by MMAWeekly.com Staff

Long hailed as the saving grace of mixed martial arts in the
U.S., The Ultimate Fighter prepares for its ninth season, set to debut on April
1 on Spike TV following UFC Fight Night 18 in Nashville, Tenn.


This season features a different take on the formula that
the show has followed for the past eight seasons. Season nine still pits two
teams of 16 fighters against each other – eight welterweights and eight
lightweights per team – but the fighters are divvied up into a team of
U.K. fighters versus a team of U.S. fighters.


The two teams will then go through much of the same format
as past shows, fighting their way into the finals to declare a welterweight and
a lightweight winner. The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Live Finale will take place
on June 20 at the Pearl in Las Vegas.


Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports on Monday released the list of
the 32 contestants for this season, broken out into the various weight
categories and country they represent.




Biglar (2-1):

Biglar, 24, is a jiu-jitsu fighter originally from Guam who
represents the Cobra Kai in Las Vegas.


Ray Elbe

A Muay Thai fighter, the 25-year-old Elbe has spent the last
three years working on his game in Phuket, Thailand. The most notable man he’s
faced was Renato Verissimo, who knocked him out in 2003.


Fulgium (6-2-1):

A wrestler, Fulgium represents the Gladiator camp in
Lafayette, La.


Johnson (13-6):

Johnson took up MMA training while in the military. Training
out of Elite Performance in Salt Lake City, Johnson once faced former World
Extreme Cagefighting welterweight champion Brock Larson, who submitted him in a
2005 bout.


Knabjian (10-3-1):

A wrester from Eastern Illinois University, the same school
that produced UFC star Matt Hughes, the one-time WEC fighter trains at Gilbert
Grappling in Chicago.


Miller (10-4):

A Muay Thai fighter also based in Chicago, Miller trains at
Dino Costeas MMA and Toro Muay Thai.


Pierce (9-0):

A one-time collegiate soccer player, Pierce trains with the
vaunted Miletich Fighting Systems camp in Bettendorf, Iowa.


Kiel Reid

A native of Bettendorf, Reid also trains with Miletich,
whose experience includes a 2004 fight against UFC veteran Luigi Fiorvanti.




Paul Bird

A striker, Bird trains at Des Moines (Iowa) MMA. He has
fought in the Midwest Cage Championships promotion.


DeFranco (13-4):

A wrestler and jiu-jitsu specialist, DeFranco has
experienced fighting in the now-defunct International Fight League. He also
helped coach Efrain Escudero, the TUF 8 winner.


Jason Dent

A submission specialist, Dent runs his own gym in Mentor,
Ohio, at Griffon Brawl. He is a UFC veteran who has losses to Roger Huerta and
Gleison Tibau.


Dollar (4-1):

Dollar trains in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is a former
teammate of TUF alums Cory Hill and Noah Thomas.


Tom Hayden

A submission fighter, Hayden is trained by popular UFC
veteran Jorge Gurgel in West Chester, Ohio.


Lowe (5-2):

Lowe, 28, also fights for Gurgel.


Souder (7-2):

A member of Team Prodigy, Souder has faced castmate Jason
Dent in 2005, losing by TKO.


Whitson (4-0):

A native Alaskan who trains with Team Quest in Temecula,
Calif., Whitson is a heavy-handed striker.


U.S. coach
Dan Henderson:

A two-time Olympic wrestler, Henderson is the only man to
have simultaneously held two weight-class championships in PRIDE. He was the
organization’s light heavyweight and middleweight champion and is one of the
top fighters in the UFC.




Amarasinghe (4-1):

A grappler from Nottingham, England, Amarasinghe trains at
Rough House Gym.


Bateman (2-1):

A striker, Bateman trains at Grimsby NHB in Grimsby,


Faulkner (2-1):

A member of the Wolfslair team that features U.K. coach
Michael Bisping and UFC star Quinton Jackson, Faulkner is a submissions expert.


Maguire (5-2):

The 20-year-old Maguire is a striker who works with the
Tsunami Gym in Wisbech, England.


Che Mills

A tall welterweight at 6-foot-2, Mills works with ex-UFC
fighter Mark Weir’s Range Fighting Gym.


Osipczak (3-0):

Osipczak trains in London with Pancrase UK. He’s finished
all of his fights in the first round.


Alex Reid

Reid, 33, trains in London with the London Shoot Fighters.
He’s faced notable opponents such as Murilo Rua, Tony Fryklund, Dave Menne and
Jorge Rivera.


Wilks (5-2):
Trained by veteran Eric Paulson in Orange County, Calif.,
the 30-year-old Wilks is a striker.




Bryan (3-1):

A striker, Bryan, 25, is from Somerset, England.


Dan James

A striker from Swansea, Wales, he’s finished two of his
three pro bouts.


Gary Kelly

A striker, the 25-year-old Kelly trains alongside Bisping
and Jackson at Wolfslair in Liverpool, England.


Lawson (13-2):

A submission fighter with 12 finishes, Lawson trains with
Team Bulldog in Dorset, England.


Pearson (9-3):

A striker, Pearson trains at Sunderland Jiu-Jitsu & MMA
Club in Sunderland, England.


Stapleton (5-1):

A Muay Thai fighter, Stapleton is a product of Quannum
Combat Arts.


A.J. Wenn

A well-rounded fighter from the Tsunami Gym, Wenn is from
Cambs, England.


Winner (9-2-1):

Winner is a member of the Rough House team in London and is
coming off a loss and a draw in his two fights prior to appearing on the show.


U.K. coach
Michael Bisping:

Bisping was the light heavyweight winner on Season 3 of “The
Ultimate Fighter.” He has gone on to become one of the world’s top middleweights.
His only loss was a disputed decision to current UFC light heavyweight champion
Rashad Evans.