Spokane is experiencing somewhat of a UFC renaissance.
Shadle Park graduate Michael Chiesa is the sport’s sixth-ranked welterweight and slated to fight Vincent Luque at next month’s UFC 265 in Houston.
Mt. Spokane graduate Julianna Peña will also appear in UFC 265’s women’s headliner against top-ranked Amanda Nunes.
Terrance McKinney, another Shadle Park alum, flourished in his UFC debut last month when he knocked out lightweight Matt Frevola in 7 seconds.
Sam Sicilia and Cody McKenzie are also among the Lilac City products with UFC appearances over the last decade.
All but McKinney used the reality TV series “The Ultimate Fighter” as a vehicle to the highest level of mixed martial arts.
Two more Spokane-area fighters – Josh Rettinghouse and Brady Hiestand – are vying for a UFC contract through the show, aired weekly on the streaming service ESPN+.
“The Ultimate Fighter: Team Volkanovski vs. Team Ortega” is the 29th installment of a reality series that follows 16 professional MMA fighters split into two teams who live and train together and fight in a winner-takes-all tournament. The winner is signed to a UFC contract.
The 31-year-old Rettinghouse – a former Ferris High School wrestler, Eastern Washington graduate and certified public accountant – is a member of UFC featherweight Brian Ortega’s team.
Hiestand – a 22-year-old volunteer firefighter and Central Valley graduate – is on UFC featherweight Alexander Volkanovski’s team.
Both were selected to fight in the first round of their bantamweight bracket in Episode 6, which aired Tuesday.
Against each other.
“It’s one thing to both be from Spokane and end up on the show,” said Rettinghouse, who has a 16-5 professional record.
“But to also fight each other? The likelihood is pretty wild.”
Hiestand, who was Rettinghouse’s roommate during the five-week Las Vegas filming of the show during the spring, was disappointed to face his friend early in the bracket.
“We were planning on fighting in the finale,” said Hiestand, who has a 5-1 professional record. “But it’s great to have (two Spokane fighters on the show).”
Their prerecorded fight will be aired on Episode 7 Tuesday on ESPN+.
Neither coughed up a spoiler but suggested it wasn’t a quick bout.
“It’s definitely going to be entertaining. A good fight,” Rettinghouse said.
The winner faces 28-year-old Ricky Turcios (10-2) in the show’s bantamweight semifinals.
The latest “Ultimate Fighter” series was formed through a 2020 application process due to the coronavirus pandemic. It previously had tryouts.
Rettinghouse, who has also fought in Russia, tried out in 2014 but didn’t make the cut.
“You get nervous with the cameras following you the first couple of days, then you don’t even think about it after that,” Rettinghouse said.
Hiestand, the show’s youngest fighter who turned 22 during filming, agreed.
“It’s a crazy experience. It’s a dream,” said Hiestand, a resident volunteer firefigther at Spokane County Fire Station No. 44, based in Mead. “An awesome way to get publicity.”
Chiesa won the 2012 “Ultimate Fighter” series, which also featured Sicilia, but the two never fought. McKenzie appeared in 2010.
Peña won the first female “Ultimate Fighter” series in 2013.
“When Chiesa won it, that was a huge inspiration for me,” Rettinghouse said. “It reinforced people’s beliefs that there are good fighters in Spokane.”
Rettinghouse and McKinney are members of Spokane’s Warrior Camp.
Hiestand trains with Spokane club Sik-Jitsu, which also represents Chiesa and Peña.
“Spokane is making a surge,” Hiestand said. “We’re in the process of taking over the UFC.”
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