You heard it here first, even if some of you didn’t believe us. The UFC and Spike TV today officially announced UFC heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and former title-holder Frank Mir as coaches for season eight of The Ultimate Fighter. Production is scheduled to begin in late May, and the full cast — eight lightweights and eight light heavyweights — is expected to be announced in September.
Of course this means Mir will be the next challenger for the heavyweight strap once the show ends, assuming tradition is any indicator. Since the UFC hasn’t changed much else about the show (aside from, you know, weeding out the “pussies and posers”), it’s reasonable to assume the coach-versus-coach pay-per-view climax will also stay intact.
Some in the MMA media have criticized the decision to name Nogueira, who can be less than electrifying in interviews, and Mir, who has been up and down since returning from a motorcycle injury, as coaches. But as the UFC struggles to develop new talent in the heavyweight division, while simultaneously trying to introduce their soft-spoken Brazilian champion to an American audience, this decision could really help them do both.
Nogueira is no “Rampage” on the microphone, but he does have a wealth of knowledge about MMA and jiu-jitsu, so he could easily be portrayed as the learned veteran who observes much and says little. Kind of like Yoda, but with a better butterfly guard.
As for Mir, he’s likable enough when he shows up in shape and ready to fight. He has excellent jiu-jitsu skills and great agility, so a showdown between Mir and Nogueira has the potential to be an intriguing style matchup.
This also means the heavyweight title will be out of circulation for a while, but considering the state of the division right now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After the departure of Couture and Sylvia, and with Arlovski rumored to be fleeing for Affliction, the heavyweight class is arguably the UFC’s weakest right now. Taking some time to hype their champion and a number one contender — all while guys like Brock Lesnar, Brandon Vera, and Cain Velasquez get a chance to show what they can do — might be the best move for the UFC going forward.
And if you’re wondering what vindication tastes like, we assure you that it’s so very, very sweet.