INDIANAPOLIS | Unbeaten Belal Muhammad was one of 83 fighters hoping to make enough of a good first impression Tuesday to earn a chance that could change his career.
The welterweight took part in tryouts for the UFC's reality series, "The Ultimate Fighter," at The Westin Hotel Indianapolis. The open fighter casting call took place ahead of Wednesday's UFC Fight Night 27 card slated for Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indy.
The UFC and producers at "The Ultimate Fighter," which has its 18th season premiering on FOX Sports 1 next week, were looking for middleweights and light heavyweights for the 19th season, which is expected to film in early 2014 and air weekly later that spring.
But many fighters, Muhammad included, try out for the show outside of their normal weight class — hoping to get a shot on the show, and then deal with either a bigger weight cut than normal when the time comes, or, conversely, not have as much weight to cut, if any, by fighting above their normal division.
Fighters on Tuesday were evaluated by UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, in addition to producers from the show. Muhammad participated in a 90-second grappling session for Silva and Shelby. Fighters who moved past the grappling sessions then were asked to hit pads, and those who advanced from there would face interviews with "TUF" producers.
Fighters who move on past the first session are kept confidential until the season's cast is released, typically several weeks before the show premieres for the season.
Muhammad (3-0) most recently fought for the Valparaiso-based Hoosier Fight Club at HFC 15 in April, when he scored a second-round TKO win over James Fritz at Porter County Expo Center. He made his pro debut at HFC 12 a little more than a year ago, stopping Justin Brock in the first round.
In between those two HFC victories, the Steve Colon-trained fighter made his debut for Bellator MMA and took a unanimous decision from Quinton McCottrell at Bellator 84 in Hammond.
Muhammad's training partners at Team Colon MMA include Darren Elkins, who on Wednesday fights Hatsu Hioki at UFC Fight Night 27.
Other fighters hoping to earn a shot on Season 19 of "The Ultimate Fighter" on Tuesday include former Bellator welterweight champion Lyman Good and a pair of fighters from Ireland who have become big names in the United Kingdom. Cage Warriors Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder Cathal Pendred was on hand, as was his teammate, former middleweight champ Chris Fields, as were more than a dozen other fighters who have experience for promotions like Bellator, Strikeforce and ProElite.