The Ultimate Fighter series has produced some of the UFC's most talented fighters, but some winners have enjoyed less than average careers in the octagon.
The title of TUF winner is an empowering accomplishment for any young fighter, but in no way is it a guarantee that a successful UFC career is in the future.
Saturday's season finale will wrap up the 14th installment of the series as two featherweights and two bantamweights fight for bragging rights and a UFC contract.
Here are five winners who you may not remember because their careers never took off after the show:
1. Travis Lutter
Season four winners of TUF were basically thrown to the wolves after the show ended. Welterweight winner Matt Serra was given a title shot against Georges St-Pierre, and middleweight winner Travis Lutter took on Anderson Silva for the middleweight title at UFC 67.
Serra managed to pull off the impossible by defeating St-Pierre, while Lutter couldn’t even make the weight. Due to Lutter’s inability to lose the necessary pounds, the championship bout was changed to a non-title fight and Lutter eventually became one more clip in Silva’s vast highlight reel.
Lutter tapped out due to elbow strikes and was given the opportunity to fight Rich Franklin next. Lutter nearly defeated Franklin by submission but was again finished by TKO. After his loss to Franklin, Lutter was cut from his contract and made history by becoming the first TUF winner to be contractually released.
2. Mac Danzig
Mac Danzig was the product of TUF's sixth season and was expected to have a pretty successful career in the UFC after claiming a win in his first fight against Mark Bocek at UFC 83.
But that initial success was ephemeral; Danzig went on to lose three straight fights and was on the brink of being cut from his contract. However, Danzig was given the opportunity to redeem himself at UFC 109 against Justin Buchholz and took full advantage.
Danzig is still happily employed by the UFC, but has lost two of his last three fights since the make-or-break win over Buchholz in 2010.
3. Amir Sadollah
Season seven winner Amir Sadollah may very well be the most successful fighter on this list, but his fight career has been nothing special since the show ended. After a huge upset victory against C.B. Dollaway in the TUF finale, Sadollah was forced to make his UFC debut a year later due to injuries.
Sadollah was finished by strikes in his debut at UFC 101 by Johny Hendricks and would go on to enjoy an erratic career in the UFC. Sadollah won four of his next six fights but never fully reached the potential that was expected from him. Currently, Sadollah is still employed by the UFC, but enjoys a television career on the side as a host and analyst for the UFC and other outlets.
4. Efrain Escudero
Last year, Escudero became the second TUF winner to be released from his contract. Escudero won his debut at UFC 103 against Cole Miller, but losses to Evan Dunham and Charles Oliveira became his downfall. The season eight lightweight winner had high hopes of becoming successful after the show, but key losses to younger fighters ended his two-year career.
5. James Wilks
Season nine of TUF pitted American fighters against UK fighters in 2009. While US coach Dan Henderson got the last laugh against UK coach Michael Bisping at UFC 100, the US was outmatched at the TUF finale.
Both Ross Pearson and James Wilks took home wins for the UK team. Wilks was the welterweight winner who dominated the only American finalist, DaMarques Johnson, with a first round submission, but his success didn’t continue after that strong performance.
Wilks lost his UFC debut against Matt Brown at UFC 105 after being finished by TKO in the third round. Since the loss, Wilks has had two more fights and was defeated in his last matchup against Claude Patrick by unanimous decision at UFC 120.
Wilks was schedule for two more fights but was forced to withdraw due to injury. The season nine winner is now awaiting another matchup from the UFC.
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