It began with 32 fighters with the dream of earning a spot on the UFC’s lightweight roster. On Friday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, only one remained.
Al Iaquinta and Michael Chiesa faced off in The Ultimate Fighter: Live Finale to decide this season’s winner.
Iaquinta came out aggressive with his striking, but Chiesa remained patient and got an opening for a takedown. He transitioned, taking Iaquinta’s back. He applied a rear naked choke , putting Iaquinta to sleep to become The Ultimate Fighter. The end came at the 2:47 mark of the first round.
Chiesa’s father, Mark, passed away following the first episode of the season. It was a long, emotional journey for Washington native.
“This is exactly what I wanted. It’s been such a journey and there was no way I was going to sell myself short of losing tonight. I wasn’t making it an option. There was no way I was going to lose this fight,” said Chiesa following the submission victory.
“My hat’s off to Al. He’s an animal. He was in my head all season. I overcame a lot of things to win this fight,” he added.
Chiesa’s mother, Teresa, was in the Octagon to celebrate her son’s accomplishment. She commented, “It’s been a long journey. It’s hard to talk about. I’m so proud of him. I couldn’t be any more proud of him.”
Chiesa earned a six-figure UFC contract, a plague, a custom Harley Davidson, a three-fight endorsement deal with the MMA apparel company TapOut and the title of The Ultimate Fighter.