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Why Tapout is better than The Ultimate Fighter

I didn’t know how I felt about it initially, but I’m starting to warm up to the Tapout show that airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Versus.

Actually, “warm up” might be an understatement.

It took me a couple of episodes, but I finally get what the guys behind Tapout are about. I found the way they dressed and carried themselves to be a little annoying. The names were a little hard to get past, too. I mean, “Sky Scrape,” “Punkass,” and “Mask?”

C’mon.

However, they’ve been in the game for quite some time, even before MMA really started to take off. The Tapout crew is all about MMA and they are helping a lot of inexperienced fighters by sponsoring them. It’s not easy getting into the fight game because training consumes so much time, yet there are mouths to feed and bills to be paid. Whatever extra money a fighter can get is a huge help. I think that’s another advantage MMA has over boxing; in MMA there are more sponsorship opportunities for younger fighters. Young boxers have a tough time getting training time in and a lot of them don’t develop rapidly as fighters because they don’t have the resources. You can’t reach your full potential as a fighter if you don’t train full-time. That’s why so many of the guys on TUF like Rashad Evans and Kendall Grove look like completely different fighters than from when they were on the show.

Even though you might not be into their antics, the Tapout guys are all about furthering the sport so I have to take my hat off to them for that.

Besides doing a lot for MMA, they are also involved with some very interesting television. The fundamental concept behind Tapout and The Ultimate Fighter are pretty much the same, as each show is searching for the next MMA superstar. I just happen to enjoy the Tapout format a lot better. The funny thing is, the show is produced by Craig Piligian, the same guy behind TUF.

I’m just sick of the house concept on TUF. They cram the guys together, deprive them of just about everything, and completely take them out of their element. I know that the UFC wants them all focused on fighting, but does that make for great TV? Sure, we get our 2-3 big moments each season after fighters finally go beyond stir crazy but Tapout has offered at least 2-3 big moments per episode. Last night they profiled a fighter by the name of Matt Major, who trains with “Crazy” Bob Cook at AKA in San Jose.

Matt is a talented fighter and last night’s episode chronicled his pro debut. The kid has a lot of potential but is a little out of control. The Tapout guys traveled cross country with him on their tour bus all the way to a small show in Decatur, IL. The highlight of the show was towards the end after Major’s successful debut, in which another fighter tried to offer him some unsolicited advice backstage. Major didn’t take too kindly to it, got in his face, called him every name in the book and appeared ready to kill the poor kid. Watching Major’s outbursts throughout the entire show was entertaining, to say the least.

Major also is deeply attached to his George Foreman grill. Going so far as to take it with him on the tour bus and cook with it even though Tapout’s bus had plenty of food and multiple ways to prepare it. I think Major even made a meal for himself inside his hotel room. The problem is, I don’t think the kid has cleaned the outside of it since he bought it! If you’re too lazy to clean the outside of it, at least get the model that comes in black, and not the off-white. So yes, the show has a comedy element too.

Another area where Tapout excels that TUF doesn’t is  that it really getting behind the scenes of the fight game. They go out to each fighter’s individual camp. Last week they went to “The Pit,” which is where Chuck Liddell trains. This week they gave a lot of camera time to Bob Cook, who also trains Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, and Jon Fitch.

But while at The Pit, they followed a young fighter by the name of Antonio Banuelos, who just happens to be Chuck Liddell’s training partner, friend, and personal assistant.

Like the episode with Major, there were a lot of comedic elements here as well. After they got done showing Banuelos busting his ass in training, they showed the reality of his life in that once he got home, he was basically Chuck Liddell’s bitch. Hey, I’m not taking a cheap shot at the kid, he said it himself! But he not only said it, we got to see him cooking for Chuck, handling autograph requests, and doing his laundry. The camera shot of Antonio literally holding Chuck’s jock strap was hilarious. Subtle, yet hilarious.

TUF tries to re-create a fighter’s team dynamic by having a coach for two separate teams each year. But I would much prefer to see each fighter in their natural training environment. You just get a better feel for who they are and what kind of training they’re getting. I actually think TUF should consider changing formats. Keep the tournament concept, but get rid of the teams. Every man for himself. But most importantly, let them stay home! Let’s see what their family life is about, let’s see who they train with, and how hard they train. The house is just too constrictive and mundane.

By getting out of the house, TUF would give more exposure to established fighters than the current format. Under the current format, you have two coaches named before the season and that’s it. By adopting the Tapout format, it creates the potential of showing a number of fighters under UFC contract over the course of the season. Before Tapout, I knew who Bob Cook and John Hackleman (Chuck Liddell’s coach) were, but I had no idea what they were like. In just one episode I feel like I have a much better grasp of why fighters who train under them are successful. Granted, with the Tapout format, the UFC would have to put themselves in situations where coaches and fighters not under contract to Zuffa would get some exposure. However, the element of outsiders is one that the current season of TUF has pursued greatly this season. With a different format, you wouldn’t need to bring in guys like Randy Couture and Karo Parisyan to spice up the show because with the Tapout format, you aren’t taking away from their family and friends. If the UFC wants to pursue the dynamic of Karo and Manny Gamburyan being family, then just send the cameras to their home!

In some ways, Matt Major reminded me of Corey Hill. Both talented guys with no pro experience that talk to themselves and appear out of control at times (Major more so than Hill). We get to hear Hill’s story on TUF. But we got to SEE some of Major’s story on Tapout. Hill will talk about his family and his experiences in life, but I’d much rather see a camera there to document some of it.

Joe Lauzon is another guy I’d like to see outside of the house. Dana called him an Internet nerd “who will rip your f***ing head off.” Joe apparently works as a computer programmer, which really goes against the stereotype of a fighter. His younger brother, Dan, also competes MMA. But we don’t get to see any of that… we only get to hear about it. I just feel like there is a whole show going on that we don’t get to see. And I think TUF and the UFC are missing out by not showing us what really goes on behind the scenes. So many people were captivated by the first season of TUF because they had no idea what fighters were like and what they went through. But as I’ve been saying, TUF doesn’t even show you a quarter of what a fighter’s life is really like. We’ve seen five seasons of TUF now and we’re used to everything. It’s time to pull the curtain back even more and show us something new.

The way fights are presented at the end are much better too. TUF fights take place in an empty gym with a few fighters and some trainers watching. It’s so lifeless. The Tapout fights take place in front of small crowds and that really adds to the drama of the fight. The UFC can’t duplicate Tapout’s fight format because if a sizable crowd watched a match taped for later airing on TUF, the results would be out on the Internet almost in real-time.

But why not spend some money and tape the bouts live each week?

Instead of booking a small venue in Vegas each week, why doesn’t the UFC build a small television studio with a cage in it? Then, hire additional editors and a few more camera crews and send them out to where the fighters live. Have the crews spend a few weeks with the fighters leading up to their fight and then show the edited footage right before the fight goes live. I just think it would make for a more exciting show that would garner better ratings. Yes, the expenses behind producing such a show would be much higher than what Spike and the UFC spends now, but Zuffa can afford it.

If Tapout can do a lot of what I’m suggesting, why not the UFC?

So, for what it’s worth, I’m giving my endorsement to watching Tapout each week. And yes, I am actually saying that so far, I’m enjoying it more than The Ultimate Fighter. If you haven’t watched it, I think you should at least check it out. And if you watched it once and weren’t into it, I would recommend you watch it at least one more time and see if your feelings changed.

As always, I’m curious about everyone else’s thoughts on this matter.

13 COMMENTS
  • says:

    Wow, Sam, great writeup. I watched Tapout for the first time last night, and it is a fanatastic show. The guys are annoying as hell, but you could tell the Mask guy truly has the heart for the sport.
    Did you feel a bit of deja vu when Chuck was consoling Banuelos after his loss to Valencia, “It’s ok, it happens, you just got caught, everyone loses…”?

  • says:

    I wanted to watch the show but sadly it doesn’t appear to be available in Canada.
    Perhaps I should do some searching to see if there is a torrent available for the show, not that I condone that sort of thing but since there doesn’t appear to be ANY way to get the feed in Canada it may be my only resort.

    I REALLY think they need to change the format of TUF, it simply doesn’t make sense and the ratings have suffered because the format is getting stale. I like your ideas but I don’t see them changing it. The UFC of late seem to have this notion that they’re now infallible and the fans will watch no matter what (ala UFC72) but by changing the format they may attract more of the non-hardcore fans like the first few seasons of TUF did.

  • says:

    I’m all for changing the TUF format. I was talking to a friend and mentioned “why can’t the UFC run a decent tournament?”

    i think the major obstacles might be logistics and expense…having 16 teams following 16 fighters in 16 locales might be a tad pricey. what about regionals?

  • says:

    Garth brings up a good point, and a pretty good solution. What they should probably do is have several regional competitions–basically they should have some small tourneys in various places to thin the herd (16 is just too many to follow, probably 8). The results would obviously be leaked ahead of time for the small shows, but they could still have a re-cap of the various tourneys to show who is coming from each region (actually this would be kind of like the Last Comic Standing reality show, with regional recaps, then live stand-up after the contestants are finalized).

    I doubt they’re actually going to change the TUF format, but they definitely SHOULD.

  • says:

    Man, I love this TAPOUT show. I’ve watched it since the beginning, and I also think its more entertaining then TUF. Great show. Everyone should watch it.

    Great article by the way.

  • says:

    Nice article! I’m just a karate freak and not a MM artist, but watch anything with a MA flare. I just started watching Tapout the other week. It has a much more appealing format then TUF as you pointed out. TUF seems to just follow the same “reality” based path/format that many other shows have already created. Personally, I’ve become tired of that same type of predictable show.

    Tapout has more of a documentary feel. I find it much more interesting to watch and I feel more engaged when watching these up and coming fighters in their own environment. I just watch Matt Major last night and felt a level of tension when watching his behavior and conflicts that I just don’t get with most reality shows.

    Great content and well produced!! 2 thumbs up!

  • says:

    Great write up
    I agree that it did take an episode of two for tapout to grow on me butI actually prefer it to TUF. The TUF format is getting stale.
    I liked the behind the scenes enviorment of MMA. The backstage antics, the propmotions mostly small.You also get an understanding of the fighters lives. It really gives you a look at what it’s really like to be a fighter.

  • says:

    I’ve watched 2 episodes of Tapout. I don’t think it’s a bad show but I think it tries a little too hard. I still don’t understand what “Mask” or his crew really do. It’s obvious that they’re good guys who want the best for their fighters but let’s be honest, they’re pretty annoying. I am still a pretty loyal ultimate fighter watcher but i’ll check out Tapout if it’s on. Nice write up by the way. Cheers.

  • says:

    I think this article nailed it. TUF’s format is a bit stale. pr0cs point that the first two seasons drew more viewers is true. But I think it’s because the masses will watch almost ANY reality show. Once the new(ness) wears off, what’s left are the hardcore MMA fans. At first, I was put off by the circus atmosphere of TapOut. While visually appealing, I thought in opening with the hot models at a photo shoot that they were going to play up the T&A aspect too much. But they fell in line fast. And I love Tapout’s approach. You get a lot of insight into how these guys live. One may think it a glamorous lifestyle. But when you see the Tapout crew roll up after dark at the Pat Miletich gym in the middle of nowhere in Iowa and see these guys working their asses off, you get an idea of what these guys are about. I’ve watched every episode. And not only am I learning about new fighters, but now, as I watch past UFC fights on Spike and other events, I now notice that’s Greg Jackson cornering that guy, or Bob Cook leaning over that cage. I enjoyed seeing these guys bump into Rich Franklin and Spencer Fisher in the hotel lobby in the first episode or Kendall Grove stopping by to talk as Antonio was on the cycle trying to make weight(yet another interesting facet of the show, unlike Gabe Rudiger’s antics on TUF 5.)
    One interesting dynamic on TUF is the team aspect. While UFC is not a team sport, they nurture this on the show. And it’s interesting to see these guys training and learning from their coaches and each other, but then have to compete in later episodes. And it’s spawned some great post-TUF rivalries-Griffin-Bonner, Sanchez-Koschek, etc. Of course, it’s not nearly as tense as Matt Major circling his opponent at weigh-ins. And it’s cool too to see these TapOut guys bringing in an outsider to someone’s home turf; especially Damacio Page on episode 1. That Miletich fighter knew he had the fight won when he was eyeing DP at the weigh-ins. And even in Iowa, with hometown MFS fighter Spencer Fisher refereeing, Damacio showed up and knocked that guy OUT in his own backyard.
    Yet another aspect of the show is the coaching. While the cameos on TUF are cool and all, especially the Nate Diaz/Karo Parisyan spat, as well as Team Penn’s Joe Lauzon having defeated rival head coach Jens Pulver prior to the show, TapOut still goes a little deeper. Miletich is obviously prolific, with a lot of winning experience. And this shows in the fighters coming out of MFS. But Bob Cook also competed, retiring with an undefeated, though brief, 5-0 record. But you realize, especially with Cook, that these guys bring much more to the table than fight training. Listening to Matt Major, “Crazy” Bob has obviously affected this kid beyond just fighting; yet another aspect lost on TUF.
    And finally, you have the business side of the game, which the TapOut guys are well versed in. They may look like clowns sometimes, but these guys have been around for a long time. And there’s a reason for that. They know the game. Seeing sides of the game like them approaching Rich Franklin about his endorsement is priceless. Though I read later that Mask’s one-sided phone conversation with Matt Serra was taken WAY out of context. Portraying themselves as the underdog, you were led to believe that Serra, following his upset of GSP for the UFC welterweight title, dropped his long time endorsement with TapOut for a more lucrative one. Apparently, that wasn’t the case at all. I read the statement from Serra’s camp on Sherdog.com, if you’re interested. And so far, that’s been the only flaw I’ve seen with the show. I think it’s great! As a musician of over 15 years, I can appreciate the long hours and work one puts into perfecting their chosen craft. But after seeing these episodes of TapOut, I only respect and appreciate what these guys are doing that much more.

  • says:

    MMAFan, awesome post. I agree 100 percent.

  • says:

    Was that Mask guy a fighter? I can’t find anyy info on him. Where did he come from?
    I love the show.

  • Sri-Lankan says:

    I wanted to get behind the fighter i saw in the one episode i have seen. His name was Matt Major, but two things really bothered me.
    A) his opponent was fat and out of shape. he had few nice moves like the low roundhouse to drop Matt MAjor but he was exhausted after the second round or before and stayed that way.
    b) MAtt MAjor behaved like and ass, i read his apology/response but it doesn’t explain why he was such a cocky arrogant douche. That little kid was being condescending a bit bu he did give him some good advice which Major took as insulting…..
    Anyhoo, Matt Major seemed like a good guy at heart but when he was mad it seemd like you always wanted it

  • tyler kaizer says:

    i think that tuf has done better lately with tuf 8. it had alot of good fights and the format was revamped a bit and it made the show a bit fresher. i love the tapout shows though, im still gonna watch tuf jus becus its what made me a fan of mma but i think its still got to change it up a bit. the whole “sixteen fighters stuck in a house” theme is geting very old and stale and tapout has a very interesting documentary style format. but why dont they do the whole “contender” thing and broadcast the fights live on tv so u wudnt have to worry about the results geting leaked?

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