Back in 2005, ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ was the show that launched the Ultimate Fighting Championship into the mainstream realm. From a sport that was valiantly trying to broaden it’s consumption from an online fan base to the a much larger one on cable tv, it was this reality show that was the elixir that quenched the thirst of then owners, Zuffa LLC.
Twelve years later and twenty-six seasons later, the show continues to have it’s advocates and it’s critics.
For those in favour of the reality show, it’s all about promoting new and up and coming talent, while also focusing on the potential rivalry between the two coaches. Then there are those who stand opposed to the ‘TUF’ television product, saying it’s washed up, it’s done, it no longer serves it’s purpose.
No matter which side you stand on the TUF fence, your opinion is likely a valid one. I for one, enjoy the product whenever I do get a chance to view it, but it’s luster has long faded away. My time to invest in watching it live, every week, has all but dissipated. Heck, there was once a time where at the very least, I would record it and watch it within twenty-four hours. Nowadays, spoilers or not, I simply have so much more in the world of MMA (and life) to focus on instead.
While I know there will be those who correct me, but I live in a country (Canada) where the broadcasting of the show is not consistent and the settings I have on my cable PVR are null and void. As far as I am told, and how it is promoted to me, the show is to air on Wednesday night’s, at 10pm ET. Unfortunately, for the last three seasons, that has not been the case.
Once upon a time, if I missed say, six to seven weeks of the show, I could go onto my PVR, click ‘TUF’ and see all the episodes I missed and begin my ‘catching up’ … aka, binge watching. Today, with the TUF 26 Finale going down this Friday night, I checked my PVR, and there are only two recordings there: episode 3 and episode 6. That’s it.
Yesterday, I decided I wanted to catch up on the show, but even UFC Fight Pass only has the first seven episodes of season 26. Why? (Editor's Note: Fox broadcast obligations) I have no idea, but I was finally in the mood and had the yearning to see what went down during the women’s flyweight tournament. I wanted to learn about each fighter, watch their potential progression within their bracket and of course, get a different perspective on coaches Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje.
Unfortunately, I was left to searching online for updates on the tournament bracket; who advanced, who did not, etc, etc. It makes me wonder if the UFC actually cares about this product anymore.
I’m sure they do, somewhat, as they have already sent out a casting call for ‘The Ultimate Fighter 27: Battle of the Undefeated’ with tryouts taking place on December 12th, in Las Vegas, at Palace Station Hotel & Casino.
As strange as it sounds, I miss enjoying the show. I used to applaud the idea. I remember when people within my inner circle and slightly beyond would talk about the show and were excited about the next episode. I now know nobody who watches the show. I have plenty of friends that are avid UFC / MMA fans, but not one watches the show. I used to know what the ratings were in Canada … now, I only have information that is basically hearsay, and it’s not very good.
Once the UFC signs their new tv deal with either existing broadcast partner FOX or a new station altogether, I wonder if part of their content supply will include TUF? I believe it’s a fantastic product but it’s overall appeal seems to be gone. And no matter how many times they try and reinvent the show or the concept, it does not seem to work.
I am of the belief that the show is on it’s final legs. I, You, Dana, the UFC, etc, can try and spin it as many ways as we like, showcasing and pontificating the positives, but it seems to me, the fire is out. No amount of fuel can seem to reignite the fire that once was the sport’s favorite reality show.
For the old school guy in me … it sucks. For the future, I am ok if it rides off into the sunset. I for one would much rather have seen Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje fight months ago and for the UFC to showcase a women’s flyweight tournament during fight nights across the globe.
I think I just gave something away right there … or perhaps accidentally hinted that there is no need to reinvent the wheel of how other sports have tournaments and playoffs. Perhaps this is were the UFC is headed … or at the very least, consider it.