Tonight at 10 on Fox Sports 1 marks the premiere of the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter, the long-running reality competition series that puts a bunch of up-and-coming mixed martial artists in a house and lets them duke it out for a shot at UFC glory. For the first time, half of the contestants will be female, and both mixed-gender teams will be coached by women: UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and top contender (and personal Rousey rival) Miesha Tate. Rousey is a particularly important member of the current UFC roster, as she is seeing a tremendous amount of mainstream success since she debuted in the UFC earlier this year: She posed nude in ESPN The Magazine, appeared on the cover of Maxim, and will be showing up in the next sequels in both The Expendables and Fast and Furious franchises.
The premiere of season 18 is its first on the just-launched Fox Sports 1, which marks the third network for the show (it previously aired on SpikeTV and then FX). Through 18 seasons, the one consistent thread has been that of Dana White, the UFC president who also acts as the show’s host, cheerleader, and verbal smackdown-layer. As noted in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly, the rise of UFC has a lot to do with White’s skills as a promoter and a talker. EW caught up with White for an extended conversation about the current season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s upcoming 20th anniversary (a documentary on its trip will air in November), and who his favorite celebrity fight fan is.