Court McGee became the latest ultimate fighter winner with a win over Kris McCray in the series finale, and in doing so got not only a glass trophy but the much talked about ‘six figure contract’ that all of the show’s winners get.
Back when the show started in 2003, a six figure contract was a fairly lucrative thing for a fighter starting out in the UFC, and not that many professional fighters were making that much money or being given lengthy contracts unless they were a proven draw. The original contract that contestants could win worked out to be a six fight, three year contract which worked out to be fairly low money if they kept winning.
The early winners of the show who put together winning streaks were basically being paid a lot less than those who came into the UFC on a short contract, proved to be a success and could then renegotiate for bigger pay.
The other thing that being an Ultimate Fighter series winner used to provide fighters with was a fairly easy run of fights while they were still new to the company. Partly because they might not be at the level of most of the other fighters on the roster just yet and partly because the time on the show had already done a lot of promoting for them and the UFC wanted to see them keep winning.
Over the last few seasons though the winners have had much less of an easy ride in terms of match making, and it will be interesting to see who McGee is matched up with for his first few outings.
Given his popularity and all or nothing fighting style it’s likely that McCray will probably be kept on despite his loss, and as previous runners up have proven, coming second is only usually a minor inconvenience rather than an outright disaster. Next for both McCray and McGee will likely be lower tier opponents to keep them on the right path as they continue to develop as fighters. Perhaps a fellow TUF contestant for both men as their first bouts in the UFC proper.
Of the rest of the cast members who fought on the card, all those who emerged victorious will probably be kept around for at least one more fight each, while the losers will probably have been cut already. Having the latest batch of TUF contestants pair off against some of the struggling prospects or lower level fighters with the losers then being cut helps the UFC to clear away the dead wood from the ranks, and makes the division more competitive.
The one man missing from the card was the noticeably camp Nick Ring who on paper and in what practice he had looked to be the best of the fighters on the show. Ring pulled out of the show a couple of weeks before the end after injuring an already surgically repaired knee, and it isn’t clear what became of him after that. If he can get back into good shape though there isn’t any reason why the UFC wouldn’t sign him on his existing record alone (10-0), and he would certainly make an interesting addition to the middleweight division.
Also on the card, and perhaps surprisingly not given main event status was Keith Jardine vs. Matt Hamill, which was an important fight for both men. Jardine having slipped into a three fight losing streak, and Hamill eager to remove the bad taste his disqualification win over Jon Jones left him with.
A fairly close fight saw Hamill do enough to pull off the majority decision victory, with Jardine also penalized a point for what looked like accidentally poking Hamill in the eye.
Early on, Jardine was having plenty of luck with his methodical striking style, and Hamill struggled to counter it effectively. As the fight wore on, Hamill gained the upper hand, which could have come through catching and stunning Jardine or simply fatigue. Either way though it resulted in a fourth consecutive loss for Jardine and a high profile win for Hamill.
The question now turns to what the UFC will do with Keith Jardine, who always has been inconsistent at best. Some will no doubt be calling for the ‘Dean of Mean’ to be cut, but his performance against Hamill was much improved from some of his other recent losses.
The problem with cutting someone like Jardine is also that he could well go on another hot streak, and the UFC would look foolish for having let him go. Such is the nature of unpredictable fighters, and several such as Vitor Belfort have enjoyed multiple runs in the UFC as a result.
At the age of 35, it could just be the case that Jardine’s best days might be behind him, but when fighters like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture fight into their 40’s it’s difficult to say. A final fight for Jardine against a lower tier light heavyweight the UFC aren’t that keen on keeping might be the best thing to do. Winner stays with the company and the loser gets cut.
As for Hamill, although beating Jardine was an impressive win, he was absolutely dominated by Jon Jones before the disqualification, and that doesn’t bode well for his chances against the best in the division. A rematch against Jones might be the first order of the day, provided Jones gets past Vlad Matyushenko in his next outing.