After 17 seasons, three foreign spinoffs and 32 male coaches, "The Ultimate Fighter" is showing off its feminine side.
In Season 18, which debuts Wednesday, UFC women's bantamweight champion (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey and No. 3 contender Miesha (Cupcake) Tate square off as coaches in charge of male and female bantamweights (135-pounders).
Rousey and Tate will square off after the reality TV series at UFC 168 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
The show thrives on bad blood between the coaches. And these two women fit the bill.
"It's just what you would expect: Two women that can't stand each other that are very competitive, you just want to strangle each other," Tate said with a laugh. "I think that's pretty typical."
Other than a previous cameo by Rousey as a guest coach, the show has been exclusively a male domain. That changes with Season 18.
UFC president Dana White, as usual, expects the best.
"It's going to be a great season," he said. "I know what goes on during the fights but I don't see the reality (side) or anything of that unless something bad happens and then I get involved. It's a great season."
There is plenty of Canadian content among the 32 finalists.
Valerie Letourneau (4-3) of Montreal, Jessica Rakoczy (1-3) of Hamilton, and Sarah Moras (3-1) of Kelowna, B.C., carry the Canadian flag among the women while the men include Louis Fisette (6-1) of Winnipeg and Josh Hill (9-0) of Hamilton.
But as in recent past series, the fighters have to win a qualification fight on Episode 1, titled "History in the Making," to make the final cast of 16.
Rousey, after defeating Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in the UFC's first women's bout, was due to coach against No. 1 contender Cat Zingano, who beat Tate in April. But Zingano injured her knee and the UFC, ignoring No. 2 Sarah Kaufman of Victoria, opted for Tate as a replacement.
Rousey, using her trademark armbar, submitted Tate to win the Strikeforce title when they first met in March 2012.
Rousey (7-0) emerged from filming the show with mixed emotions.
"I adore my team, I adore my kids. But I don't think you could pay me $10 million to do it again," she said with a laugh.
"They (the producers) kind of go for the drama aspect a little bit by forcing you to be around somebody that you can stand all the time. And you can't do anything about it ... You're purposely put into a situation that's really going to unnerve you.
"I just don't like being purposely put in an environment where I'm going to be provoked."
The coaches did not kiss and make up when it was all over, according to Rousey.
"We're not going to be making cupcakes together any time soon," she said.
Tate (13-4) also said the filming was a tough slog.
"It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," she said. "Dealing with Ronda every single day obviously wasn't a cake walk. And getting so emotionally invested in the fighters ... it was pretty intense. It was a long six weeks of training every day, and dealing with another person that you just don't like.
"Typical girl stuff," she added.
She too said she probably would decline if asked to go through it all again.
"It was very challenging and I'm really glad that I got to do it and I learned a lot. But like I said, it was just way tougher (than I thought), you get so emotionally invested in your team too. You take their wins and losses like they're yours."
Tate, however, says it was worth going through it in terms of learning to deal with Rousey.
"I'm glad that that happened because it really strengthened me and helped me to not let her get inside my head, like she did the first time. She really emotionally and mentally challenged me and she won that. She definitely got it my head and I was too emotional going into the fight. But after being around her for six weeks eventually it was just like 'All right, get out of here. I'm tired of your crap.'"
Certainly the early glimpses of the series show a smiling Tate amused at Rousey's histrionics.
Tate, 27, gives Rousey credit for taking the risk of moving from judo — where she won Olympic bronze — to mixed martial arts and for helping make the sport popular.
"The only reason I don't like her personally is because she's always been so disrespectful to me," Tate said. "Put yourself in my shoes. I'm the (Strikeforce) champion, I've never heard of this Ronda Rousey girl and all of a sudden I see an interview with her and she says 'Oh I'm going to drop to 135 (pounds) and I'm going to slap that title out of her hands.' And it just went from there.
"And that was the tone that I got from her from the very beginning, because I was the champion at the time. It's hard to like someone who just comes at you and is so disrespectful and so aggressive. I think if anyone were me, they would have felt a little bit offended.
"And then obviously I lost to her so I was a little bitter about that. But I've moved on since and I am happy for what she's been able to do for women's MMA. ... But I'm never going to be happy around someone who's constantly disrespectful and constantly just like on me and my loved ones."
Rousey's ill-will towards Tate continues.
"I picture beating Miesha 20 different ways a day," Rousey said during a question-and-answer session in August in Boston.
Asked if she hated Tate, Rousey replied: "Hate is a very strong word. I don't hate her at all. I don't hate her boyfriend (fighter Bryan Caraway) but I'm close to it. I have strong disdain for him," she said.
The 26-year-old Rousey's fame and celebrity as a fighter recently earned her a trip to Bulgaria for a part in "The Expendables 3."
The 32 TUF finalists, from the U.S., Canada, England, Ireland and Sweden, are the last men and women standing from than 200 applicants.
Bantamweights were most recently featured on Season 14, won by John Dodson who is currently ranked No. 2 at flyweight (125 pounds).
Previous Coaches on "The Ultimate Fighter"
Season 1: Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell, Randy (The Natural) Couture
Season 2: Matt Hughes, Rich (Ace) Franklin
Season 3: Tito (The People's Champion) Ortiz, Ken Shamrock
Season 4: Multiple coaches help veteran fighters on the comeback trail
Season 5: Jens Pulver, B.J. (The Prodigy) Penn
Season 6: Matt Hughes, Matt (The Terror) Serra
Season 7: Quinton (Rampage) Jackson, Forrest Griffin
Season 8: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir
Season 9: Dan Henderson, Michael (The Count) Bisping
Season 10: Quinton (Rampage) Jackson, Rashad Evans
Season 11: Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz/Rich Franklin
Season 12: Georges St-Pierre, Josh Koscheck
Season 13: Brock Lesnar, Junior Dos Santos
Season 14: Michael (The Count) Bising, Jason (Mayhem) Miller
Season 15: Dominick (The Dominator) Cruz, Uriah (The California Kid) Faber
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil: Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort, Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva
Season 16: Shane Carwin, Roy (Big Country) Nelson
The Ultimate Fighter The Smashes (U.K. vs. Australia): Ross Pearson, George Sotiropoulos
Season 17: Jon (Bones) Jones, Chael Sonnen
The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 2: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fabricio Werdum
Season 18: (Rowdy) Ronda Rowsey, Miesha (Cupcake) Tate
(The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia: Patrick Cote, Kyle Noke, scheduled for 2014)