If you’re looking to make a name for yourself in mixed martial arts and fast-track your career to the UFC, there’s no better way than making a big impression on the UFC’s popular reality TV program, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). That’s exactly what Josh Hill and Jessica Rakoczy, two Hamilton, Ontario fighters are after when they make their debut tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
The show begins with 16 male fighters and 16 female fighters and the winners of tonight’s bouts will be invited into The Ultimate Fighter house, where the contestants will stay for the duration of the season. The 18th season of the show features two of the best female fighters, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, as coaches and the pair will square off in Las Vegas on UFC 168 on Dec. 29.
Of the 32 TUF finalists, five are Canadian. Valerie Letourneau of Montreal and Sarah Moras of Kelowna join Rakoczy on the femal side and Louis Fisette of Winnipeg joins Hill with the males. Hill is well aware what type of stepping stone tonight’s fight could be in his MMA career.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Hill told reporters. “You’ve made it this far, which is an accomplishment, but you don’t want to get this far and not get in.”
Of the five Canadian hopefuls, Hill is likely best known among fight fans. He heads into TUF 9-0 in his MMA career and is considered one of the early favorites in the competition. While Hill has been on the UFC radar for a while, he’s fighting in a stacked bantamweight division, which is at least part of the reason he hasn’t had a shot in the UFC yet. At 26 years old, he’s been around the fight game long enough to know you don’t get many opportunities like this.
With two female coaches and with eight female fighters mixed with eight male combatants, this could be one of the most anticipated TUF seasons in recent memory. If nothing else, it promises no lack of drama going from the top down. Rousey and Tate don’t like each other and have never been shy about communicating that.
“It’s just what you would expect: Two women that can’t stand each other that are very competitive, you just want to strangle each other,” Tate told reporters of working daily with Rousey. “I think that’s pretty typical.”
Rousey submitted Tate with her go-to armbar submission in the first fight between the two, a Strikeforce event back in March 2012.