Spike TV and Bellator MMA’s new venture, Fight Master: Bellator MMA, launched tonight following Bellator 96. MMAFrenzy takes a look at the show’s format and offers no spoilers take on the fledgling program. Be sure to stay tuned to MMAFrenzy for continuing coverage of Fight Master: Bellator MMA, including a recap of tonight’s premiere episode.
First things first, Fight Master is definitely not a rehash of The Ultimate Fighter. Fight Master makes that fact obvious from the start of the show, as three elements dominate the hour with the three elements being the use of the coaches, a fighter’s choice, and the fights themselves.
The first element is the use of four coaches (Greg Jackson, Joe Warren, Randy Couture, and Frank Shamrock) to serve as not only the fighter’s coaches, but to offer commentary on the fights. This was a very interesting setup, more akin to NBC’s The Voice than TUF, as it showed what the coaches’ were analyzing during the fight. This allows the focus to remain on the fighters, while still showcasing the coaches’ knowledge of MMA.
One oft-criticized element of TUF, forced rivalries between coaches, is mostly absent here since all but one of the coaches are retired from competition. While the coaches still snipe at each other, Shamrock is particularly sharp-tongued in the premiere, it usually serves a purpose as the coaches are sometimes competing for the services of a victorious fighter. This decision is a really intriguing part of the show.
As stated above, a fighter’s decision makes up a very important element of the show. The way it works is that whichever fighter wins their preliminary bout is allowed to pick from the four coaches, provided they still have a slot open, and join that coach in training. The fighters are allowed to ask the coaches questions before making their choice, and that adds a very interesting wrinkle to the show. As the coaches can offer their opinion and either vie with the other coaches, or try to dissuade the fighter from picking them.
This element really lets the coaches’ personalities shine with Shamrock and Warren being the more vocal members of the group, Jackson being the refreshingly honest coach, and Couture being the reserved tactician. It also provides a bit of real drama as the fighters are asked to make hard choice about where they believe they fit best. This leads to some very interesting dialogue between coaches and fighters before they make their final choice. One aspect of the show to watch going forward is that the coaches are not always thrilled with the fighters’ choices, and that fighters are not necessarily bound by previous loyalties. This could make for interesting TV in the coming season.
As an added note on coaching, keep an eye on Joe Warren this season. He has the shortest résumé of the cast and is mostly just known for being brash when the cameras are rolling. That said, multiple fighters have been training with him in recent months because the guy really does know what he is talking about. This show could serve as his breakout role as both a coach and a showman.
The third element of the show are the fights, and that is currently the weak point so far. While the quality of competition is not necessarily elite so far, it is on par with a lot of the bouts we have seen in on TUF or other MMA reality shows. Now some of this is likely to improve, and I am told the edited fights will end once the teams are set, but the quality can be a bit more hit or miss with the fighters. Something that helps with that aspect is the show is supposed to focus on the fighter’s progression, meaning that early fights are merely the starting point.
One thing that has added a different, and welcome, element is the aforementioned coaches’ commentary during the fights. The commentary really is a game-changer in the MMA reality TV experience, as it provides analysis that you do not normally get from watching a fight. It will be interesting to see how the fights progress this season, as that is always the driving force of any MMA reality show.
Fight Master: Bellator MMA is a very interesting take on a MMA reality show. The premiss of the show is intriguing and, while it is sure to have some natural growing pains, it is refreshing to see changes to a format that has largely remained unchanged since Spike TV’s first foray into MMA reality TV. I would definitely recommend that fans of MMA tune in for this show if only out of curiosity. While it is hard to give a definitive rating for the show with multiple elements remaining unseen, I would say that this is a very strong debut for both Spike TV and Bellator MMA.
If you missed the show, or just want to see it again, you can check it out online here.
Front-Page Photo Credit: Photo via Spike TV