For only the second time in The Ultimate Fighter history, opposing countries clash as sixteen men face off for a six-figure UFC contract. The debut episode begins with Team Canada coach Patrick Cote and Team Australia coach Kyle Noke meeting their fighters inside the Quebec City-based TUF gym.
Team Canada wins the traditional coin flip and Cote says that he will announce the first match at a later date. UFC President Dana White announces various bonuses that can be earned at season’s end, including $25,000 for the best fight, submission, and knockout. Also, each victory that doesn’t involve a judge’s decision carries a $5,000 incentive.
The teams arrive at their home for the next six weeks and immediately notice the Canadian-themed décor, a drastic change from the Las Vegas house. “It’s out in the woods, it’s made out of big logs,” said Team Australia’s Richard Walsh. “There a taxidermied moose in there, which is bigger than I’ve bloody seen. If you hit that in your car, you’d be dead.”
The next day, Cote picks Kajan Johnson versus Brendan O’Reilly as the inaugural matchup. Both fighters approve of the fight, although Johnson says that a bad eye injury is still in the back of his mind.
Each coach delivers a different message at their first training session. Cote emphasizes how open and united Team Canada must be while Team Australia coaches send a more critical message. “I am not going to feel sorry for you if you lose something. If you don’t have your cup on sparring day, your balls are going to be fucked up for a while,” said Australia assistant coach Israel Martinez.
While his team trains, Johnson sits on the ground, legs spread with an ice pack over his right knee. “Right now I’m fighting injured, as usual. I almost tore my rotator cuff, I got supraspinatus and hingman syndrome, I got a minor tear to my LCL as well, about a month ago or so,” Johnson said. “Even if I’m injured, I’m more dangerous than anyone else here.”
At the weight-in, Johnson wears a wolf-like pelt on his head and O’Reilly dons an akubra; a tan, Crocodile Dundee style hat. “I think Kajan is a very experience and well-skilled fighter but I don’t think he’s going to be able to handle my intensity and my strength that I bring to the cage,” O’Reilly said.
As the fight begins, O’Reilly pushes Johnson against the cage and lands a takedown. Johnson works for a heel hook, but can’t hold the submission. He gets to his feet and maneuvers to O’Reilly’s back. Blood runs down O’Reilly’s face as he manages to break away and move into striking distance. As O’Reilly misses a takedown, Johnson jumps on his back and locks in a rear-naked choke.
“You gotta give it to Aussie, he came out strong. It was kind of to his detriment in the end. He came out too strong, too wild, too bull-like. And it just showed what a veteran Kajan was,” said Team Canada’s Elias Theodorou.
As the episode ends, Cote announces that next week’s fight will be between Theodorou and Zein Saliba.