Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 | 5:30 p.m.
The seven-year run of “The Ultimate Fighter” in its traditional format will come to an end Saturday at the Palms with the 14th season’s finale fight card.
Although the UFC’s biannual reality show will live on, it will undergo massive changes and switch from airing on Spike to FX next year. It’s fitting that the show will make its exit from Spike with middleweight Michael Bisping in a headlining bout.
Bisping, who fights Jason “Mayhem” Miller in Saturday’s main event, became one of the fighters most associated with the series ever since he won its third season in 2006.
“I’m a product of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ so I appreciate it,” Bisping said. “I’m not bigger than my britches. I don’t want to be that guy. I’m happy with the way things turned out.”
The 32-year-old from Manchester, England, went on to serve as one of the show’s coaches twice, a distinction only four other fighters can claim. He led two hopefuls, Ross Pearson and James Wilks, to ‘TUF’ championships during the ninth season when coaching against Dan Henderson.
Two of Bisping’s fighters have chances to win ‘TUF’ again this season, in which Bisping squared off as a coach against Miller. Bisping said he had found success as a coach because of the way he instilled a winning mentality.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to be asked to coach ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’” Bisping said. “It shows the UFC holds you in high regard. I did enjoy it. There were times, because it’s a lot of work and a long process, when it gets you down just like anything. But it was all worthwhile.”
This season largely revolved around a budding rivalry between Bisping (21-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) and Miller (24-7 MMA, 0-1 UFC). The two pulled numerous pranks on each other and never got along.
Filming ended months ago, but their disagreements have continued leading into the fight. Miller contends that Bisping doesn’t deserve any praise for his coaching job.
“If I was grading him, I would give him a C or a D,” Miller said. “He wasn’t there all the time. I know that because their training session was right after ours. We were leaving and he wouldn’t show up. He didn’t really care. I think it was more about a television show for him.”
Miller is a television star in his own right as he’s hosted MTV’s “Bully Beatdown” for the past two years. When it looked like the UFC might need someone to coach against Bisping on “TUF,” Miller took to his twitter account to campaign for the position.
His desire to coach on the show had a little to do with his comfort on television but was mostly about the chance to fight Bisping. Miller considered Bisping overrated and vulnerable, the perfect opponent to face in his return to the UFC.
“When the pressure is on, Michael Bisping chokes,” Miller said. “And the pressure is on this time. I’m going to put the pressure on Saturday night undoubtedly.”
Bisping has benefited from favorable matchups to move his way up the UFC ranks, according to Miller. It’s those kinds of accusations that set Bisping off.
“Here are the facts: While I’ve been fighting the crème de la crème of fighting talent in the world over the last six years in the UFC, he’s been flying around the world fighting washed-up bums and not doing a very good job of it,” Bisping said.
“He had the peak to call me overrated. The guy is next door doing interviews and he looks like a crackhead who might rob your mom when she goes to the grocery store to buy some food. That’s what he’s going to do with his MTV Bully Beatdown. He’s going to be another washed-up bum walking around Hollywood with his hand out when I’m finished with him.”
Bisping predicted he would take Miller down and pound him out. He said it was a myth that Miller had the better wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu game.
Bisping won’t allow the current version of “The Ultimate Fighter” to leave silently.
“I need to prove a few points to him and I can’t wait for that,” Bisping said. “I’m going to make him eat his words. The guy is a nightmare to be around. He really is. He’s so annoying. I can’t wait to fight the guy.”