Week In Review: TUF 20 To Feature All-Female Cast In MayHistory was made once again earlier this week with the announcement that Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show competition will feature an all-female strawweight cast in May 2014. The winner of TUF 20 will then be crowned as the first UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion at 115 pounds.

UFC President Dana White confirmed the news on Wednesday, and a total of 11 of the show’s 16 participants have been revealed. All 11, including reigning strawweight champion Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza, make the move over from their former home at Invicta Fighting Championships.

Wednesday’s news followed a previous announcement from the UFC this past month that revealed plans for a 115-pound women’s division in the future. No dates were announced at the time, but White confirmed on Wednesday that filming for TUF 20 will begin on May 18, 2014. Fighters will be paid to sit out until then, in an effort to limit injuries and roster changes. Esparza will be paid $40,000 not to compete, while the remaining competitors will each receive $32,000 apiece.

Unlike past seasons of the show, which crown a season winner who receives a six-figure UFC contract, TUF 20 will determine the first-ever UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion. Esparza’s Invicta FC belt will not carry over to the UFC and Invicta FC will crown a new champion in her absence. The show will feature 16 female strawweights who will compete for a chance to win the newest UFC championship title. Dates for the show’s premiere episode and season finale have not yet been determined.

At present, the TUF 20 cast includes: Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza (9-2-0), Claudia “Claudinha” Gadelha (11-0-0), Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood (8-0-0), Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres (4-0-0), Felice “Lil’ Bulldog” Herrig (9-5-0), Bec “Rowdy” Hyatt (5-3-0), Juliana “Ju Thai” de Lima Carneiro (6-1-0), Alex “Astro Girl” Chambers (4-1-0), Emily Kagan (3-1-0), “Thug” Rose Namajunas (2-1-0) and “12 Gauge” Paige VanZant (3-1-0).

Notable omissions include Invicta FC fighters Mizuki Inoue, Katja “Killer Bunny” Kankaanpää and Ashley “Smashley” Cummins. In the case of Inoue, who has a dual contract with Deep Jewels in Japan and an upcoming title fight, the 19-year-old has opted not to compete on the show in order to fulfil her obligations to Deep Jewels and Invicta FC. It was not immediately clear why the UFC did not sign Kankaanpää and Cummins, who have both had successful pro careers in spite of recent setbacks.

While the latest news leaves a significant hole in the Invicta FC roster, the promotion intends to carry on and rebuild what was arguably its strongest and most talent-rich division. Inoue is expected to be a key factor in the promotion’s 115-pound title picture moving forward, but she must first get past veteran Emi Tomimatsu in the inaugural Deep Jewels lightweight title fight in February.

Additional cast members and show details for TUF 20 will be announced in the coming weeks.



(Photo Credit: Esther Lin, AllElbows.com / InvictaFC.com)

  1. Have to wonder if WSOF might let jag out of her contract by May as an act of goodwill. Inoue and the other Jewels fighters will be in UFC at some point after TUF. They are too good to be stuck in Invicta now. 115 in Invicta will be for UFC prospects and journywomen. Just like 135. I expect UFC to pick up Bunny, Cummins, and some of the Brazilian fighters to get to 16. And start the countdown to when Waterson announces she is moving up. Can Albu and or Sexton move down?