March 16, 2013

Ronda Rousey, who beat Liz Carmouche at UFC 157, will be one of the coaches in next season's "The Ultimate Fighter." (Jae C. Hong/AP) Ronda Rousey, who beat Liz Carmouche at UFC 157, will be one of the coaches in next season's "The Ultimate Fighter." (Jae C. Hong/AP)

MONTREAL -- Somebody’s about to learn the armbar.

We knew the UFC was only getting started riding the wave of Ronda Rousey’s barrier-busting appeal. And here comes the next breaker, rolling in from the horizon.

The indomitable 135-pound champion, who just three weeks ago transformed the first women’s fight in UFC history into an event that transcended mixed martial arts and even the sports page in general, has been enlisted to breathe new life into another facet of the fight promotion’s business. Company president Dana White announced during Saturday night’s UFC 158 prelims telecast on FX that Rousey will coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter along with the winner of the April 13 bout between former Strikeforce champ Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano.

As if that weren’t enough of a bombshell, how about this: Season 18 of the reality show, now seen on FX after 14 seasons over seven years on Spike, will feature both male and female fighters -- all at 135 pounds -- living in a Las Vegas house together and training together. That should be interesting, considering that in seasons past the several weeks of seclusion from the outside world has prompted antisocial, irresponsible, even bizarre behavior in some fighters. No announcement of whether there will be chaperones involved.

What does seem assured is that this innovation will be a boost to a TV program that, even while undergoing tweaks such as a season of live bouts and the recent emphasis on a human-interest angle, has grown stale over time. Judging by the response the UFC saw in both the leadup to and aftermath of last month’s rousing bout between Rousey and Liz Carmouche, there’s star power to be tapped. Week after week, same “Rowdy” time, same Ronda channel.

White did not explicitly state that Rousey and her opposing coach will fight each other following the season, but that’s the way it’s always worked on TUF. If Tate ends up winning the coaching spot, it would set up a rematch between Ronda and the woman she dethroned in Strikeforce a year ago.

“More than ready,” Tate tweeted following the announcement. She also tossed in a “War GSP!” tweet, a response to Rousey’s earlier “War Diaz!” in support of her sometime training partner.

Zingano, for her part, kept her social media dithering to the task at hand, writing, “Well, I guess I’m going to have to open a 135lb gallon can of ‘whoop ass’ on 4/13.”

--Jeff Wagenheim

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