What you need to know ahead of the finals of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter

The Ultimate Fighter was an instrumental force during the UFC's explosion of popularity in the early 2000s, shining a spotlight on fighters like Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, who coached a variety of MMA hopefuls in a season-long competition in which all of the participants were housed in one place.

Over the course of 28 seasons -- all of which can currently be enjoyed on ESPN+ -- the emergence of fighters like Forrest Griffin, Nate Diaz, Tony Ferguson and Kelvin Gastelum, among many others, and the tension between coaches building up to a big fight of their own played out on a week to week basis as fans got to see it all play out behind the scenes.

The Ultimate Fighter returned for its 29th season (and first since 2018) with UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and upcoming title challenger Brian Ortega serving as coaches ahead of their clash at UFC 266 on Sept. 25. The show, which debuted on June 1, ran for 12 weeks, with eight fighters each in the bantamweight and middleweight divisions competing to win their respective divisions.

Now, as part of the UFC Fight Night card on Aug. 28, champions will be crowned in each division. Tresean Gore initially qualified for the final, but was forced to pull out due to a knee injury. That slotted Gilbert Urbina into the middleweight final, where he'll face Bryan Battle. Gore was the lone remaining representative of Team Ortega, making both final bouts all-Team Volkanovski affairs. At bantamweight, Ricky Turcios faces Brady Hiestand.

Here's what you need to know about each of the four finalists:


Brady Hiestand | 21 | 5-1

TUF record: 2-0 (def. Josh Rettinghouse by split decision, Week 7; def. Vince Murdock by TKO1, Week 11)

Nickname: Bam Bam

Birthplace: Spokane, Washington

Fights out of: Spokane, Washington

Gym: Sik-Jitsu

Trainer/coach: Rick Little

Fighting history: Brown belt BJJ, black belt karate

Ricky Turcios | 27 | 10-2

TUF record: 2-0 (def. Dan Argueta by unanimous decision, Week 6; def. Liudvik Sholinian by unanimous decision, Week 9)

Nickname: Ricky Hadouken

Birthplace: Houston

Fights out of: Houston

Gyms: Gracie Barra The Woodlands (Texas) and Team Alpha Male

Trainer/coaches: Alex Morono, Urijah Faber, Danny Castillo, Matt Wald, Joey Rodriguez, Chris Holdsworth

Fighting history: Black belt in Taekwondo, brown belt in BJJ


Bryan Battle | 26 | 4-1

TUF record: 2-0 (def. Kemran Lachinov by unanimous decision, Week 5; def. Andre Petroski by SUB2, Week 10)

Nickname: Pooh Bear

Birthplace: Springfield, Maryland

Fights out of: Charlotte, North Carolina

Gym: Hayastan MMA

Trainer/coaches: Tom Ziegler, Kevin Forant

Gilbert Urbina | 25 | 6-1

TUF record: 1-1 (def. Micheal Gillmore by SUB1, Week 8, lost to Tresean Gore in Week 12 by KO2)

Nickname: The RGV Badboy

Birthplace: Ripon, Wisconsin

Fights out of: Rio Grande Valley, Texas

Gym(s): Team Urbina MMA, Jackson Wink

Trainer/coaches: Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn

Watch The Ultimate Fighter on ESPN+

Episode 1: New Beginnings | After TUF

Episode 2: Stake Your Claim | After TUF

Episode 3: Bring in the Rhino | After TUF

Episode 4: On My Time | After TUF

Episode 5: Hard Headed | After TUF

Episode 6: Let The Games Begin | After TUF

Episode 7: Friend or Foe | After TUF

Episode 8: Fight or Flight | After TUF

Episode 9: Clocked | After TUF

Episode 10: Eye on the Prize | After TUF

Episode 11: Snake Bitten | After TUF

Episode 12: A beautiful fight | After TUF

(Results and semifinal matchups at bottom of page)

The coaches

Alexander Volkanovski

22-1 (9-0 in the UFC)
Windang, New South Wales, Australia
32 years old

Volkanovski debuted in the UFC in 2016, winning his first four fights close to home (three in Australia, one in New Zealand). After wins over Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, Volkanovski got a shot at Max Holloway's UFC featherweight championship in December 2019 in Las Vegas, and won the title via unanimous decision at UFC 245. In his first title defense, against Holloway at UFC 251, Volkanovski won a significantly tighter split decision over Holloway in July 2020 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

His second scheduled title defense, against Ortega, was initially scheduled for UFC 260 on March 27, but Volkanovski was forced to drop out of the fight after a COVID-19 diagnosis, for which he was hospitalized. The delay set the stage for Volkanovski and Ortega to fight after the culmination of this Ultimate Fighter season.

Brian Ortega

15-1, 1 NC (7-1, 1 NC in the UFC)
Torrance, California
30 years old

Ortega debuted in the UFC in 2014, but still has the same number of fights in the promotion as Volkanovski. Injuries and delays derailed Ortega's momentum multiple times, with layoffs of 11 months (between July 2014 and June 2015) and 13 months (between June 2016 and July 2017) slowing Ortega down. Despite the stop and start nature of his career, Ortega picked up four straight finish victories, over Clay Guida (KO), Renato Moicano (guillotine choke submission), Cub Swanson (guillotine choke submission) and Frankie Edgar (KO) to set up his own title challenge against Max Holloway, a year and a week prior to Volkanovski's shot.

Inside of Toronto's Scotiabank Arena, Ortega suffered the first defeat of his pro MMA career when the doctor stopped the fight at the end of Round 4 due to the damage to Ortega's face. Ortega was scheduled to face Chan Sung Jung in December 2019, but he was forced to pull out of the fight a couple weeks prior to its scheduled date due to a knee injury. After Ortega's longest career layoff to date stretched to 22 months, Ortega finally returned to the Octagon and defeated Jung by unanimous decision on Fight Island in October 2020.

The fighters


Dustin Lampros | 26 | 5-0

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Vince Murdock by TKO1, Week 4)

Nickname: Scrappy

Birthplace: Freeburg, Illinois

Fights out of: Freeburg, Illinois

Gym: Sanford MMA

Trainer/coach: Henri Hooft

Mitch Raposo | 22 | 5-0

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Liudvik Sholinian by unanimous decision, Week 2)

Birthplace: Fall River, Massachusetts

Fights out of: Fall River, Massachusetts

Gym: Regiment Training Center

Trainer/coaches: Brian Raposo, Tommy Teixeira

Fighting history: Undefeated pro & amateur MMA record, Cage Titans champion (amateur)


Aaron Phillips | 29 | 5-1

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Andre Petroski by SUB1, Week 1)

Birthplace: Kotzebue, Alaska

Fights out of: Kotzebue, Alaska

Fighting history: Alaska wrestling state champion

Ryder Newman | 25 | 3-1

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Tresean Gore by unanimous decision, Week 3)

Nickname: Rhino

Birthplace: Las Vegas

Fights out of: Las Vegas

Gym: Xtreme Couture

Trainer/coach: Eric Nicksick

Fighting history: TUFF-N-UFF welterweight champion (amateur)


Danny Argueta | 27 | 5-0

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Ricky Turcios by unanimous decision, Week 6)

Nickname: The Determined

Birthplace: Chicago

Fights out of: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Gym(s): Jackson Wink Academy and Gracie Barra

Trainer/coaches: Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn and Cub Swanson

Fighting history: Illinois high school state medalist in wrestling, NCAA Div. II wrestler (University of Wisconsin - Parkside) and team captain.

Vince Murdock | 30 | 12-6

TUF record: 1-1 (def. Dustin Lampros by TKO1, Week 4; lost to Brady Hiestand by TKO1, Week 11)

Birthplace: Oakland County, Michigan

Fights out of: Sacramento, California

Gym: Team Alpha Male

Trainer/coaches: Joey Rodriguez, Mike Malott, Danny Castillo, Chris Holdsworth, Urijah Faber

More about Murdock: One fighter's incredible year: Surprise wedding, brain surgery and MMA return

Josh Rettinghouse | 31 | 16-5

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Brady Hiestand by split decision, Week 7)

Birthplace: Spokane, Washington

Fights out of: Spokane, Washington

Gym: Warrior Camp MMA

Trainer/coach: Pablo Alfonso

Fighting history: BJJ Brown Belt

Liudvik Sholinian | 30 | 9-1

TUF record: 1-1 (def. Mitch Raposo by unanimous decision, Week 2; lost to Ricky Turcios by unanimous decision, Week 9)

Nickname: Palmeyros

Birthplace: Alaverdi, Armenia

Fights out of: Kiev, Ukraine

Gyms: Aurum (Kiev), KDMMA (Los Angeles)

Trainer/coaches: Alexandr Pudochkin, Karen Darabedyan

Fighting history: Ukrainian national wrestling champion, Ukrainian national MMA champion (amateur)


Tresean Gore | 26 | 3-0

TUF record: 2-0 (def. Ryder Newman by unanimous decision, Week 3, def. Gilbert Urbina Week 12 by KO2)

Nickname: Mr. Vicious

Birthplace: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Fights out of: Decatur, Georgia

Gym: American Top Team

Trainer/coach: Dhiego Lima

Fighting history: High level purple belt in BJJ

Micheal Gillmore | 34 | 6-3

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Gilbert Urbina by SUB1, Week 8)

Nickname: The Gentleman

Birthplace: Lansing, Michigan

Fights out of: Las Vegas

Miles Hunsinger | 30 | 7-0

TUF record: 0-0 (withdrew due to injury, Week 8)

Nickname: Gun Slinger

Birthplace: Nampa, Idaho

Fights out of: Las Vegas

Gym: Xtreme Couture

Trainer/coach: Amir Sadollah

Fighting history: Second in state Idaho wrestling (amateur)

Kemran Lachinov | 30 | 10-3

TUF record: 0-1 (lost to Bryan Battle by unanimous decision, Week 5)

Nickname: Killa Kam

Birthplace: Uzbekistan

Fights out of: West Springfield, Massachusetts

Gym: Team Link

Trainer/coaches: Marco Alvan, Jason Franklin, Daniel Fagan

Fighting history: Purple Belt in BJJ; 5-1 record in Bellator, including five-fight winning streak

Andre Petroski | 29 | 5-1

TUF record: 1-1 (def. Aaron Phillips by SUB1, Week 1; lost to Bryan Battle by SUB2, Week 10)

Birthplace: Chester, Pennsylvania

Fights out of: Philadelphia

Gym: Renzo Gracie Philly

Trainer/coaches: Daniel Gracie, John Marquez

Fighting history: Purple belt BJJ

The results

Episode 1: Petroski defeats Phillips by first-round submission.

Episode 2: Sholinian defeats Raposo by decision

Episode 3: Gore defeats Newman by decision.

Episode 4: Murdock defeats Lampros by TKO.

Episode 5: Battle defeats Lachinov by decision.

Episode 6: Turcios defeats Argueta by decision.

Episode 7: Hiestand defeats Rettinghouse by split decision

Episode 8: Urbina defeats Gillmore by first-round submission

Episode 9: Turcios defeats Sholinian by unanimous decision

Episode 10: Battle defeats Petroski by second-round submission

Episode 11: Hiestand defeats Murdock by first-round TKO

Episode 12: Gore defeats Urbina by second-round KO

Semifinal matchups


Ricky Turcios def. Liudvik Sholinian (UD)

Brady Hiestand def. Vince Murdock (TKO1)


Bryan Battle def. Andre Petroski (SUB2)

Tresean Gore def. Gilbert Urbina (KO2)

Finals matchups


Ricky Turcios vs. Brady Hiestand

Bryan Battle vs. Gilbert Urbina