Cody Bollinger was the first fighter chosen by Miesha Tate going into this season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” an emphatic win to get him into the house making him a reasonable first choice to boot. A fighter who had fought at featherweight and lightweight extensively before trying his hand at bantamweight, he became one of the few fights to have been thrown off of TUF for the crime of missing weight. Bollinger recently signed on with the World Series of Fighting for a “six figure” contract.
Sam Alvey was chosen first by Shane Carwin, coming into the house by knocking out Leo Kuntz in less than a minute with a huge grin on his face. Having competed for most of his career at middleweight and light heavyweight, Alvey was going to try his hand at 170 for the show. While he made weight the big, one punch KO version of Alvey seemed to disappear with the weight. Alvey would lose via decision in his first fight in the house. He’s been a stalwart of the regional scene ever since, capturing the Maximum Fighting Championship middleweight title.
What do both of these fighters have in common? They’re both cautionary tales of becoming a contestant on “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The one downside of TUF has always been that some fighters are so desperate to get to the UFC that they’ll fight in a different weight class to get there. TUF is infamous for this in a lot of ways; plenty of guys would rather be on TUF than wait for the right class because six weeks of filming, a handful of fights and six months later they can be bigger stars and debut in the UFC at the proper weight with a significantly higher profile. It’s a genuine risk that pays off for some fighters; being on TUF allows a higher measure of fame and card position than being a prospect signed by the UFC for a Facebook prelim. Look at the success stories:
Rashad Evans famously won a heavyweight version of the season before becoming a fixture in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. John Dodson and Louis Gaudinot fought at bantamweight on the final Spike TV series of the show because flyweight had yet to exist in the UFC’s ranks. Kenny Florian fought at middleweight on the inaugural season of the show, eventually making his way down to lightweight for many years. A handful of the fighters from the first season of the Brazilian version of the show fought up several weight classes. Colton Smith fought at welterweight despite being a lightweight on the same season Alvey did. Tony Ferguson and Mac Danzig both won welterweight seasons and dropped right back down to lightweight.
The key to all of these fighters is they went up, not down, and managed to find themselves in much better spots than if they otherwise hadn’t tried out.
The one thing that hampered both Bollinger and Alvey is that they went for a shot at the UFC in one of the toughest places to cut weight: the TUF house. There’s a reason why guys make weight significantly easier outside the house than inside it; cutting weight is tough but having to do multiple times in multiple weeks is tougher. Weight cutting is as much art as it is science; trying to cut 20-30 pounds multiple times in a high stress environment like TUF is too much for a lot of fighter.
Guys with big weight cuts like Bollinger and Alvey have a hard time being successful in the house, traditionally, and it wasn’t all that surprising when Bollinger was thrown out for missing weight. He seemed the most likely suspect when the clip showed early on, as well, and it’s not shocking he was picked up by the WSOF as soon as they could announce it. Odds are with a handful of wins he’ll get his shot in the UFC, properly, and with a higher profile. But we though the same about Sam Alvey when the cast of TUF 16 was mostly cut after the season ended (and not allowed the privilege of a fight in the UFC, properly, on the TUF finale).
Alvey, who probably would’ve been a better fit (and become potentially a big star) on the very next season of the show, has a much tougher time trying to get back to the UFC. So does Bollinger. It’s why this season serves as a cautionary tale for anyone looking to take a fast track into the UFC: it’s better to be the small guy than make a weight class in the toughest possible environment.