After months of speculation and more than a dozen rumored names, the UFC today announced heavyweight contenders Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos will be coaches on the upcoming 13th season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
The announcement came via UFC.com.
"The Ultimate Fighter 13" debuts March 30 on Spike TV, and a live finale is slated for June 4. The coaches meet in a season-ending fight at an event to be announced.
Although initially announced as a middleweight and welterweight season of the UFC's long-running reality series, MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) reported earlier this week that producers instead opted to make "TUF 13" a welterweights-only show. Production begins this month in Las Vegas. In an elimination round of fights, 28 hopefuls will fight for 14 official cast spots. The show uses a 32-slot tournament, which includes two "wild card" picks who earn a second life in the quarterfinals.
Over the past couple months, many UFC veterans had been rumored for potential "TUF 13" coaching slots, including Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Wanderlei Silva, Chael Sonnen, Chris Leben, Brian Stann, Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, Anthony Pettis, Jose Aldo and others. Ultimately, though, officials went with the big men, Lesnar and Dos Santos.
Lesnar (5-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is a former titleholder who lost his belt to current champ Cain Velasquez in October. The former WWE star has emerged as the UFC's top pay-per-view draw, and his inclusion in "TUF" should translate to big ratings.
Dos Santos (12-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), meanwhile, recently claimed top-contender status by posting a 6-0 record in the UFC. Recent wins have come over Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson.
"TUF" debuted in 2005 and proved a ratings hit. It also helped the UFC's and MMA's move into the mainstream. Since the debut season, the show has launched the career of more than 100 UFC fighters, and past cast members Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans and Matt Serra went on to win UFC titles.
For more on "The Ultimate Fighter 13," stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of MMAjunkie.com.