We’ve seen contenders become champions, fighters cut after two losses, and the UFC’s roster inflate more than ever since the inception of DWCS. With Season 7 currently underway, it’s time to go through every season, pull some stats, and see if the show has been as successful as it looks to be. From a business perspective, the Contender Series has been genius. But has it truly been worth it?
There was plenty of fun and impressive insights that came from Season 1. From the debut of Sean O’Malley, to the TUF 31 lightweight champion headlining the first card. Read about some of the interesting and random facts found when revisiting the debut season of Dana White’s Contender Series from 2017:
A legendary Debut
In the first season, we saw a total of 40 fights and were introduced to 77 fighters. Originally named Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, the show promised hungry prospects and fun fights over the span of eight weeks. Before the birth of the UFC Apex, the DWCS fights took place inside the TUF Gym. Fans were spoiled with five fights every card and we got to meet some of the fighters making waves in the UFC today.
All in all, 11 fighters that lost on this season would eventually get signed. Some were signed after fighting again on DWCS, or by getting a short notice opportunity/call-up. 14 fighters from Season 1 fought again on a future season, but 3 of them had quick turnarounds to fight again this one. As of today, 7 fighters are ranked within Top 15…
We were introduced to The Suga Show
During Week 2, the world got to meet the future superstar, Sean O’Malley. With a viral walk-off KO over Alfred Khashakyan, Dana White could not deny the then 22-year-old, and signed him that night. Ironically, Snoop Dogg was on commentary that night which helped kickstarted O’Malley into the mainstream.
At UFC 292, O’Malley became the undisputed UFC bantamweight champion after dethroning Aljamain Sterling. Sean became the third alum to fight for a UFC title, and the second champion to come from the Contender Series, accomplishing the feat in a little over six years.
Two fighters would go on to become TUF Champions
The first-ever DWCS was ironically headlined by Kurt Holobaugh, who won the fight via KO. The result was later overturned by the NSAC, but he was awarded the contract that night and would end up going 0-3 before he was cut from the UFC for a second time. As we know, all of this would lead to Holobaugh winning TUF 31 years later at UFC 292.
Before he became one of the funniest characters to grace The Ultimate Fighter, Ricky Turcios lost on the same card headlined by Kurt. After multiple fights on the regional circuit, Ricky joined the TUF 29 cast, ended up winning the show, and has since put on fun fights inside the UFC octagon.
One fighter didn’t get signed but became the ONE Lightweight Champion
Thanh Lee appeared on Week 2, landing a head kick that lead to the end of the fight. It took Lee two rounds to dispose of Lazar Stojadinovic, but that unfortunately wasn’t enough. Dana White decided to pass, and back to the regional scene he went. After two fights under the LFA banner, Lee signed with ONE Championship in 2019.
Undefeated in ONE until recently, Thanh demolished the lightweight division with finish after finish. It lead him to a title opportunity against Martin Nguyen in 2020. After shocking the world by becoming the ONE lightweight champion, he would go on to defend the belt once before losing it in 2022.
One fighter boxed on the Jake/Nate Undercard
This one is quite random, but it’s a fun finding nonetheless. Cee Jay Hamilton fought Casey Kenney on Week 2 and unfortunately lost a unanimous decision. After DWCS, he couldn’t get on a consistent track on the region scene. Despite that, he went on to fight for Bellator three times from 2021-2022.
Most recently, Hamilton boxed Luciano Ramos on the Jake Paul vs. Nate Diaz undercard. Though he did not win, he went the distance and lost a unanimous decision.
Despite Karl Roberson winning and getting contract, two fighters lost on Season 1 but are ranked in the UFC today
I personally love this fun fact, because it proves that it doesn’t matter how you get to the UFC, it’s about whether you can stay. Each path is different, and that rings true for Karl, Alonzo Menifield, and Ryan Spann. Though they were both on Season 1, it took them multiple times to get their contracts. Alonzo won both times and earned his contract on Season 2. Ryan lost on Season 1 to Karl, then won on Season 2 to receive his contract.
Needless to say, Karl was awarded a contract right away and went on to see plenty of success in the UFC. Despite his launch into the big leagues, he is unranked today. As for Alonzo, he is ranked #14 at light heavyweight and Ryan is currently at #10.
Overall, Season 1 produced…
- 1 UFC Champion
- 1 ONE Champion
- 2 Ultimate Fighter Winners
- 7 Top-15 Ranked Fighters Today
- 2 TUF 27 Contestants
- 17 Fighters who got Signed and then cut from the UFC
- 23 Fighters who got Signed and are still in the UFC
- 14 DWCS Returners
The competition was also watching closely because out of the 77 fighters on the season, 7 went to fight for Bellator, 7 went to the PFL including 1 on the Challenger Series, 2 went to fight for BKFC, and 1 in ONE Championship.
What are your thoughts on Season 1 of Contender Series? Let us know in the comments…