As one UFC reality show comes to a close, another begins. The inagural season of “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” closed out its first season last night and a new season of “The Ultimate Fighter” is set to begin this evening. If the UFC wants to keep a quality reality-based show on their agenda, let it be TUF which gets put out to pasture.
The first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” certainly revolutionized the MMA world. The importance of the season and finale to the success of the UFC and MMA cannot be overstated. However, that was 26 seasons ago. The world of television is different than it was back in 2005. The era of reality television is long gone. There are still a few reality show mainstays but they’ve been largely phased out of major networks. There simply isn’t the same interest to watch a bunch of guys get drunk in a house and attempt to annoy one another for weeks on end. Sure, there have been some memorable moments, “Let Me Bang Bro” & anything Junie Browning to name a few, but it appears that combat fans have soured on the reality portion of the show.
Speaking of the house, it’s a central piece of why the TUF system isn’t apt for finding the best fighters to compete in the Octagon. Being locked in a house with a bunch of strangers with virtually no outlet isn’t a proper simulation to bring out the best in a fighter. Humans are creatures of comfort and to completely disrupt the training routine of the athletes doesn’t allow the guys or gals compete to the best of their ability. We’ve seen fighters struggle with the ability to continually cut weight throughout the weeks, suffer injury setbacks and underperform in numerous circumstances. Fighters like Mike Swick, Josh Koscheck, Matt Hamill and Gray Maynard are just a few examples of fighters who didn’t win their respective season of TUF but went on to have great runs in the UFC.
“Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” provided a breath of fresh air to the UFC’s programming schedule. The episodes air like a stripped apart episode of TUF. Gone is the fighter house and endless supply of alcohol. In its place, a short segment on each fighter. Long enough to let fans make a choice of who they’d like to back, yet short enough to not take up an entire episode. There’s no time wasted showing guys going through daily training sessions which outside of Cody Garbrandt having his guys put balloons up their nose, tends to be much of the same no matter who is on the show.
DWTNCS takes all the best parts of TUF (the fights) without all the reality-based filler that’s found in between. Fighters are allowed to train with their camps and fly out to Vegas shortly before their fight, just as they would if it were a real UFC event. They get to work with their own coaches, guys they’ve built a level of trust with and coaches who know how to get the best from their fighters. They also have loved ones watching nearby to cheer them on, not a handful of strangers that they just met a few weeks ago.
There’s an argument to be made about the coaches as well. Outside of being unfamiliar with fighters on their team, filming “The Ultimate Fighter” is a painstakingly long process for both coaches. Not only do they have to be on set for quite a bit of time, they also have to put their careers on hold. There’s no better example of putting a fighter’s momentum on ice than that of former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. Perhaps the most exciting fighter in MMA currently, Gaethje made one hell of an impression in his UFC debut against Michael Johnson. The two men had a fight that was a Fight of the Year candidate but instead of getting Gaethje on to an UFC card as qucikly as possible, “The Highlight” will be put on hold until the end of the year at the earliest.
If there’s any clearer point to be made about why the company should scrap TUF and move forward with DWTNCS, just look at the declining ratings of “The Ultimate Fighter.” While TUF struggles for viewers, DWTNCS has been featured on two editions of Sportscenter’s Top 10. When was the last time TUF provided a moment on the same level?
— Dana White (@danawhite) August 10, 2017
The main knock with DWTNCS doesn’t even have to deal with the product inside the cage. When the #SnoopCast was introduced, it was a great feature. In the mold of Joe Rogan’s popular Fight Companion podcasts, Snoop Dogg and Uriah Faber provided some welcomed comedic relief in a sport that’s full of machismo. Snoop Dogg even helped make an overnight star of Sean O’Malley earlier in the season. However, a number of fighters have been very vocal about the UFC needing to remove Snoop from the show. The celebrity commentator was put on ice for a few fights for “dogging on McGregor” but it’s a move that won’t quell the #FireSnoop movement. Your mileage may vary on the #SnoopCast but the UFC could easily find some new talent to replace him in the next season, effectively eliminating the major complaint about DWTNCS.
“The Ultimate Fighter” has provided us with some great moments through the years. However, it’s clear that formula isn’t working for TV ratings or to properly refill the ranks of the UFC’s burgeoning roster. It’s only been one season and we’ll likely be saying the same thing about DWTNCS. But for now, it’s the best chance at the UFC not only finding quality fighters, but also quality weekly programming.