Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
In the weeks leading up to the announcement of the coaches for the forthcoming 13th season of "The Ultimate Fighter", UFC President Dana White promised a surprise.
White delivered on a conference call Tuesday afternoon, naming heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos the heads of the show's two teams this spring.
Lesnar and Dos Santos will coach a full roster of welterweights in the newest season of "The Ultimate Fighter", which is scheduled to begin shooting in two weeks in Las Vegas. The season premier is slated for March 30 on Spike.
"It's the best night of television if you're a fight fan," White said. "The finales are always great. I think this show is going to continue to grow."
The 12th season last fall produced some of the series' best ratings. It would be no surprise if that continued with Lesnar, one of the UFC's highest-drawing pay-per-view fighters, on board.
The chance to have Lesnar and Dos Santos as coaches came after the announcement that current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was out for at least six months with a shoulder injury.
Velasquez and Dos Santos were set to square off, possibly at UFC 129 in Toronto according to White, for the heavyweight title. But after rehabilitation didn't work on Velasquez's shoulder, he was forced to have surgery and postpone the bout.
"There were a lot of different people we were looking at and then boom, Cain Velasquez gets hurt," White said. "I was driving to work one morning and said 'This makes sense.'"
The Season 13 live finale will take place sometime in early June, followed shortly by a fight featuring Lesnar and Dos Santos on pay-per-view.
White hinted that the bout could take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, which is rumored to be the site of UFC 131 on June 11. The winner will face Velasquez later this year in a heavyweight championship fight.
Velasquez knocked out Lesnar in the first round at UFC 121 in October to earn the belt. Although Lesnar has tallied only seven fights in his MMA career, going 5-2, White said he was experienced enough to be a valuable instructor.
"What the guy has accomplished in the short amount of time he's been in MMA is incredible," White said. "He's obviously got a lot he can teach."
Meanwhile, Dos Santos (13-1) has won each of his six fights in the UFC since signing in 2008. He's knocked out four opponents, but most recently scored a unanimous decision win against Roy Nelson at UFC 117.
Dos Santos could have opted to not face another opponent and wait for the title shot against Velasquez. White was happy Dos Santos chose to keep fighting.
"To put this guy on the shelf for a long time would be ridiculous," White said. "Credit to him for not wanting to go on the shelf. We've seen guys who have been in similar situations sit out and wait. Sitting out and waiting is insane."