The Ultimate Fighter reality show has been running since 2005 and just recently wrapped up its 28th season in November. And it’s fair to say that the season may have been the most criticized season yet.
The two divisions that were featured on TUF 28 were the heavyweight and women’s featherweight divisions. This was the first time that the heavyweights were showcased on TUF since the iconic season 10 which was only the second other time that they have been on the show (excluding TUF: Brazil 3).
For the featherweight division, this was its first time on TUF and the idea for it, presumably, was to finally get to building the UFC’s division which has only homed roughly two to three fighters since its creation in February 2017.
One of the contestants on TUF 28 was the former Invicta FC bantamweight title challenger, Pannie ‘Banzai’ Kianzad who would win her way to the finals.
The Iranian born Kianzad would defeat the likes of Julija Stoliarenko and fellow Invicta veteran Katharina Lehner to earn her spot opposite her Team Gastelum teammate Macy Chiasson.
Unfortunately for Kianzad, her teammate turned good friend would end up being the one to walk away victorious with the second round submission win at the TUF 28 Finale.
“It’s one of those things, you know,” Kianzad recently told BJPenn.com. “You know either you finish her or she finishes you. That’s what I knew. There’s no decision between us. Of course, it was weird fighting your friend [because] me and Macy helped each other a lot in the house, we pushed each other and you believe that’s why we ended up in the finals. I do believe on another day I will win that fight. But I didn’t this time and I’m so happy for my friend.”
Despite the weirdness that came along with fighting someone who she got so close with, in the end, the overall experience was something that the 27-year old found beneficial.
“I really did enjoy the experience and I wouldn’t change anything,” Kianzad shared. “It’s a very special thing being trapped in a house without contact with the outside world. I loved being surrounded by people that wanted to help you achieve your dreams. Just the whole thing about being alone outside of training was hard on me.”
Kianzad has taken time off since the November 30 bout but is making sure she’s well prepared and ready for a potential fight in either February or March. After that, the plan is to head off to Thailand for some relaxation.
As a bantamweight for half of her career, Kianzad has options between that and featherweight. However, she doesn’t see much of a future in the division that she fought in to enter the UFC.
“Honestly, I don’t think UFC will try to expand the 145 division,” Kianzad said. “I would fight anywhere but they need girls in 135 so I’m planning to go back there.”
Aside from the UFC’s featherweight division, the bantamweight division is indeed the second thinnest among women’s divisions as it homes only around 20 fighters. That is at least 10 less than flyweight and 20 less than strawweight.
As previously mentioned, TUF 28 received a loud amount of criticism for reasons such as Kianzad likely dropping down, for example. Many in the community claimed/claim that TUF 28 was just a bunch of bantamweights fighting at featherweight. Which in turn wouldn’t be something that would help the baron 145-pound division grow as once in the UFC, they all would go down in weight.
Fuel has only been added to that fire since the season’s conclusion as even the winner, Chiasson who has never fought below 145-pounds, will be dropping down as well for her next fight against Gina Mazany at UFC 235.
On top of that, Kianzad is unaware as to whether or not any of the rest of the cast that didn’t fight at the TUF 28 Finale (Lehner, Bea Malecki, Marcia Allen, and Larissa Pacheco) have been signed.
“That [was] the most idiotic thing I’d ever heard,” Kianzad said of the criticism her season received. “All TUF seasons all fighters go up a weight class because everyone knows it’s hard to make weight in one week but as soon as we do it everybody has something to say.
“Nobody ever says anything about the other seasons. Look at TUF 27, half of them are really bantamweights. I’m so sick of everybody talking sh*t about stuff they don’t know anything about. Especially fighters when they [know] MMA sites don’t write about them and we had the spotlight on us for TUF they had to say something because they [are] just horny for attention. Mind your own business and if they wanna make weight three times in one month please be my guest.”
With the recent fall of longtime divisional queen Cris Cyborg, it just puts the weight class’ future into that much more of question.
Either way, that’s out of Pannie Kianzad’s control and as she said, she’ll happily fight wherever the UFC wants her to.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 1/2/2019