Could Jon Jones or Chael Sonnen have won a season of The Ultimate Fighter?
That's a question mixed martial arts fans will undoubtedly be asking themselves now, as the coaches of TUF 17 recently revealed to MMA Junkie that they were once both under consideration for the show's early seasons.
According to Jones, he was allowed to tryout at one session, but ultimately wound up disqualified from casting due to the fact that he was only 20 years old at the time:
"I tried out for 'The Ultimate Fighter' back when I was 20 years old," Jones said. "I remember making it through the first round and then approaching a table to grapple for the second round and having Dana—I think himself, I remember him being at the table—saying, 'Man, you're too young. You're 20 years old, and you have to be 21 to apply for this show, but we're going to let you roll anyways. But you can't go much further than this.' I was like, 'Alright.' I was rolling and having a great time, and that was it. That was the end of the scenario."
It would be roughly a year or so until Jones re-appeared on the UFC's radar, raking up six victories on the regional circuit (five KOs and one submission) in 2008 before taking a short notice fight at UFC 87.
Sonnen, on the other hand, did meet the age limit for TUF 1 (at the time being in his late 20s), but declined a spot on the show.
Although he had notable MMA experience against the likes of Jason Miller, Trevor Prangley, Akihiro Gono, Jeremy Horn and eventual winner Forrest Griffin, Sonnen passed on the chance to compete for a spot in the house.
As Sonnen says, it's a decision he wishes he could take back:
"I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what it was. I sat down and watched it, and I regretted that decision. I really enjoyed watching it, and all these years later, here I am."
Both Jones and Sonnen have since gone on to become two of the UFC's two pay-per-draws, with 23 UFC fights (including nine main events) between the two of them.
Currently, the two coaches are busy filming Season 17 of TUF, which will air on FX in January 2013.
Although Jones' manager Malki Kawa previously stated to The Fight Network that TUF 17 would air on Wednesdays, MMA Fighting has since reported that FX officials called the time slots an "unlikely" fit.