There seems to be more buzz about "The Ultimate Fighter" than there has been in previous years, mostly because the cast is star-studded with previous NFL players, an IFL champion, guys who have fought in the UFC and of course, Kimbo Slice.
But with every commercial that I see for the show, I can't help but roll my eyes. This season is going to be quite far from the original iteration of the show, which gave aspiring fighters a shot at the Octagon.
1. Heavyweight fights are terrible. No, not all of them. There are a few, like the unforgettable battle between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Randy Couture, and Gabriel Gonzaga's knockout of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, but those are the exception, not the rule. In fact, in the UFC's top ten fights of all time, as decided on by fans before UFC 100, only one was a heavyweight fight. I'd take a lightweight chess match over a heavyweight brawl any day.
2. There is already too much of a focus on one cast member. Yes, Kimbo Slice is on the show. He is jumping through the exact hoop that Dana White laid out for him when Slice was making a name for himself as a street brawler turned Elite XC show pony, and I give him all the credit in the world for that. But he is just one cast member, one fighter out of 16 trying for the dream of fighting in the UFC. Everyone -- especially Spike TV -- should calm down a bit until we see him actually fight on the show.
3. The coaches will be too involved with their own battle to worry about what is going on with their fighters. Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans hate each other. From the moment the show starts, they are at each other's throats, and this reportedly continues throughout the season. It's going to get old, and it's going to distract Jackson and Evans from what they should be doing, and that's helping their fighters learn MMA.
4. No Al "Stankie." I will be interested to see the involvement of fighters and coaches from both Greg Jackson's and Wolfslair, the training camps of Evans and Jackson, respectively. Nonetheless, we are not likely to see Al "Stankie" Stankiewicz, the hilarious boxing coach from Antonio Rodigo Nogueira's team in season eight. No random stories, no green beret, no pearls of wisdom that come from years of experience.
5. This cast won't be as hungry. I'm not saying that these fighters won't want to make it to the cage, but they won't be as literally hungry as previous cast members. When season seven cast member Gerald Harris joined TUF, he was broke and had no other options. Josh Koscheck, an original cast member quit his job as a wrestling coach to pursue his dream of fighting. When you don't know where your next paycheck is coming from, you have to work that much harder. This cast of fighters is accomplished. If they don't make it to the Octagon, their kids won't starve. They'll still have a home. (UPDATE: Except Wes Sims.) Will that be as compelling?
It's not that I won't watch, but I am going in with the lowest expectations that I've had for the show in years. Nonetheless, Cagewriter will have you covered with "The Ultimate Fighter," starting Wednesday, September 16 at 10 p.m. ET on Spike.