After a recent false start, UFC president Dana White on Tuesday confirmed that the next season of The Ultimate Fighter will, in fact, launch the women’s 125-pound weight class and crown its first champion.
The UFC issued a press release stating as much last week, announcing open tryouts for women in the 125-pound weight class, including fighters currently on the UFC’s roster. Just as quickly, however, the promotion stated that the press release was released prematurely.
White on Tuesday confirmed to ESPNW that the promotion was moving forward with the idea.
“Women’s fighting has become very popular,” White said. “I waited for a while to pull the trigger on this division, and I think it’s time. I’m ready to do it now.”
The open tryouts for The Ultimate Fighter Season 26 is for all professional female fighters aged 21-34 with a winning record and at least three professional bouts to her credit. Open tryouts will take place on May 23 in Las Vegas.
One of the UFC fighters that is excited for the opportunity is Jessica Eye, who was one of the best fighters in the world at 125 pounds, but who has floundered since joining the UFC’s roster at 135 pounds.
“This is the true chance to be the 125-pound champ I always knew I was going to be,” Eye told ESPN.
UFC strawweight champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk has also expressed a desire to conquer a second weight class, with her sights on the flyweight division in 2018.
“There are a lot of 125-pound women out there fighting already,” White said. “Now they’ll get the opportunity to fight in the UFC. We’ll have four women’s divisions, and as far as I’m concerned we can’t have enough.”
TUF 26 will film this summer and air on Fox Sports 1 later this year.