When TUF 17 debuts in 2013 the two teams working towards an opportunity to emerge as the season’s champion will rely on the expertise of UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones and title-contender Chael Sonnen. However, as strange as it may sound in retrospect considering their current success, it wasn’t long ago both Sonnen and Jones were in shoes similar to those worn by the up-and-comers they’ll be coaching on the show.

According to Sonnen, he turned down an opportunity to be part of the groundbreaking first season of the Ultimate Fighter, whiles Jones made it as far as the second round of casting one year before being turned away due to his age at the time.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what it was. I sat down and watched it, and I regretted that decision,” admitted Sonnen in an interview with MMAJunkie. “I really enjoyed watching it, and all these years later, here I am.”

Sonnen said he hopes to alter viewers’ perception of TUF now that he’s in a position of influence, dismissing the notion of it being a “reality show” so much as an extremely difficult MMA competition surpassing all others.

“All the way back to the greats – Royce Gracie and Dan Severn and Ken ‘Never Should Have Been in the Octagon in the First Place’ Shamrock – they never went through anything like this. Those guys did a great job. Those guys got me in the sport, the Don Fryes and the ‘Tank’ Abbotts – the real fighters. But it’s nothing like a 32-man tournament,” he explained. “It’s nothing like having to make weight five times, fight five times, have no preparation, not have your coach, not have your team, not sleeping in your own bed – and be expected to win anyway. It’s nothing like that.”

Regarding Jones, he revealed he tried out for TUF as a 20-year old but was turned away before the final cut based on an age limit required due to alcohol being in the house.

“It’s just surreal to be a guy who was rejected from the show and now be the coach,” said Jones, showing a sense of pride about the strides he’s made thus far in his career.