Mitch Ramirez was on Cloud 9 when he was told, after a 10-day waiting period, that he’d made the final cut for “The Ultimate Fighter 31.” But then Conor McGregor touched down in Las Vegas, and that changed everything.
When McGregor arrived in February to coach opposite Michael Chandler, the former UFC two-division champion wasn’t alone. He brought his own fighters with him and, as a result, Ken Cross, Brandon Jenkins and Ramirez were pulled from the show before filming started in order to make room for McGregor’s handpicked guys, according to MMA manager Daniel Rubenstein.
“What he told me is that, ‘Conor landed today and brought two of his guys with them. He’s demanding they’re on the show. He has the prospects. Unfortunately you have the least amount of fights on your record, so you’re being replaced,’” Ramirez said. “To me, that was just such a blow, such a nut shot.”
Ramirez was stunned (“what the f*ck” were his words) and said he’d already reached out to his mom and family to let them know he wouldn’t talk to them for six weeks while he competed for a UFC contract. He asked if there was anything that could be done, but the show’s producers apologized.
Ramirez never heard from UFC president Dana White or McGregor directly about the decision. He tried not to take it personally, but it was hard.
“Here’s the thing: I get it,” Ramirez said. “I understand who Conor McGregor is. I understand the way business works. I’m smart enough to understand that it wasn’t personal, personal, but it is personal because it’s my life, dude.”
Ramirez, 30, is a perfect 7-0 as a professional, which includes knockouts in his two most recent wins for XMMA and Tuff-N-Uff. He doesn’t have a known upcoming fight.
“TUF 31” premiers Tuesday, May 30 at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+. The entire season will unfold with with one episode airing each Tuesday for 12 weeks.