The UFC has always used The Ultimate Fighter to build up to some of its biggest fights, with a number of bitter rivals acting as coaches in the series.
Thankfully for the promotion, there are plenty of big rivalries they could choose from, with a number of them leading to potentially huge fights in the near future.
With that in mind, here are five dream coaching pairs the UFC can book for the next TUF season.
#5. Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov – UFC lightweight division
Arguably the most cursed fight in UFC history, a bout between former lightweight champions Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson has been booked on multiple occasions in the past, only to fall through at the last minute every time.
With Khabib now firmly retired and Ferguson seemingly on the downswing of his career and on a four-fight losing streak, it seems highly unlikely that the two stars will ever meet in the octagon at this point. However, could they rekindle their rivalry as TUF coaches?
Incredibly, the answer may well be yes. Despite the fact that a coaching rivalry between the two would not necessarily lead to a fight, the idea was proposed by Ferguson in a recent interview, and seems to have support from both Nurmagomedov and UFC president Dana White.
If the promotion goes ahead with this pairing, it’d undoubtedly produce an entertaining show, particularly given the fact that ‘El Cucuy’ would likely attempt to antagonize ‘The Eagle’ due to his abrasive nature.
More to the point, it wouldn’t be the first time that a TUF coaching pairing did not lead to a fight. Junior dos Santos and Brock Lesnar, for instance, coached TUF 13 without fighting, as did numerous pairings on TUF Brazil.
Overall, this definitely seems like a good idea for the promotion to pursue , particularly as White would no doubt have the idea in the back of his mind of convincing Ferguson and Khabib to fight.
#4. Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev – UFC welterweight division
While UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is all set to defend his title against top contender Leon Edwards in the near future, the truth is that the real money would be in a bout between ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ and surging prospect Khamzat Chimaev.
‘Borz’ picked up the biggest win of his career thus far when he defeated Gilbert Burns via unanimous decision a few months ago. He now sits in the upper echelon of the division. With that considered, assuming Usman gets past Edwards, could the promotion look to book these two as TUF coaches?
Put simply, it’d be a great idea. Right now, the fight would likely draw a big number for the UFC purely based on the ability of the duo, but they don’t have a major rivalry like Usman did with Colby Covington, for instance.
Given weeks of build and antagonizing on TUF, though, this fight could become huge. Chimaev has already shown a willingness to talk plenty of trash about his prospective opponents, and while Usman is more stoic, he’d definitely make a great foil for the Chechen-born Swede.
Overall, this is one big fight that could definitely become bigger if the two fighters were given the spotlight that a coaching gig on TUF could offer.
#3. Conor McGregor vs. Jorge Masvidal – UFC welterweight division
Given that he’s still their biggest and most bankable star, the UFC would undoubtedly love to make Conor McGregor one half of their next coaching pairing on The Ultimate Fighter. It’s a gig that could work for ‘The Notorious’, too.
Coaching on TUF would allow the Irishman more time to recover from the serious leg injury he suffered against Dustin Poirier in 2021. It would also give him a big spotlight to rebuild his reputation with the fans, a reputation that was somewhat damaged by his two losses to ‘The Diamond’.
So who could McGregor coach on the reality show alongside? One potential option could be Jorge Masvidal.
The UFC’s ‘BMF’ champion has been on a slide as of late, losing his last three bouts. However, he remains one of the promotion’s bigger stars and would definitely draw some big numbers coaching on TUF.
More importantly, he already has a beef with McGregor and has called him out for a fight recently. Therefore, it could make sense for the promotion to offer them this spot and let their feud build to a natural conclusion.
#2. Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira – UFC middleweight division
Next weekend at UFC 276, Israel Adesanya is set to defend his middleweight title against top contender Jared Cannonier, On the main card, Alex Pereira is booked to face off with Sean Strickland.
Assuming both men win, a good idea for the promotion could be to book a fight between them and use the next season of The Ultimate Fighter to build their rivalry through a coaching pairing.
Sure, Pereira hasn’t been in the UFC for very long at all, with his bout against Strickland marking just his third octagon appearance. But nevertheless, ‘Poatan’ clearly has some serious striking skills and, more to the point, he remains the only man to ever knock Adesanya out in a fight.
Given that a victory over Cannonier would mean that ‘The Last Stylebender’ would essentially have cleaned out the middleweight division, it could be a good idea to let him attempt to avenge what stands as probably his biggest career loss.
In this case, Pereira is somewhat of an unknown quantity to the fans, meaning that the spotlight offered by a TUF coaching gig could really help him to build his personality and style with them. Adesanya, meanwhile, could become an even bigger star than he currently is.
If the chips fall correctly next weekend, then this could be the perfect situation for the promotion to capitalise on.
#1. Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler – UFC lightweight division
We’ve already mentioned the possibility of Conor McGregor being chosen to coach the next series of The UItimate Fighter and exactly why it’d be something the UFC would love to do, but it’s also fair to suggest that they may not want Jorge Masvidal coaching alongside him.
Sure, ‘Gamebred’ is a huge star, but he’s also got some legal issues hanging over him based on his alleged attack on Colby Covington in a restaurant. The promotion may decide that he can’t be trusted not to cause too much grief on the reality show.
Therefore, why not pair McGregor alongside another potential foe, lightweight contender Michael Chandler?
The two men have already expressed their interest in facing off against one another in the octagon, so TUF could offer them the perfect spotlight to build up their burgeoning rivalry.
This option would probably be perfect for Chandler in particular, as while ‘Iron Mike’ is popular with the fans, more exposure for his infectious personality would definitely make him into a bigger star.
Overall, if the promotion wants to make the next season of TUF into the biggest deal possible, this one could be the perfect coaching pairing for them to run with.