The UFC and FX have released the names of the 32 fighters that will compete in the 16th season of the hit reality series “The Ultimate Fighter.” Among them is a pair of Canadians that will fight for a chance to get into the famed TUF house. Mike Ricci of Montreal, QC and Mike Hill of Kelowna, BC are anxiously awaiting the preliminary round draws for the UFC’s annual tournament. The competition will be especially stiff this year, as the show’s entire roster will be comprised solely of welterweight fighters. Until last year, TUF typically showcased two different weight classes per season, with two separate winners taking home six figure UFC contracts. Both men find themselves at similar points in their respective careers, making noise on the Canadian circuit and hoping to break through to the next level.
For Mike Hill, TUF 16 will be his second kick at the can. Hill made a push for selection on last year’s TUF 15 cast at lightweight with a YouTube audition video that garnered a few thousand views. He ultimately missed the cut, and has been battling the injury bug ever since, keeping him out of action since September of 2011. Hill has never fought professionally at welterweight; all four of his pro fights have been at 155 lbs. He’s undefeated in that weight class, so how he fares against some bigger competition is still yet to be seen. Hill fights out of Toshida MMA in Kelowna, which is best known as the gym where welterweight UFC fighter Rory MacDonald cut his teeth.
For many contestants, TUF represents an opportunity to learn from some big name trainers and UFC fighters. Ricci, however, is ahead of the curve in that regard. Ricci is a member of the famed Tristar gym in Montreal (the same gym that the aforementioned MacDonald later graduated to), and has already seen and experienced how some of the sport’s highest level athletes train and prepare. With his entry into TUF, Ricci will now get a chance to make the jump from the regional circuit. He previously fell short in his first shot at mainstream exposure when Pat Curran knocked him out at Bellator 14. Like Hill, Ricci has also spent the bulk of his pro career at lightweight, going 6-1 in the division. His most notable win came via unanimous decision against Jordan Mein, now of Strikeforce.
Canada’s influence on MMA globally has been on the rise, with promotions like MFC, Ringside MMA and Aggression FC becoming effective feeder systems for the big leagues. Tristar gym is now even getting in on the action, with a reported Tristar fight promotion set to debut later this year. Hill and Ricci’s inclusion in this year’s TUF should help raise the profile of some of those promotions, and further stimulate the growth of the sport here in Canada.
TUF 16 will feature heavyweight coaches Roy “Big Country” Nelson, who himself is a former TUF champion, leading his team against former UFC interim heavyweight champ Shane Carwin. The two will face off in the main event of The Ultimate Finale 16, set for December 15th in Las Vegas, along with the show’s tournament finals. Here is the full list of cast members for this year’s show:
Bristol Marunde, 30, Las Vegas, Nev.
Cameron Diffley, 27, Las Vegas, Nev.
Colton Smith, 25, Fort Hood, Texas via Ankeny, Iowa
Cortez Coleman, 30, Hugo, Okla.
David Michaud, 23, Pine Ridge, S.D.
Diego Bautista, 26, Lakewood, Calif.
Dom Waters, 23, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Eddy Ellis, 29, Olympia, Wash.,
Frank Camacho, 23, Camp Springs, Md.
George Lockhart, 29, Atlanta, Ga.
Igor Araujo, 31, Albuquerque, N.M. via Patos De Minas, Brazil
James Chaney, 25, Klamath Falls, Ore.
Jason South, 34, West Jordan, Utah
Jerel Clark, 23, Reno, Nev.
Jesse Barrett, 26, Tempe, Ariz.
Joey Rivera, 32, Tucson, Ariz.
Jon Manley, 26, Ludlow, Mass.
Julian Lane, 25, Mansfield, Ohio
Kevin Nowaczyk, 23, Chicago, Ill.
Leo Kuntz, 28, Bismarck, N.D.
Lev Magen, 25, Las Vegas, Nev.
Matt Secor, 25, South Glens Falls, N.Y.
Max Griffin, 26, Sacramento, Calif.
Michael Hill, 25, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Mike Ricci, 26, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Neil Magny, 24, Chicago, Ill.
Nic Herron-Webb, 22, Anchorage, Alaska
Ricky Legere Jr., 26, Corona, Calif.
Saad Awad, 23, San Bernardino, Calif.
Sam Alvey, 26, Murrieta, Calif.
Tim Ruberg, 30, Harrison, Ohio
Zane Kamaka, 23, Klaianae, Hawaii