Zak Jensen (11-2): The 6-foot-4, 265-pound 26-year-old Jensen was a collegiate wrestler and football player at Northern Illinois University and Augsburg College. After college, he found success in “Tough Man” competitions and Golden Gloves competitions and eventually made the move to MMA in 2007.
Marcus Jones (4-1): The 6-foot-6, 260-pound 35-year-old Jones is the most prolific of the show’s NFL quartet. While playing defensive end at the University of North Carolina, Jones was an All-American and the 1995 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and became the 1996 first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After eight successful years in the NFL, he joined Gracie Tampa and made the transition to MMA.
Scott Junk (6-2): The 6-foot-1, 265-pound 30-year-old Junk was a former Division II All-American football player at Southwest Oklahoma State. After college, Junk began training in mixed martial arts, earning his way into the UFC in 2007. Junk, who took the fight on less-than-two-weeks’ notice, suffered a first-round submission loss to Christian Wellisch.
John Madsen (3-0): The 6-foot, 240-pound 29-year-old Madsen grew up in South Dakota, where he earned all-conference and all-state honors in football, wrestling and track. After defeating current UFC champion Brock Lesnar in a high-school wrestling match, Madsen went on to earn a Division II wrestling national championship at South Dakota State University. Madsen currently trains at Matt Hughes’ H.I.T. Squad.
James McSweeney (12-4): The 6-foot-4, 230-pound 28-year-old Englishman McSweeney started with a striking background, beginning his training in kickboxing at 6 years old before moving to Thailand to train full-time. After amassing a 136-9 combined record in multiple kickboxing organizations, McSweeney moved in with former UFC champion Rashad Evans and now trains full time at Greg Jackson’s MMA in New Mexico.
Matt Mitrione (0-0): The 6-foot-3, 275-pound 30-year-old was a two-position football All-American while in high school. After attending Purdue University and earning All-Big Ten honors, Mitrione played six seasons in the NFL as a member of the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. Following a devastating injury, Mitrione returned to his childhood passion of combat sports and began training with UFC veterans Chris Lytle and Jake O’Brien.
Roy Nelson (14-4): The 6-foot-1, 265-pound 33-year-old was born and raised in Las Vegas, training in martial arts from an early age while playing football, baseball and wrestling. After turning pro, Nelson surprised many opponents with his less-than-impressive physique. “Big Country” earned the now-defunct IFL’s heavyweight crown, before suffering recent losses to notables Jeff Monson and Andrei Arlovski.
Demico Rogers (4-0): The 6-foot-4, 235-pound 27-year-old was a stand-out wrestler and football player while attending high school in his native Washington. Rogers began training jiu-jitsu as a means of staying in shape, and after winning a local mixed martial arts tournament, he began to focus on the sport as a potential career.
Brendan Schaub (4-0): The 6-foot-4, 240-pound 26-year-old credits the Jean Claude Van Damme movie “Bloodsport” as his inspiration to pursue martial arts. Growing up in Colorado, Schaub was an all-state athlete in both football and lacrosse. Schaub went on to play fullback at the University of Colorado before later playing in the Arena Football League and earning a spot on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad in the NFL. Schaub remained active in tae kwon do and jiu-jitsu, and he currently trains at T’s KO Fight Club and Jackson’s MMA.
Darill Schoonover (10-0): The 6-foot-2, 250-pound 24-year-old Schoonover grew up in Texas and began training in jiu-jitsu, judo and submission grappling at 17. After graduating high school, Schoonover entered the Army, serving two years in the armed forces. Schoonover remains on active reserve while pursuing a career in teaching, though with 10-stoppages wins in 10 trips to the cage, mixed martial arts may quickly take precedence.
Wes Shivers (3-1): The 6-foot-7, 285-pound 32-year-old Shivers grew up in Mississippi, earning a scholarship to play football at Mississippi State University. Shivers earned all-SEC honors before playing in the NFL with both the Tennessee Titans and Atlanta Falcons. Shivers followed his football career with a four-year stint in law enforcement. Shivers continues to train in Mississippi, including with UFC veteran Alan Belcher.
Wes Sims (22-12-1): The 6-foot-10, 260-pound 29-year-old Sims originally planned to pursue a career in professional wrestling before UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman convinced “The Project” to take a shot at mixed martial arts. Sims earned his way into the UFC in 2003, dropping back-to-back outings to current UFC interim champion Frank Mir. Sims currently runs a gym in his native Ohio.
Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson (3-1): The 6-foot-1, 235-pound 35-year-old Ferguson needs little introduction to hardcore or casual MMA fans. The streetfighting YouTube sensation played football at the University of Miami before working as a bodyguard, earning extra money with his bareknuckle brawling exploits. A four-time veteran of the now-defunct EliteXC, Fergsuon last fought in a now-infamous loss to Seth Petruzelli.
Abe Wagner (6-2): The 6-foot-4, 265-pound 29-year-old Wagner grew up in Wisconsin, excelling in both football and basketball while in high school. Wagner played linebacker at Michigan Tech University, earning a degree in mechanical engineering. Wagner began training in mixed martial arts in 2005.
Mike Wessel (6-1): The 6-foot, 255-pound 31-year-old Wessel was raised in Ohio, eventually playing his way onto the University of St. Francis football team. Wessel played briefly in the Arena Football League before accepting a position as the strength and conditioning coach at the University of Arkansas. Wessel suffered his first professional defeat at the hands of Antoni Hardonk in his lone UFC appearance at UFC 92 in December 2008.
Justin Wren (10-1): The 6-foot-3, 264-pound 22-year-old Wren was a two-time high-school national champion wrestler in his native Texas, earning a spot on the Iowa State University wrestling team before an injury forced him to take a year off and recover. During his time away from wrestling, Wren focused his energy on mixed martial arts training, eventually electing to turn pro. Wren trains in Texas with “The Ultimate Fighter 4” champ Travis Lutter, and he plans on moving to Las Vegas to train full-time with current UFC interim champ Frank Mir.
Are you ready for the best Ultimate Fighter season yet? How do you have to win it? Find out Sept 16th on Spike TV.