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UFC takes odd approach on TUF 20 casting

According to an April 29 post from Bleacher Report, the UFC took a bizarre approach on casting for The Ultimate Fighter 20 reality show. 36 ladies needed to compete for eight open spots on the show, even though several of them were ranked higher than the fighters who were cast directly on.

UFC takes odd approach on TUF 20 casting
Photo by Angel Valentin

Eight of the 16 open slots were filled by Invicta Fighting Championships alums, when the UFC bought out 11 strawweight contracts from the all-female promotion. Among those who were hand-picked by the UFC to be cast directly onto TUF 20 were Tecia Torres, Carla Esparza, Bec Hyatt, Felice Herrig, Joanne Calderwood, Emily Kagan and Alex Chambers. Invicta FC vets Paige VanZant and Claudia Gadelha were also among the original 11 cast directly on to TUF 20.

None of the aforementioned fighters needed to show off their skills this week at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, in front of UFC President Dana White and Sean Shelby. Most of the fighters who were cast directly onto the show were in Las Vegas this week to do media and photoshoots, but they didn't need to go through the same process as the 36 women who were on hand for the TUF 20 tryouts.

The UFC's decision to cast eight Invicta FC fighters directly onto the show, while making some higher-ranked fighters tryout, is a true head-scratcher. Currently, world-renowned MMA ranking site,, ranks Felice Herrig No. 16 in the world at strawweight, and Bec Hyatt isn't currently ranked in the top 20. Additionally, Alex Chambers is ranked as a top five atomweight, but not a top 10 strawweight. Emily Kagan isn't a top 20 contender in the division, either.

Meanwhile, Jessica Penne is ranked ahead of Chambers at atomweight, yet she was not cast directly onto the show. Penne, a former Invicta FC 105-pound champ, was forced to tryout with the rest of the 36 applicants, if she wished to have any shot at making it onto TUF 20. Even more baffling is the fact that Justine Kish and Aisling Daly are both currently ranked in the top 15 in the world at strawweight, but neither was cast directly onto TUF 20.

Kish and Daly both needed to tryout for spots on the show even though they are ranked higher than most of the ladies cast directly onto it. Of the eight strawweights given free passes onto TUF 20, just three of them are currently ranked in the top 10 in the world at present time. Esparza is ranked No. 2, Calderwood is No. 3 and Torres holds the No. 5 spot.