UFC.com inadvertently stole a bit of the boss’ thunder this week.
After weeks of speculation and rumor about the identities of the coaches for season 13 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, Dana White was finally prepared to make the announcement on Tuesday during a conference call. Unfortunately, his own company’s website beat him to it, revealing former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and No. 1-contender Junior dos Santos as the guilty parties just a few minutes before White got to break the news himself.
It was an uncharacteristic and ultimately harmless gaffe from a promotion usually regarded as a master of new media. The fact that a number of MMA reporters immediately sniffed it out and blasted it to the world via Twitter before Dana could even utter the words also speaks to the level of anticipation the UFC built up – either on purpose or totally by accident – about the upcoming season of “TUF.” For weeks the identity of the coaches was shrouded in mystery. It felt like half the roster was rumored to be involved at one time or another. Now that the cat is finally out of the bag, this season seems even bigger than expected, both literally and figuratively.
Obviously, tabbing Lesnar as a coach can only be considered a major coup for the show. Though he largely disappeared from public view after losing his UFC title to Cain Velasquez back in October, the gargantuan former professional wrestler still made headlines this week in stories trumpeting him as the biggest pay-per-view draw in any sport since Mike Tyson. His presence alone could make this one of the highest rated seasons of “TUF” ever. Maybe the highest. It could also bring a new group of mainstream viewers to the show, some of whom may have never watched a full season of the show before.
On the other hand, this is a very weird choice for Lesnar, who has become known as something of a misanthropic loner in MMA circles. Spending several weeks in Las Vegas surrounded by cameras certainly doesn’t sound like his idea of a good time. One can only assume that, like during the “UFC Primetime” specials that preceded his UFC 121 fight with Velasquez, access to Lesnar will be severely limited during filming. We must also assume the UFC is floating him a truckload of money to get him to do it at all.
Additionally, news of his participation in a season of “TUF” has only intensified the rumors already swirling around him. In the immediate wake of his beatdown by Velasquez, stories began to surface that the big man had not been training, had not been in contact with the UFC, was pushing for the company to allow him to appear at the WWE’s upcoming Wrestlemania PPV and that he was looking for a halfway graceful exit strategy from his MMA career. Whether true or not, these ideas seemed to fit with Lesnar’s notoriously flighty past.
Frankly, nobody would be surprised if Lesnar did jet from the UFC at this point, but his involvement in “TUF” would appear to indicate he’s sticking around for at least the first half of this year. Word is, he’s got a couple fights left on his contract. Now we know at least one of those will be against dos Santos.
After that? Well, like everything involving this man, it’ll be anybody’s best guess. And guess we will.
Chad Dundas writes abou MMA for CraveOnline and Versus.com. He lives in Missoula, MT.