Photo credit: Esther Lin/MMA Fighting
The 17h season of The Ultimate Fighter begins this evening on FX, with UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen serving as coaches.
The show got a lot of attention last year during its debut on FX for negative reasons. First, there was the attempt to do live fights on Friday nights, which did not go over well with fans at all.
Then the powers that be decided to go back to the taped format, but there were still problems.
Now, TUF heads to Tuesday evenings and both the UFC and FX have made a strong strategic effort to bring fans of the show back with the inclusion of Jones and Sonnen. Having a champion – and an outspoken, well-known fighter like Sonnen – as coaches should help with the casual fan and the hard-core ones alike.
Let’s take a look at five more things that could be changed, tweaked or flat-out avoided to make the Ultimate Fighter back into a hit show:
1. Continue with the inclusion of champions and top contenders only
UFC president Dana White stated last year that the plan going forward was to use only contenders that are very-near title shots as coaches on TUF. While that might keep the promotion from elevating mid-card stars into main events, it’s the best idea going forward.
You are already throwing a bunch of “no name” fighters onto the program each and every week. Why would the uneducated MMA fan tune in if they have no idea who is on the show?
Bringing in Jones and Sonnen was an easy choice, as the two had a deep and much-talked-about beef last year. Add in the fact that Sonnen is of the outspoken kind, and there are sure to be fireworks aplenty this season.
2. Improve the camera work and quality of the series
It sounds as though this is a step that has already been taken, as many who have already viewed the first episode have stated it was filmed much like the “Road to the Octagon” or “UFC Countdown” programs.
Great job by the crew if this is true, as TUF has always seemed to lack the same quality as other programs. Just because it is based solely around a fight at the end doesn’t mean you can just fail to use good cinematography if you have it.
An addition to the film-work would be a possible picture-in-picture during the fight for each coach. It would allow us to directly see how much emotion the coaches are putting into the fight – or how much they are not, as has happened in the past.
Photo credit: Twitter
3. Leave the “drama” out of it
Unless it directly effects how a match-up between contestants is made, just leave all the in-house drama for the DVD release.
The Junie Brownings of the world do not need any more attention than they already receive. Of course, if you place 14 fighters into one house for an extended period of time, things are going to get interesting. We know that, we don’t need to see it anymore.
As I said, the one exception would be if Fighter A calls out Fighter B. They have a little verbal discussion, maybe some shoves are tossed in, and the rest of the cast is forced to separate. Fighter A says “I want you next”, Fighter B agrees, and they tell their coaches to let them compete. That’s fine. Otherwise, leave it out.
4. Bring back former UFC fighters and other well-known athletes
Remember when it was announced that Kimbo Slice would be entering the TUF house? The ratings improved and people tuned in just to see Slice in action.
You cannot tell me that if the UFC decided to do another season featuring former fighters looking to get back in the UFC that people would ignore it.
After all of the releases given over the past several years, there are many well-known fighters that would likely jump at the chance to earn another shot with the promotion. Maybe even use Hall of Famers like Randy Couture or Dan Severn as coaches to train the fighters.
5. Have more double-fight episodes
There is too much reality television on right now (at least in my opinion), and I know many viewers who just fast-forward through the non-fight portions of TUF to see the action.
Why not do more double-fight episodes? Yes, the season will not play out as long, but maybe that is a good thing, as well.
Several TV series get stretched too thin as it is, so cutting it short by a week or two could help keep fans interested longer. Plus, two highlight-reel knockouts a week would definitely make me tune in the following Tuesday.