LAS VEGAS – It can hardly be a coincidence that the two men who won titles on "The Ultimate Fighter 8" were also among the few who avoided rowdy and disgusting behavior in the house.
Ryan Bader knocked out Vinnie Magalhaes in the light heavyweight final and Efrain Escudero bested Phillipe Nover via unanimous decision on Saturday in the lightweight finale at The Pearl at the Palms in what can only be described as a victory for taste and common sense.
If the best SpikeTV producers and the UFC can do is to show men urinating and ejaculating in others' food, throwing a glass at a defenseless fighter and making a star out of someone without a whit of class, then it's time to put a wrap on the reality series.
UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta has called the show the company's Trojan horse, because it enabled the UFC to gain widespread exposure at a time when it was on its deathbed. The show has been phenomenally successful in and out of the cage, not only introducing another generation of fans to mixed martial arts, but also producing two world champions (Forrest Griffin and Matt Serra) and numerous other fighters who have become main-card regulars.
But each season, it seems, the show degenerates just a little more. Season 7 will best be remembered for Jesse Taylor acting like a drunken fool and getting booted off the show after taping was completed for kicking a window out of a limousine and then terrorizing casino guests.
Season 8, despite quality performances from the likes of Bader, Escudero and Nover, will be remembered for the antics of Junie Browning, who was twice nearly thrown off the show by UFC president Dana White for antisocial behavior.
It's clearly not representative of the way MMA fighters conduct themselves, yet no one at the UFC has done a thing to halt it.
Bader, a one-time wrestling star at Arizona State, was baited by a drunken Browning in one of the season's early episodes and was dragged into a pool.
"That sucked," Bader said of the incident with Browning.
Bader didn't react, because he'd seen the show before and knew White would likely kick him off if he defended himself.
"In any other situation, any other man, I would have killed him," Bader said, grinning. "But I thought about being kicked out. Every time a guy got kicked off the show before for fighting, I'd be thinking what an idiot he was. I wasn't about to be that person, even though it was forced upon me. You never know. People have been kicked out for less. I didn't do anything and I'm glad I didn't."
Bader's self-control also helped him to the victory over Magalhaes, a former jiu-jitsu world champion. Bader was as focused in the cage as he was on the show and refused to allow Magalhaes to take the fight to the ground.
He ended it in a flash, connected with an overhand right that, though Magalhaes managed to block it partially with his left arm, sent the Brazilian spiraling to the canvas. Bader quickly finished him on the ground at 2:18 of the first.
"I have a heavy right hand and I hit him square in the temple," Bader said. "It doesn't take much when you hit someone there."
Escudero neutralized Nover's vaunted striking power, which had prompted White to dub him the "next Anderson Silva," but using his wrestling ability. Escudero repeatedly took Nover down throughout the three rounds and, while he didn't inflict much damage, he prevented Nover from ever seriously mounting an attack.
Escudero stayed in the background for much of the show, even when he was antagonized, and like Bader, focused on learning from his coach, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Because of White's comments about Nover, Escudero was overshadowed and overlooked going into the finale. He never, though, lost sight of what he needed to do.
It was no different from the way he carried himself during the show's taping in the house, when he was harassed by a drunken Shane Nelson.
"The guys who were confident stayed in the background and we did our work, and the guys who had doubt, they tried to make a name for themselves by pulling pranks and drinking and doing all that other stuff," Escudero said. "It got them some publicity, but do you think they'd trade with me? It got them a little publicity, but everyone knows who we are because (Bader and I) won the thing. That's what it was all about."
At least it's what it should be about. But the show has devolved into little more than gutter behavior and the emphasis is as much on zany behavior as on mixed martial arts and the fights.
Frank Mir, who coached one of the teams, was turned off by everything that went on and called it "disgusting."
"The Ultimate Fighter" has been a great marketing tool for the UFC and has been a boon to the sport, but it's lately begun to portray the fighters and the sport in the wrong way.
Season 8 was as much about Junie Browning's bizarre behavior as it was about the talent of Ryan Bader and Efrain Escudero.
If Fertitta and White don't act soon, they're going to turn off an entire generation of fans and attract lowlifes who think watching a couple of drunks urinate in someone's food is funny.
It's beyond time to act.
- Efrain Escudero
- Ryan Bader
- Phillipe Nover
- Junie Browning