Prior to the 14th and final season of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike, 210 men had flown to Las Vegas and lived in a phone-free, television-free, internet-free environment for all or parts of six weeks with the hope of winning a tournament and earning a UFC contract.
During that time, the idea of being selected for TUF and having your face plastered on television for a few months has come to be considered one of the fastest ways to gain instant fame and credibility as a fighter in the eyes of a mass audience.
For the UFC, TUF has come to be the equivalent of a major league farm team, a way to evaluate talent, bolster depth and hopefully develop a superstar or two along the way.
As a superstar production unit, the show has had mixed results. It began with a splash in 2005, launching the careers of Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian, Josh Koscheck and others, but in time, competition for talent from other organizations made it more difficult to land prime talent. That's led to criticism from some who believe it no longer serves a real purpose as a feeder.
That debate is worth an exploration, though it's ultimately moot as the franchise will continue in a newly revamped style on its new cable home on FX in 2012. But for now, let's take a look at the first 13 seasons of TUF in stats, facts and figures (season 14 is excluded because its competitors have yet to officially fight in the octagon).
Fighters who captured a UFC title after appearing on TUF. The first to do it was Matt Serra, who beat Georges St-Pierre in an upset for the ages at UFC 69. Forrest Griffin was next, beating Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 86, and Rashad Evans was the last do do so at UFC 92, wresting the belt from Griffin.
Fighters who competed for a UFC title after appearing on TUF. Aside from Serra, Griffin and Evans, the others were Nate Quarry, Florian, Diego Sanchez, Koscheck, Joe Stevenson, Patrick Cote and Gray Maynard. Travis Lutter won a title shot against Anderson Silva but missed weight, costing himself a chance at the gold.
The winning percentage of the season 1 cast in the UFC, by far the best mark of any of the 13 casts with official octagon experience. The next best mark comes from the season five cast. Highlighted by Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz and Joe Lauzon, that group has a collective .604 win percentage.
The winning percentage of the season 12 cast in the UFC, the worst mark of any group. To be fair, though, that group has only had 18 combined matches, so it is a small sample size. Six of the 13 casts have losing records in the octagon.
425-391-2, 1 no contest
The combined record of every TUF fighter in official UFC fights.
The most fighters from one cast never to get an official UFC fight. This happened in season nine, when Santino DeFranco, Richie Whitson, Jason Pierce, Mark Miller, Jeff Lawson, Martin Stapleton, Dean Amasinger and David Faulkner all failed to ever see the octagon in a non-exhibition bout.
Season-by-season cast records in UFC matches
Season 1: 86-48
Season 2: 60-56-1
Season 3: 38-36
Season 4: 54-69
Season 5: 49-33-1, 1 NC
Season 6: 19-24
Season 7: 27-23
Season 8: 31-33
Season 9: 15-19
Season 10: 18-17
Season 11: 15-11
Season 12: 6-12
Season 13: 7-10
Most successful alumni by season
1: Forrest Griffin, 9-5, former UFC light-heavyweight champion; Josh Koscheck 14-5
2: Rashad Evans, 11-1-1, former UFC light-heavyweight champion
3: Michael Bisping, 11-3
4: Matt Serra, 9-7, former UFC welterweight champion, Chris Lytle 10-10
5: Gray Maynard, 8-1-1
6: George Sotiropoulos, 7-2
7: Amir Sadollah, 5-3; Matt Riddle, 5-3
8: Ryan Bader, 6-2; Krystzof Soszynski, 6-2
9: Ross Pearson, 4-2
10: Matt Mitrione, 5-1
11: Court McGee, 3-0
12: Jonathan Brookins, 1-1; Kyle Watson, 1-1
13: Tony Ferguson, 2-0
Most UFC Wins by TUF Alumni
14 - Josh Koscheck
12 - Kenny Florian
12 - Chris Leben
12 - Diego Sanchez
11 - Rashad Evans
11 - Michael Bisping
Most UFC Losses by TUF Alumni
10 - Chris Lytle
8 - Joe Stevenson
7 - Chris Leben
7 - Keith Jardine
7 - Jorge Rivera
7 - Matt Serra
7 - Patrick Cote
Jason Thacker is one of few fighters to have his one and only pro fight in the UFC. He participated in season one, lost to Chris Leben in the finals, and never fought again.
Rashad Evans had the best start to a UFC career of any TUF alumni, going unbeaten in his first nine fights (8-0-1) before Lyoto Machida finally defeated him. That remains the only loss in his career.
Season two's Jason Von Flue may be little remembered for his UFC run, but he did find a way to make his name memorable when he tapped out Alex Karalexis with a shoulder choke from side control at The Ultimate Fighter 3 finale, a submission that had never before been seen in the UFC. The move was immediately christened "The Von Flue Choke" in his honor.
Season 6 alumni George Sotoripoulos won seven fights in a row without a loss or draw after appearing on TUF, the longest such stretch. Interestingly, Sotiropoulos hadn't even won his season, losing in the semifinals.
Season 1 alumni Kenny Florian is the only fighter in UFC history to compete in four different weight classes, starting his career at middleweight and working his way downward to welterweight, lightweight and eventually featherweight.
Season 6 alum Jared Rollins fought a war with Jon Koppenhaver in the finale, a bout that won Fight of the Night, but he was still cut after the loss. He never fought again.
Season 7's Matt Riddle and Amir Sadollah both have the distinction of having their entire careers in the UFC. Ironically, they're both 5-3.
Season 10's Jon Madsen might have the most legitimate gripe about being prematurely released. The heavyweight won his first four bouts in the octagon, then got let go after his first loss dropped him to 4-1. Season 7's Gerald Harris also had a similar fate, getting released following his first loss after a 3-0 start.
Post-UFC lives of some memorable characters
Accused of stealing items from his fellow cast members on season 1, Hoger went on to a 2-3 record in the UFC before being cut, although two of his losses were to decisions to eventual champions Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida. Hoger went 4-1 in his post-UFC career and now runs his own gym in Houston.
A contestant on season five, Hill was an intriguing talent with a 6-foot-4 body somehow cutting down to lightweight. He famously (and grotesquely) broke his leg on a kick against Dale Hartt back in December 2008, and never fought in the UFC again. After over a year away from the sport, Hill returned. He's gone 2-2 since and is facing another former TUF veteran, Charlie Rader, in Florida on Friday night.
Speer, from season 6, showed great promise during the show, beating Jon "War Machine" Koppenhaver, Ben Saunders and George Sotirpoulos. But he lost to Mac Danzig in the finals, then was KO'd in spectacular fashion by Anthony Johnson. That marked the end of his UFC run, and he quietly retired soon after. But that retirement didn't last long, and Speer, who is still just 27 years old, has won six of his last seven during his comeback.
Browning might win TUF's most hated castmate in a poll, nearly getting kicked off the show multiple times, but he predicted great things for himself during season 8. Browning went just 1-1 in the UFC before being released, and since then, he's gone just 1-4.