Hard to believe only two years ago UFC President Dana White said on a national TV show that women would never fight in an Ultimate Fighting Championship Octagon.
But White and tens of thousands of other TV viewers Wednesday night enjoyed the debut of the new season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC reality competition show that included women fighters for the first time competing for a contract with the Las Vegas-based mixed martial arts fight promotion organization.
The FOX Sports 1 show, which is filmed in Las Vegas, has both women and men competing for a UFC contract in a coed setting.
Part of the show’s female story line involves two prominent and rival UFC women fighters serving as the captains on the show.
One is mixed martial arts superstar Ronda Rousey, a bantamweight who spent six weeks coaching the aspiring UFC fighters.
Rousey’s bitter rival, Miesha Tate, is the other female fighter serving as a captain. Rousey and Tate, who have exchanged trash talk before previous fights, are scheduled to fight each other in a title bout at UFC 168 in December.
White said Rousey, who is known for beating opponents with her pain-inflicting armbar move, is one of UFC’s top three stars. He referred to Rousey’s star power by noting that she is currently filming a movie with Sylvester Stallone.
“Ronda Rousey changed my mind,” White said regarding his about-face on women never fighting in the UFC cage. White said his decision to include women was made in February after watching a Rousey fight.
The UFC reality show, nicknamed, “TUF,” will feature a Team Rousey vs. Team Tate format with 16 young fighters.
Each episode’s winners will advance in the single-elimination tournament and a three-hour finale will be broadcast live from the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Nov. 30.
White predicted one trend for the show: “We will have more women watching.”
It’s the 18th season for the show, which debuted in 2005.