound-for-pound champion boxer Andre and three other brothers who compete in MMA or wrestling, as well as the daughter of UFC 10 veteran Dieusel, it is safe to say Berto comes from a fighting family. The siblings call themselves “the Jackson Five of Fighting.” berto is now closer than ever to following in her father’s footsteps by reaching the UFC.
Duke comes from an upper-class background, and parents hoped her upbringing would open doors to a career in modeling and acting. However, Duke wanted something more forher life. At first, she pursued a career in journalism — but after discovering MMA, she has trained and taught in gyms ever since. She’s in the gym for five plus hours daily. Duke hopes to achieve a UFC contract not only to compete at the pinnacle of the sport, but also to prove to her parents once and for all that modeling and acting were definitely not her calling.
Growing up with twin brothers, Evinger was a tomboy who wasn’t afraid to hang with the boys. A key player in female MMA since 2006, Evinger co-owns her own gym and also serves as a matchmaker for fights in St. Louis. She fought Gina Carano in 2007 — which was one of the first women’s fights to get major media attention. Evinger and Carano became good friends after the bout. An attack-minded fighter, Evinger enters TUF while on her best run of form in years.
Since the age of five, Laura Howarth has known she wanted to become a fighter. After being bullied in school, Howarth started taking karate and kickboxing lessons to learn to defend herself. The 26 year-old Brit now eats, sleeps and breathes the gym. Laura trains and coaches fulltime from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the ZT Fight School. She enjoys pushing her students to the limit. Her hero is her mother, who recently beat cancer.
A professional MMA fighter since 2002 and a medalist at ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, LaRosa is well-known to long-time fans. She describes herself as a “mean, tough, homegrown New Jersey farm girl.” LaRosa’s daily schedule includes a morning and afternoon training session, capped off each night with a Chuck Norris movie. Despite her longevity and wins over the likes of top 10 ranked Alexis Davis, LaRosa still struggles to make a living from the sport. The Ultimate Fighter and a contract with the UFC can change that and, at 35, this may be the last hurrah of a distinguished career. Once considered the top Women’s MMA fighter in the world, LaRosa is her to showcase her skills to a new generation of fans.
Growing up the oldest of four children and raised by a single mother, Montreal native Letourneau had a rebellious streak that was hard to control. She was placed in group home at the age of 13. While there, she discovered sports, gravitating towards boxing and kickboxing. Letourneau found that she could channel her anger into compoetition. She is in a long-term relationship with IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Larry Vinette and is a mother to a 10 year-old daughter.
When she’s not training, 25-year-old Marshall runs the marketing and PR departments of a book publishing company in Newport News, Virginia. Marshall has found relief through MMA in many different ways. She turned to the sport at the age of 16, which helped her with the social anxiety she developed from being home schooled. She took a brief absence from the sport when her boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer, but is glad to be back in the game. Marshall is currently writing a book on female MMA, and hopes to get her yoga certification so she can develop a yoga program specific for MMA fighters.
Even in a sport known for the dedication of its athletes, Moras stand out as someone who has taken every road to get to the top of MMA. She used to drive 6 hours to train in the nearest proper MMA gym, even sacrificing time with her dying father to train. Because she grew up poor and never had a permanent home, she has said called MMA her "real home." Moras has always been willing to uproot her life to get better training… After discovered that British fighter and female MMA pioneer Rosi Sexton was in need of a training partner, Moras hopped on the next plane to the UK. Moras was supposed to inherit money from her father, but it was kept from her by family members. She hopes a UFC contract will make all her hardships worth the struggle.
Morgan is a single mother from Nashua, New Hampshire. She is an avid musician and reader, and currently works as an adjunct professor of composition and literature at Southern New Hampshire University. Morgan trains in MMA with UFC lightweight and TUF alumni Joe Lauzon. She is inspired by the success her gymmate has had and wants to win the contract to provide for her son.
An Alaskan native, Mazany balances her training along with jobs at an online gaming company and bartending. A talented figure skater as a kid, she left the sport as soon as she discovered Brazilian jiu-jitsu. A daredevil, she loves the challenge of MMA almost as much as her 600-mile snowmobile trips in -60°F weather. She has fought on the same card as her brother, who also fights, six times.
A workaholic with a life-long passion for training and competing in MMA, Modafferi often says she is married to the sport. She admits she started training MMA to be "like the Power Rangers." A self-confessed geek, she collects pens and sock. Modafferi has been competing successfully in the sports for almost 10 years… she holds a degree in Japanese and linguistics, and teaches in Japan. Loved for her quirky personality, genuine love of the sport and technically sound style, she already has a large fanbase who are thrilled Modafferi has finally got a chance to fight on a big stage.
Pena says she has always been the black sheep of her family. Although her family does not support her career choice, Pena wants to prove her loved ones wrong by winning TUF. A self-professed "big mouth," Pena refuses to let anything get in the way of her dream of being recognized as a world class fighter. "The Venezuelan Vixen" once fought shortly after being hit by a car. She trains with TUF alums Sam Sicilia, Mike Chiesa and Cody Mckenzie.
Pennington is training to be a doctor as well as a fighter. She pushes herself to the limit in her training, which includes daily six-mile runs, personal training sessions and fighting technique sessions of nearly every different style. With a very supportive family behind her, Raquel hopes to make the last six years of training pay off and bring home the UFC contract she’s always dreamed about.
An outstanding boxing talent who has won every major championship in the Sweet Science, Rakoczy has been fighting her entire life. Her mother passed away when she was 16, forcing Rakoczy to fend for herself. Now a single mother herself, Rakoczy hopes to receive a UFC contract and become a two-sport champion.
A UC Berkeley graduate with a promising career, Schneider stunned family and friends by taking up MMA. She now juggles two to three training sessions a day, six times a week while working as a personal trainer and chef. She lives with her dog and roommates, and has devoted herself entirely to the sport.
Chris Beal’s battle with life began at an early age. His mother struggled to provide for her three sons and, according to Beal, “Nothing was guaranteed — not food, not clothes, not shelter." With his oldest brother in and out of juvenile hall, Beal was left in charge of his younger brother and had to grow up fast. With no prospects in sight,Beal and his brothers became involved with local street gangs. Soon, a high school wrestling coach convinced Beal to try out, thus giving Beal a new direction in live. In 2009 Beal was diagnosed with a life-threatening tumor on his leg. The experience gave Beal a new drive. He says winning TUF will not only be the completion of an amazing comeback, but provide his 10-year-old son and fiancée with the kind of stability he never had.
Cody Bollinger proved he was ready to begin his fighting career at age 13, when he successfully choked his father unconcious. Bollinger’s father signed a waiver to allow his son to fight MMA professionally at the age of 15. Now a seven-year veteran of the sport, Bollinger aims to win a UFC contract to show his young daughter that any dream is possible.
Louis "Little Breed" Fisette is a well-known figure in Canada’s small-hall circuit. A natural athlete, Fisette picked the sport up quickly, and his development was aided by regular training sessions with UFC fighters. Fisette, the self-proclaimed pretty boy, still lives with his parents in Winnipeg and hopes to attain a UFC contract so that he can support himself financially while doing the job he loves.
Raised on the streets of Brazil, Rafael De Freitas escaped from gang culture and travelled to the US to pursue his dream of becoming a UFC fighter. De Freitas works seven days a week to support himself and send money home to his family. He already has a reputation within the MMA community. A master of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, De Freitas helps train UFC fighters like Diego Sanchez and Brandao, both former TUF winners. the Brazilian jiu-jitsu shoulder lock move "Baratoplata" was named after Freitas used it in competition.
David “Dangerous” Grant’s passion to entertain and compete has driven his efforts to launch his MMA career. After beating drug addiction in his youth, Grant fights to support his fiancé and two sons. Although a talented fighter who takes his job seriously, he also aims to become “filthy rich and famous” as a UFC champion. The latest in a long line of brash Brits to compete on TUF, Grant is a showman in and out of the Octagon.
Tim Gorman hails from Des Moines, Iowa where, with the support and help from his parents, he has the luxury of training fulltime every day. He trains with the Alliance team of UFC fighters like Dominick Cruz, Ross Pearson and Alexander Gustafsson in San Diego. Gorman says there’s nothing more he wants from life than to fight UFC.
Frustrated by a lack of success on the high school football field, Gutierrez tried out for the wrestling team and discovered he had a talent for one-on-one competition. He expanded into MMA at age 15 and felt he had found his calling in life. Against his family’s best advice, he declined to go to college and instead turned professional.
Hartsner has a reputation as an emerging talent in Europe. A talented hockey player in high school, he was forced to give the sport up and turned to MMA. He describes his life simply: “Wake Up, Train, Eat, Train, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.” Hartsner fights because he loves the competition, and says winning a UFC contract would enable him to support his mother.
Raised by a firefighter and a nurse, 26 year-old Josh Hill comes from an athletic and thrill-seeking background. He was a North American Grappling Association (NAGA) grappling champion with a record of 36-1. An all-round athlete, Hill played hockey, rugby, football, basketball and baseball before settling on MMA. He also has worked as a model. Hill is very serious about becoming a UFC fighter. Although his mother cannot bear to watch any of his matches, she and his whole family are at every match to give their support.
With a father who was a martial artist and Vietnam vet, a mother who is a breast cancer survivor, and a grandfather who was a Golden Gloves boxer, it’s no surprise that fighting is in Holdsworth’s blood. When he was eight years-old, Holdsworth’s elder brother was shot and killed. At the funeral, Holdsworth’s brother was posthumously awarded his black belt in American kickboxing by his sensei. Holdsworth then told his mother he wanted to be a martial artist just like his brother. He was awarded his blue belt from the legendary Royce Gracie, his purple belt by Rener, Ryron and Rorion Gracie, and was awarded his brown and black belt by Marc Laimon. Holdsworth says he barely has time for family and friends, but a UFC contract will make his years of sacrifice worth it.
A proud Irishman, Patrick Holohan is fighting for a lot more than just a UFC contract. Holohan was raised in public housing, and he saw MMA as chance to better his life. He says he never feels more alive than when in the thick of competition. Holohan says he will return to his family as the first TUF champion from the Republic of Ireland.
Born and raised in Sweden, Kakai tried out for TUF 14 — but UFC president Dana White told him to try out after gaining more experience. Taking the advice to heart, he left his life at home to move to Florida to train with the famed American Top Team. Kakai is a proud atheist. He currently lives in a house in Coconut Creek filled with other aspiring fighters also chasing their dreams of UFC stardom.
Martinez comes into TUF as one of the most accomplished participants in recent seasons. A standout talent in wrestling, he took advice of friend and UFC fighter Jamie Varner and switched to MMA. When not training for his own fights, he instructs over 100 local kids. He also uses his story of being bullied as a child to promote anti-bullying campaigns.
A self-proclaimed "country boy," Munsey has trained in MMA for the last four years. He dropped out of school in the 9th grade and began climbing 40ft poles while working as a tree surgeon. Munsey believes his day job enabled him to developed "freaky" strength, and he claims no fighter trains as hard as he does.
Legally deaf, with only 20% hearing on one ear, Sandmeier was not deterred from following his dream of becoming a fighter. He became a competent boxer before transitioning to MMA. Raised and based in Knoxville, Iowa, Lee loves for MMA puts him on equal terms with his opponent. Inspired by his mother and late father, Sandmeier is one of the most determined athletes to walk into a TUF try-out.
Wooten has put it all on the line to achieve his dream of making it to the UFC. After his fourth pro win, Wooten and his trainers decided he needed focus on training even more. He quit his secure full-time job to focus on becoming a full-time professional fighter. Since then, Wooten has spent every day at the MMA Academy training and coaching the sport he loves. He was voted the #1 MMA Prospect in the United Kingdom in 2012.