Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez Perfect Choice for 'TUF' 20 Fighters, Fans

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

MILWAUKEE, WI - JANUARY 16:  Anthony Pettis takes an interview during Media Day at Roufusport Mixed Martial Arts Academy on January 16, 2014 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

There have been a lot of seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. Eighteen regular seasons, two in Brazil, one in China and one between England and Australia. There is one currently airing between Canada and Australia, another one that will air soon in Brazil, starting in March, and a 19th regular season that will start airing in April...just a lot of The Ultimate Fighter.

The Ultimate Fighter season 20, though? That one is different.

While essentially every season of The Ultimate Fighter since season six has been content in generating an anonymous middle-tier fighter or two for either the middleweight, welterweight or lightweight division, TUF 20 sets a lofty goal. It plans to end with the crowning of a new champion. Not just any new champion, but the first women's strawweight champion.

Confirmed Participants in 'TUF' Season 20
NameProfessional RecordAmateur Record
Carla Esparza9-2N/A
Claudia Gadelha11-0N/A
Felice Herrig9-5N/A
Joanne Calderwood8-0N/A
Tecia Torres4-07-0
Rose Namajunas2-14-0
Bec Hyatt5-3N/A
Emily Kagan3-15-2
Alex Chambers4-1N/A
Julianna Lima6-1N/A
Paige Van Zant3-11-0

It will be the first time The Ultimate Fighter features an all-female cast. It will be the first time TUF will crown a champion.

The idea itself is a rare stroke of genius for the long-running show. The Ultimate Fighter, in theory, has always been about grooming somewhat-established talent in a live-and-breathe training environment to the point where they become legitimate forces in their division. In reality, though, The Ultimate Fighter became complacent in generating mediocre ratings with stupid, testosterone-fueled shenanigans.

The results speak for themselves.

There has been precisely one title contender produced by The Ultimate Fighter since season five (season 13's John Dodson). There are no champions that have come from The Ultimate Fighter at this point. There are only nine top-10 ranked fighters at this time that have entered the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter.

Fans have picked up on that, and the ratings have accordingly fluctuated between mediocre and bad. You know...just like any other tired reality show. 

The Ultimate Fighter season 20, though? That one is different. 

For the first time in about seven years, there is a clear importance to what is happening. There are no vague promises of future success. The women who will fight are not "future contenders."

These are the best in their weight class, each one entering "The House" with an established highlight reel. Each one of them is a contender right now.

Oct 19, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Gilbert Melendez fights against Diego Sanchez (not pictured) in their lightweight bout during UFC 166 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Thankfully, the UFC and Fox Sports actually realize that The Ultimate Fighter season 20 is different. They know that they can't just plug anybody into the fabled coaching spot. This is a different season, and it's one that requires top-flight, legitimately-relevant fighters. Fighters who can actually teach something to those who are only a few fights away from becoming champions.

And they have them. 

The UFC announced that the coaches are two champions, Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis. Neither fighter needs an introduction. All that needs to be said is that their years sitting near or at the top of the lightweight division makes them two of the handful of fighters that could be tasked with producing a champion.

So now, for the first time in years, there is reason to get excited for a season of The Ultimate Fighter well in advance. It might not be the biggest, but it will definitely be one of the best.