December 15, 2008
I completely understand the idea that the Ultimate Fighter has run its course, done its job, and now Spike and the UFC should move on before the show turns into Fear Factor with Fights. My belief, though, is that the show can be saved, but not without major tweaks.
1. Cut it to a half an hour. An hour is a ton of air time that needs to be filled, especially when the fights at the end of the episode are finished quickly. The past few season, that hour has been filled with drunken debauchery and stupid, disgusting pranks. With just a half an hour, the show could be about what MMA fans tune in to see, fighting and training.
2. Focus on the relationship between the coach and fighters. The coaches are generally MMA stars, and the cast members are generally new to the sport, and in awe of the coaches. I would like to see more on how the coach handles that, and then how they learn to coach the athletes. During the taping of season seven, Rampage Jackson spent a great deal of time with his fighters at the house. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira clearly had a special rapport with his team. Why can't we see more of that instead of idiots urinating into fruit trays?
3. Show us more of the training sessions. When Junie Browning complained that Frank Mir wasn't working out with him, viewers had to take Junie at his word because we didn't see enough of the training sessions to know if Junie was telling the truth. Moreover, MMA fighters tend to use bizarre training techniques, from Wanderlei Silva using a snorkel and an ice bath, to Chuck Liddell rolling a tire uphill. These are fascinating to watch and give a viewer more insight on what a fighter goes through to prepare for the fight.
4. Add an analyst to break down the fights. Again, the show should be built around the fights, but right now, we have each coach saying how strong their respective fighters are, and Dana White pumping up both guys. Everyone giving an opinion has a vested interest. Add a cageside analyst before the fights to give some perspective and things to look for in each fight.
5. Don't do anything to the coach's challenge. The coach's challenge has given us some of the best moments in the show's history, including Forrest Griffin's surprising basketball skill and Jens Pulver becoming a professional ping-pong player. Frank Mir didn't get into it this year, but that doesn't mean it's not a good segment.
6. Add footage that show other parts of a fighter's life. From photo shoots and interviews to cutting weight, a fighter's life is more than training. Let's see those things as part of the show.
7. Cut the alcohol. Dana White makes the argument that the alcohol is there to test the guys, but if that's true, then why are the fighters not allowed television, books or contact with women? Those would all test them, too. It's hypocritical to allow alcohol but not DirecTV and a gaggle of strippers. The alcohol serves no purpose in training up-and-coming fighters. Get rid of it.
8. Show more of the game play between coaches. This is what makes other reality shows interesting, too. Matt Serra was obsessed with Matt Hughes' every decision during the taping of their show. Let's see more of that, and less ejaculating into food.
9. Add an episode between the semis and the finals that shows us the finalists training in their own camps. Project Runway does this very well. Tim Gunn travels to each finalists' home and checks in. This could work well on TUF. Dana White, or one of the coaches, could check in with each of the finalists and see how they are training since they left the show.
The show can be interesting again, and it can return to some of its more actually dramatic moments. But if Spike and Zuffa don't recognize that viewers are not happy, then the show will tank very quickly.
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