Despite the move to FX and an updated format, The Ultimate Fighter found itself mired in the shows worst ratings slump in fifteen seasons. While the show is sure to see several changes as the deal with Fox progresses, MMAFrenzy takes a look at possible changes that could help the long-time staple of the UFC’s lineup.
5. A new night – I rated this one as low as number 5 because I realize this may be the toughest thing to change since it is not the UFC’s choice. The truth of the matter is that young males, the main demographic the UFC covets, would rather be doing anything other than sitting at home watching TV on Friday nights. A new night is a must. The real question is where would TUF migrate?
UFC President Dana White has already stated that the show was dropped on FX when the Fox deal went through last year and put into an openly available slot. The problem is, the very demographic the UFC wants is not going to be drawn to the network when “Twilight” is the lead-in for The Ultimate Fighter. The premiere Tuesday/Thursday slots are usually booked by Emmy award winning programs. They could move to 9PM, but that would cause even more conflict with my next point.
4. Make “TUF: Live” Actually “Live” – When the UFC made the move FX and called the show TUF: Live the general expectation is that the show would be live. That has not proven the case as West Coast viewers without Direct TV and many International viewers are not afforded that luxury. I fully understand the limitations of dealing with networks, but there are other options available. For instance, you can use regionally based streams from the UFC’s website. The UFC would have to work out the particulars with FX but when you call a show “Live” and it’s on a 3-hour time delay for most in the show’s own time zone, it does not make a lot of sense.
3. Keep the focus on the fighters, not the coaches – In my opinion, one of the greatest failures of the show (and the UFC in general) has been the insistence on forcing current fighters to force rivalries and hatred as coaches. I get that they believe this is a way to drum up drama between known entities, but it comes off forced over the course of an entire season. Not to mention, it defeats the purpose of these guys being called coaches. Besides, if you want to manufacture conflict to hype a fight, just do a Primetime episode or two. Those have done better ratings lately anyways.
2. Be realistic with the fighters – With the exception of Jon Dodson, who was ranked highly at flyweight before his TUF stint, you’d have to go all the way back to Season 5 to find a TUF champion who was actually ready to swim in the UFC. Even then, Nate Diaz has taken an up and down five-year route to get to this point. It’s not that TUF doesn’t find talent; it just usually finds raw talent that needs a much smaller venue and much slower pace to bring guys along. Making this show filler for a Strikeforce Challenger’s style show may be the best option.
It does not help that TUF has become more of an endurance trial than a talent show; with fighters fighting so much in a short span, you really have to wonder about how NSAC could possibly think this is healthy. Multiple fighters have exhibited concussion-like symptoms or believed they had one, and still fought just days later. As someone who has experienced the long-term effects of a severe concussion, I will admit that I am more sensitive to this than most people who just want to see fights; still, in the long run, the UFC is not doing itself any favors with this short timeline.
1. More comeback seasons – This final point builds on my previous one and that is the need for more “comeback” type seasons. Dana White has stated he is definitely open to this idea and I think he should be. Season 4 saw one of the crowning moments of the show’s history when Matt Serra gained a title shot, and then pulled off the greatest MMA Upset of All Time (as voted by you) when he defeated Georges St-Pierre. The show also reintroduced veterans such as Chris Lytle, Patrick Cote, Jorge Rivera, Rich Clementi, Scott Smith, etc. to many UFC fans. Even the finale provided one of the most amazing comebacks in MMA history when Scott Smith knocked out Pete Sell. Plainly put, with the revolving door of talent in the UFC, and many fighters getting only one shot to sink or swim, often on short notice, it would make sense to give a second look at guys like Thales Leites, Jason High, or Jay Hieron.
The other thing a veteran-based show would accomplish, is increase the quality of fights. The past few seasons of TUF have provided some of the worst technical and least entertaining bouts in the show’s history. At least with veteran fighters, you are usually guaranteed to, at least, have one of those features.