SPORTS

'The Ultimate Fighter' goes live with Cruz, Faber butting heads as coaches

03/07/2012 04:22 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT
A new network, name, night and format. But Season 15 of "The Ultimate Fighter" should showcase something familiar.

Bad blood between the coaches.

UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and former WEC featherweight title-holder Urijah Faber, who will feature in Friday's debut on FX Canada, don't like each other much.

The two California fighters have met twice in the cage, with each holding a win. Their irritation with each other seemed to subside slightly after Cruz's unanimous decision over Faber at UFC 132 last July.

Perhaps not arch-enemies these days, the two are more like bickering brothers.

"I wouldn't say we're getting along better. I'd say there's a little bit more respect between the two of us — as fighters," said the 26-year-old Cruz.

"But as for personalities clashing, that's definitely still there. He just gets on my nerves."

Cruz (19-1) says any time spent together results in a string of "little jabs."

"There's really no comfort level around one another. We just kind of deal with each other's presence."

Faber (26-5) says the mood of their meetings hinges on Cruz.

"It just depends. It depends on what his attitude is like at the time," said the 32-year-old known as The California Kid. "In general, the guy's grown up a little bit but he still gets on my nerves. So that's where we're at."

The two 135-pounders will be able to settle their differences at UFC 148 on July 7 in Las Vegas.

"I'm the champ right now and I don't believe there's anybody in the world that can beat me," said Cruz, beaten by Faber via first-round submission when they met as featherweights in the WEC in March 2007. "Anybody who wants to come fight me, I'm down."

Now called "The Ultimate Fighter Live," the reality TV series has moved from Spike to FX as part of the UFC's television switch to the Fox family and will air Friday instead of Wednesday. And it will run 13 weeks, twice the length of previous seasons.

The other major difference is that the fights will be live. The premiere will be a two-and-a-half-hour special, with 16 fights shoehorned in as the 32-man cast is cut in half.

The remainder of the season will consist of one-hour weekly shows with a live fight per episode, leading up to the three-hour finale June 1.

Previously the show was filmed in its entirety over six weeks and then rolled out week by week leading to a live finale.

The rest of the format remains the same. The fighters are locked up in a luxurious house in Las Vegas, denied any contact with the outside world other than to train or fight.

Their antics are recorded around the clock on camera, either by roaming production teams or cameras positioned throughout the house.

Cruz calls the locked in a gilded cage scenario "a headbuster."

The last man standing earns a contract to fight in the UFC, although likely will be joined by others from the cast.

After Friday's fights, Faber and Cruz will choose their teams. Their squads will practise twice a day with weigh-ins Thursday and fights Friday.

More than 500 fighters tried out for the show.

The 32 lightweights featured Friday come from the U.S., Brazil, Guam England and Northern Ireland — but none from Canada.

American Dakota Cochrane has already made headlines for admitting to a short-lived career in gay porn while in college. Cochrane, who is not gay, calls it a decision he regrets.

"A lot of people have been asking (about him)," said Faber. "That should be interesting for him. I'm not sure what his psyche is with the whole situation but it's not the best situation for him depending (on what happens)."

Said Cruz: "Honestly man, I don't have any idea what that situation's going to bring up. I really don't have an opinion on it because it doesn't bother me at all.

"I mean it is what is. He's just another athlete coming out to fight and how everybody else deals with him isn't really my issue. That's everybody else's issue. I'm going to look at him as another athlete on the show that's try to better his fight career. And that's it."

Faber has already been doing his homework on the fighters, checking YouTube and taking a lot of calls from people in the industry.

"But you don't really know until you see these guys fight," he said,

Still he calls the cast "a very tough crew."

"There's definitely guys that stand out amongst the crowd, but overall there's a lot of talent. It seems like there's some guys in there that have some padded records and stuff like that but there's some tough dudes for sure."

Cruz, who fights out of San Diego, said he has done minimal advance work.

"Nothing too crazy. My look on it is to kind of just see what they have that day. You can't watch their past fights and expect everything to be the same. All I can do is kind of look and see what their styles are."

But he says he's looking for open-minded, coachable fighters — "those guys that aren't the know-it-all, that don't have the big egos, that aren't real arrogant. Those are the guys I'm looking for.

"And Faber can have all the others guys because they'll fit in right in with him."

Both Faber and Cruz have coaching experience.

Faber was a college wrestling coach and built his own MMATeam Apha Male in his native Sacramento.

Cruz, who also coached in college, says coaching wrestling led to his MMA career. One of his students introduced him to a fight gym and once Cruz started training MMA, he helped pay the bills by coaching.

The two fighters have been put up in Las Vegas for the 13 weeks.

"I'm not a huge fan of Vegas bit I'll make the best of it," said Faber.

Both coaches say the UFC have made them very comfortable — Faber describes his new digs as a "deluxe apartment" — and both are bringing in their assistant coaches so they expect to feel at home.

UFC president Dana White has a worldwide vision for the show, looking to stage regional versions and then have each country's winner take part in a global championship.

Filming has already kicked off on the Brazilian version and Canada is on the list of other countries expected to have their own show.

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