There seems to be a growing backlash towards the current season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” In seasons past, it made a lot of sense to me but it doesn’t make much sense to me now.
I can find little fault with the episodes from the past two weeks. What hardcore fans are getting is exactly what they wanted: more fighting, less drama. Between this week and last, we’ve been able to watch four total fights. The focus of each show was built almost exclusively around the actual fights.
Quick question: when is is the last time we’ve even gotten to see the “TUF mansion?” The “TUF mansion” has been de-emphasized so much the past few weeks that I’m beginning to wonder if this year’s TUF cast is living at the gym and sleeping under the cage.
Have the fights been the best? Well, yes and no. I really, really enjoyed the Gerald Harris vs. Amir Sadollah fight. It was fluid, had a lot of action, and contained a surprise ending. While Cale Yarbrough vs. Patrick Schultz was a little sloppy, it wasn’t a bad fight and it beats the heck out of contrived drama.
Fight quality is still an issue but it is an issue for which there is no obvious cure. I will say this, this year’s talent pool is infinitely better than last year’s, but it still does not rival the all-star cast from TUF 1. When the first season of TUF debuted, there were a handful of national promotions. Now, there are tons of them. More prominent national spots for fighters means that the talent pool on the regional level will be much thinner.
In additional to the regional talent pool not being what it once was, some fighters are simply saying no to TUF. There are fighters that simply do not want to spend six weeks in seclusion and would rather get into the UFC through conventional means. More managers are also advising their fighters to pass on TUF over concerns of getting locked into an extended contract that prevents them from re-negotiating until they’ve fought 9-12 times for the UFC.
For example, fighters such as Jake Rosholt and Mike Massenzio are future stars at 185 pounds but aren’t involved with this year’s cast. Both are worthy of fighting in the UFC and will likely have the option to do so without spending six weeks away from their friends and family. And should they sign, they will be able to put their John Hancocks on a contract that is much more favorable to them financially in the long-term.
But the cast is what it is, and it’s certainly not bad. Fighters such as C.B. Dalloway, Matt Brown, Dante Rivera, and Tim Credeur will prove to be solid additions to the UFC roster. We also have two of the most dynamic coaches in the history of the show. So we’ve got entertaining coaches; good fighters with upside; and less drama with more fighting. What else is there? To say Internet fans are fickle would be an understatement. Aside from pumping a ton of money into the show and going live, is there really much that the UFC and Spike can do to satisfy fans?
I think the problem is the fact that when TUF first started it was a fresh and unique concept. We’re now seven seasons in and it’s largely the same music, same logos, same format, and the same stories over and over again. We’ve gotten two seasons a year since 2005 and I think the public is simply burnt out on the show and that there might not be anything that can be done to save the show. It’s kind of like the Star Trek television franchise in that the quality of the shows become irrelevant, as it simply gets to a point where people just can’t buy into the shows anymore because it becomes overkill.
Plans for TUF 8 are already in motion but Zuffa and Spike TV might want to explore the possibility of expediting plans for their new live fight series because TUF might be a concept that is ready to retire.