You might have to reach all the way back to the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter to find somebody who “enjoyed” being stuck in the TUF house as much or more than season 16′s Mike Ricci.
In season 6, eventual show winner Mac Danzig was often called “grumpy” or “unhappy” because of his demeanor in and around the house, and just a general displeasure of being forced to stay there for six weeks while the filming took place.
This year Canadian Mike Ricci may have surpassed Danzig's level of discomfort living in the house as long as he did because looking back on the experience, while he's elated to make it to the finals and get the chance to earn a UFC contract, living in the TUF house was just as big an exercise of will power.
“The hardest part of course is disappearing off the face of the earth. Being away from your family and friends, and wondering what's happening outside. Is everyone okay? Is someone sick? You never know, that was the hardest part for me,” Ricci told MMAWeekly Radio.
By the time the show ended, Ricci had reached maximum levels of stir crazy being stuck there with 15 roommates he had no choice but to live alongside in a house.
Looking back on the experience, Ricci isn't sure why The Ultimate Fighter doesn't allow the fighters to interact more with the outside world. It would surely interject new life into the reality show, and obviously open up all new possibilities for things that could happen inside and outside the house.
“It doesn't make sense to me. I understand not having a phone so you can't notify anybody what's going on, but the fact of being let out of the house, and being allowed to go into Vegas would add to the ratings right?” Ricci asked.
“If you were to let the fighters out into Vegas it would be like TUF mixed with Jersey Shore. You'd have things happening outside the house, people bringing people back to the house, the dynamic would completely change and there would be way more action. So I don't understand why they don't do that.”
Ricci points out that the format and standard for The Ultimate Fighter is pretty simple – there are a lot of good fights, which is positive, but there's training footage, somebody plays a prank that gets out of hand, and a couple of fighters snap. The problem is at this stage of the game in season 16 of the show, it's pretty predictable to guess what happens next.
“For now that's the format they chose. But at the same time everyone knows when you tune into The Ultimate Fighter you're going to see some guys fighting, you're going to see some good fights, and then you're going to a couple guys lose their minds. It gets kind of old, like how many times do you want to see a couple guys lose their minds?” said Ricci.
The ratings for The Ultimate Fighter have stayed well below one million viewers throughout the 16th season of the show, some of the lowest in the history of the program. Now part of that issue is the timing of the show's airtime, currently broadcasting at 10pm on Friday nights.
But the stale format can't be ignored, and Ricci understands why maybe less people are tuning in.
“I guess there's no secret why the ratings are going down, that's just the way it is,” said Ricci. “People were super crazy about The Ultimate Fighter, and now it seems to be the same thing over and over again. But hey look, I'm not an FX producer or anything like that. I just went there to do my job, which I did do, that's just my opinion.”
The job is almost done for Ricci, who will take on fellow cast member Colton Smith this Saturday for the chance to become the latest fighter to win The Ultimate Fighter. The opportunity will provide him a chance to take home a UFC contract so it's all been worth it, but there is no way he would ever go through it again.
“It's not for me,” Ricci said about living on The Ultimate Fighter. “It's definitely not for me.”
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