Spike TV executives on Monday made public the cast for season eight of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, set to premiere on Sept. 17 at 10 p.m. EST. The show served as a launching pad for current UFC stars Forrest Griffin (Pictures), Kenny Florian (Pictures) and Michael Bisping (Pictures), among others.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (Pictures) and reigning interim heavyweight titleholder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) will coach hopefuls on the eighth season, which will feature fighters from the lightweight and light heavyweight divisions. Mir will then challenge Nogueira for the interim belt at a pay-per-view event in December.
The 32-member cast includes Shane Nelson (Pictures) -- a 24-year-old B.J. Penn (Pictures) protégé who will enter the competition on a five-fight winning streak -- and John Polakowski (Pictures), 26, a World Extreme Cagefighting veteran who trains alongside former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (Pictures) at The Pit in San Luis Obispo, Calif. They are among the 16 lightweights who will vie for the UFC contract.
Efrain Escudero and Brandon Garner are among other notables who made the lightweight cut. Escudero, an unbeaten Rage in the Cage mainstay, has secured his last nine wins by submission. Garner, meanwhile, remains the only man to submit UFC veteran Jason Dent (Pictures).
Undefeated UFC light heavyweight contender Rashad Evans (Pictures), himself a product of “The Ultimate Fighter,” will have a rooting interest in the eighth installment of the reality series. His brother, Lance Evans (Pictures), will compete as a light heavyweight on the show.
Other notables who made the light heavyweight cut include Ryan Bader (Pictures), a former All-American wrestler at Arizona State University, rising Canadian prospect Ryan Jimmo (Pictures) and Jason Guida (Pictures) -- the 30-year-old brother of UFC lightweight contender Clay Guida (Pictures). International Fight League veteran Krzysztof Soszynski (Pictures) and American Top Team product Tom Lawlor are also in the mix at 205 pounds, along with Team Quest’s Vinicius Magalhaes (Pictures), a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Royler Gracie (Pictures).
As with last season, preliminary bouts will be held during the first two episodes to pair down the field from 32 to 16. The two finalists in each weight class will meet in “The Ultimate Fighter 8” Live Finale on Dec. 13 in Las Vegas live on Spike TV.
TUF 8 CAST(on sherdog)
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