Prior to UFC 158, Dana White announced that the next season of the Ultimate Fighter would feature Ronda Rousey and the winner of the Miesha Tate vs. Cat Zingano bout as coaches. He elaborated that the house would consist of both male and female 135-pound fighters.
Sounds like The Real World: Ultimate Fighter to me. It seems as if the UFC is banking on sexual tension within the house to bring back ratings to the Ultimate Fighter. Though season 17 was more successful ratings-wise than past seasons, I don’t think that was due to any increase in drama. The UFC smartly picked Chael Sonnen who, it was thought, would be an excellent foil to Jon Jones. As it turned out, they actually got along pretty well and share a mutual respect. The move to Tuesday from it’s old Friday night live slot was the reason why this is season has been more successful.
I think Ronda Rousey will bring some drawing power to the show but it has yet to be seen whether or not her star-power will continue after her initial foray into the UFC. Is she truly a draw or was most of the interest just generated from the fact that her fight was the first women’s fight in the UFC? Time will tell.
The Ultimate Fighter thrived when we had skilled, high level fighters competing in the house. This is where this season is going to struggle the most: the 135 women’s division is barren of top talent. The top two fighters in the house will be fine fighters, but for the most part, it is going to be hard to find enough female fighters who can put on UFC quality fights on a weekly basis. As a result, the majority of the woman’s fights are going to be pretty putrid to watch.
The saving grace will be the fact that there is some talent in the men’s bantamweight division. However, unlike the early seasons of the Ultimate Fighter, the top prospects are not enticed by the extremely long contracts handed out to the show winners. The best prospects skip the house altogether, which is why the talent on the show has suffered. Furthermore, the smaller weight-classes have struggled to generate mainstream interest. Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson have yet to establish themselves as any kind of draws.
The bulk of the entertainment value is going to come from drama between the male and female fighters. This will help ratings in the short term but until the UFC devotes more resources to enticing the best prospects to join the show, the show is always going to feature mediocre fights.
What do you think fight fans? Get at me @samgenovese on Twitter.