The Ultimate Fighter is a reality television series and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition produced by Pilgrim Studios and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). It previously aired for fourteen seasons on Spike TV and currently airs on Fox Sports 1. The show features professional MMA fighters living together in Las Vegas, Nevada, and follows them as they train and compete against each other for a prized contract with the UFC.
I have been fortunate enough to work as an Associate Producer on Season 18 (Rousey vs Tate), Season 19 (Edgar vs Penn), and Season 20 (Melendez vs Pettis) of The Ultimate Fighter. On the house and gym sets, my role was to take detailed notes on all activities and then summarize those notes into story points to help the editors create storylines for each episode.
My favorite part of working on The Ultimate Fighter was seeing how professional fighters train and watching UFC president Dana White promote and grow his brand.
Below is an example of a gym story summary from Season 18, Tate vs Rousey.
Team Tate PM Training Story Notes
In the Tate Locker Room, Coach Ricky and Coach Bryan talk game plan amongst themselves for Pennington. Coach Bryan tells Coach Ricky he wants Pennington to focus on jabbing, moving, and shooting for takedowns when Rakoczy is on the cage. Coach Bryan feels Pennington’s biggest problem is not pushing the pace, and Ricky promises they will drill her on always moving forward.
In the Tate Locker Room, Coach Ricky and Coach Jack speak to Moras about their game plan for Pena, the coaching situation, and her upcoming practice schedule. Coach Ricky gives Moras her objectives for the Pena fight: keep your distance, control the cage, follow through with takedown instead of using leg trips, and defend the under hook single leg takedowns in Pena’s guard. Coach Ricky insists Moras wait to the last minute of the round to go for an armbar because Pena will be expecting it earlier in the fight. Coach Ricky, “Last minute is arm bar haven.” Coach Ricky and Coach Jack explain they are coaching Moras and Pennington and they will not work with Pena, pointing out that Tate will be coaching neither fighter, Ricky: “Tate feels really bad about it, but to be fair to you and Pena, she will not be coaching either of you.” Coach Ricky breaks downs Moras’ training schedule up till fight day and declares, “We follow this and you will be the champ.”
Meanwhile, on the Mats, Coach Bryan talks to Pena about her training schedule. Instead of listening to Bryan, Pena worries that she needs to do some grappling cardio, and complains that Bryan hasn’t grappled with her for two days. Pena: “How about I roll right now?…Why isn’t it what I want to do?”
In the gym, Coach Ricky tells Holdsworth he needs to take a day off and relax because he has been over training. Holdsworth, who is feeling sore, appreciates someone telling him that. Coach Ricky and Holdsworth discuss Holdsworth’s upcoming training schedule and Ricky proclaims, “A week from now you are going to feel money.”
In the gym, Coach Ricky fills in Tate and Coach Bryan on his meeting with Moras, and they discuss how the coaching staff will stay separated. Tate admits she still needs to talk to Pena about it, even though Bryan has already spoken to her. Tate: “You can still feel some tension with Pena, I am almost trying to avoid her.”
In the octagon, Coach Bryan instructs Pena on dropping her elbow to avoid Moras’ takedowns. With Coach Bryan in her guard, Pena works half-guard reversals and armbar defense.