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Anchorage MMA fighter has ultimate aspirations

Beth Bragg

Potential spoiler alert: An Anchorage man will be one of 16 fighters featured in "The Ultimate Fighter," the mixed martial arts reality TV show that rewards the winner with a six-figure, multi-fight Ultimate Fighting Championship contract.

At least, the trailer for the show suggests as much.

We'll find out for sure if Nic Herron-Webb is one of the 16 who will be featured in the show's 16th season when the two-hour premier airs Friday night on FX (GCI cable channel 32).

Herron-Webb, an East High graduate and two-time Alaska Fighting Championship champ, was one of 32 fighters invited to Las Vegas this summer.

They engaged in a series of fights that sliced the field in half and provided the subject matter for the premier. The surviving 16 then moved into a Las Vegas mansion, a communal living arrangement that's a staple of reality TV (think "Real World," think "Bachelor Pad").

The relationships and rivalries formed in the house and in the gym fuel the 13-episode series, which will air on Friday night for the next several weeks.

Herron-Webb's family doesn't know if Nic is one of the 16 who moved into the mansion. But his dad thinks he is.

"The trailer shows him in the house," Rick Herron said this week.

The bleep-filled trailer provides a sneak preview of the 16th season of The Ultimate Fighter -- aka TUF -- which is reverting back to taped broadcasts this time after experimenting with a live format last season. Dana White, the mastermind of all things UFC, said on Thursday's Jim Rome radio show that viewers prefer the taped versions because they include more antics from inside the mansion. Ratings of the last season slipped to an average of little more than 1 million viewers per show.

At 22, Herron-Webb is the youngest competitor. He has been trying to get on the show for a couple of years, according to his dad.

"The first time he was 20 and he was going to be 21 by (the start of) production, and then they pushed it up and said, 'Sorry Nic, you're gonna be too young,' " said Herron, who said the fighters must be 21 because parts of the show occur inside casinos.

"Last year they decided to make it all lightweights and he's a welterweight, so he was out that year. The producers were getting to know Nic, so they called him in July and said 'We'd like to get you down here.' "

Herron-Webb left for Las Vegas on July 29 and was told to be prepared to stay for six weeks, his dad said. The field of 32 was quickly cut in half, and the 16 survivors moved into the mansion Aug. 1. The show has been taping ever since.

Herron said he hasn't heard from his son since the end of July.

"As soon as they get off the plane, (producers) are taking their phones away," Herron said. "They don't allow them on Facebook or anything."

The 16 fighters who move into the mansion are divided into two teams, with UFC heavyweights Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson serving as coaches.

After Friday's premier, each TUF episode will end with one fighter from each team squaring off, with the loser getting bounced from the competition. The last two men standing will meet in a Dec. 15 fight that awards the winner a lucrative UFC contract. The finale's card will also include a fight between Carwin and Nelson.

TUF, which first aired in 2005 on Spike TV, has spawned several fighters who went on to make it big in the UFC, including Michael Bisping and Forrest Griffin.

Nicknamed "Naptime," Herron-Webb has compiled an 11-3 record in the AFC, with most of his wins coming by submission. He works security at the Bear Tooth Theatre and trains at Greatland Martial Arts,

A high school wrestler for East, Herron-Webb found almost immediate success in the octagon. He owns two AFC welterweight championships and the 170-pound title from last winter's inaugural Great North Grand Prix.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

Video: Watch 'The Ultimate Fighter' season preview
By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News