When the more controversial Miesha Tate replaced Cat Zingano as a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter,” the prevailing wisdom was that the increased potential for drama would be great for the show.
UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, the other coach for Season 18, did not share that belief.
Rousey felt Zingano had earned that spot by defeating Tate in April and that what was best for the show was to pit the champion against the most worthy challenger.
Deserved or not, Tate is there, and whatever craziness is going on between the rivals on the set has resigned Rousey to come around on her thinking.
“Now that we’re halfway through (taping) the show, I can say that a lot more interesting things have come up with Miesha than would have with Cat,” Rousey said on the set last week. “So yes, I think a lot of people were right about the drama aspect being better.”
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White said it has been difficult managing the animosity between the coaches.
“It’s going exactly the way you’d expect it to be going: bad. I’m dead serious. Miesha and Ronda hate each other,” he told reporters last week. “It’s literally crazy drama every day. It’s irritating. I don’t even know if some of the stuff will make TV. It’s bad. Those two do not like each other, and their camps do not like each other. And it’s just pure (expletive) mayhem every day.”
The rivalry stems from one of the most-hyped female fights in history when Rousey took the Strikeforce belt from Tate in March 2012 after a contentious buildup. The successful promotion convinced the UFC to add a women’s division, of which Rousey became the first champion.
She was announced as the coach for Season 18 of the reality show, which is filming in Las Vegas, and was slated to fight the winner of the Zingano-Tate bout. Zingano won late in the third round, but was forced out of the coaching role after tearing her ACL just before filming.
Rousey originally was annoyed, but got over it very quickly.
“The fight between (Tate) and Cat was really close and it was a controversial stoppage. Cat was putting it on Miesha, but it had an unfortunate ending,” Rousey said. “The fan demand has been there for us to fight again. The first fight had such a resounding effect that a sequel was inevitable.”
The champion is hopeful the show, which begins airing on the soon-to-launch Fox Sports 1 Network on Wednesday nights in September, helps increase interest in the women’s division.
“I don’t need this show. I already have my options,” Rousey said. “But I want this division to work and I want it to keep going without me there. I think this show is the best way to increase the depth of the women’s division and get attention to the women’s division and get to know that there are good fighters there, people just don’t know who they are.
“I’m doing this show more in the interest of the division than to really accomplish very much personally.”
■ BELLATOR RETURNS — Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal rebounded from a surprising knockout loss in February to stop Seth Petruzelli in the first round of a Bellator light heavyweight tournament semifinal Wednesday in Thackerville, Okla.
Lawal now will face Jacob Noe, who won his semifinal on the same card over Renato “Babalu” Sobral, on the next Bellator card July 31 in Rio Rancho, N.M., for the tournament championship and a future title shot.
Sobral, 37, announced his retirement after the fight. He was the Strikeforce champion in 2008 and lost a bid for the UFC belt to Chuck Liddell in 2006.
Also on the card, former “The Ultimate Fighter” cast member War Machine won his Bellator debut with a first-round knockout of Las Vegan Blas Avena.
■ KELLY SENTENCED — Former UFC fighter Paul Kelly was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a British court after a conviction for heroin trafficking.
Kelly was 5-4 in nine UFC fights from 2008 until 2011, winning two fight-of-the-night bonus awards. The lightweight was released after losing to Donald Cerrone at UFC 126. He fought three times after leaving the UFC, winning twice.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.