by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Season 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter” will be starting on Sept. 17 with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir as coaches. This season will feature lightweights and light heavyweights looking to become the next emerging star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Nogueira defeated Tim Sylvia back in February to become the interim UFC heavyweight champion and has not fought since. He will take his years of wisdom and experience and implement them to the fortunate members of his team this season. Helping with the coaching duties will be some of the best in the business as UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and top light heavyweight contender Lyoto Machida will be there to assist. “I’m sure you’ll see them pop on there,” said Nogueira’s manager, Ed Soares.
Nogueira has been involved in some of the most memorable match-ups in mixed martial arts history. His unbelievable victories over Bob Sapp and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic were some of the most exciting fights ever in the sport.
He signed with the UFC not too long after the Zuffa acquired Pride Fighting Championships. His first fight in the Octagon was against Heath Herring, a man that he had defeated twice before. After nearly being knocked out in the first round, “Minotauro” came back and was dominant in the following rounds. His subsequent title fight with Tim Sylvia was vintage Nogueira, as he was getting dominated in the first round, and came back to submit Sylvia in the third round to gain the interim title.
Even though Nogueira has tons of success in the sport and is the promotion’s reigning heavyweight king, he is not well known to the casual fan. Soares is hoping his exposure on The Ultimate Fighter will gain Nogueira some popularity points with the casual fan.
“In the American market, I still don’t think he was that well known,” Soares said in a recent interview with MMAWeekly Radio. “Going through this process on The Ultimate Fighter was a quick resolution to making him become more of a household name. Granted he did have to take nine months off from fighting, but I feel the exposure this show is going to get him is going to help his career.”
After Season 8 concludes, Nogueira will defend his belt from former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. Mir has only had two consecutive wins and will now be challenging for the belt, mainly due to the lack of depth in the heavyweight division in the UFC.
He has most recently defeated the former professional wrestler-turned-mixed martial artist Brock Lesnar after Mir had a very shaky few minutes to start the fight. Mir was on the verge of being pounded out by the Minnesota native, but hung on and kept his composure when Lesnar made a mistake that allowed Mir to secure a knee bar.
While he may not be the ideal No. 1 contender, the UFC is simply out of options in the short term and this fight has the potential promotional hype to sell, especially being on the end of the year card.
“I don’t know if Frank was the No. 1 contender, but at this point, who would be? Maybe a Cheick Kongo? But Heath Herring beat Cheick Kongo. With Frank Mir, there’s something to promote there,” explained Soares. “He was the former heavyweight champion. He’s known to be the No. 1 heavyweight American grappler. Obviously Nogueira is the best Brazilian heavyweight grappler. I think it has all the ingredients to be a good fight.”
First things first as Nogueira will wait for The Ultimate Fighter to air and showcase his coaching style to the thousands watching. The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir premiers on Sept. 17 at 10PM EST/PST on Spike TV.