The Ultimate Fighter has been a cornerstone of the UFC and is revered by the masses as the saving entity that kept the UFC from fizzling out into a brief page in sports history. The first season, while not widely popular during the actual episodes, drew attention in when Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar stepped into the cage and gave all of their heart and will to a true sports competition.
Since then, we have had many seasons come and go; some exciting, some over-hyped and some under, and some that we have just forgotten about completely from time to time. Regardless of its popularity or what network it has aired on, TUF has been still successful in providing some great up-and-coming talent to join the ranks of the UFC fighters.
This upcoming season has thrown an extra twist and different flavor into the mix though. For the first time, the coaches of the fighters will be female. Not only that, but the show itself with be co-ed. This adds a different dynamic into the show, but time will tell if it is enough to get people interested again.
One thing is for sure – the UFC loves to market Ronda Rousey.
Rousey is the first, and only, UFC Women’s champion. She is also very outspoken, attractive and very marketable, and undefeated with armbar finishes within the first round of all of her fights. This type of fighter is a perfect candidate to help ratings and the overall success of the next season of TUF, but will it be able to hold onto the hype? Or generate more reason to tune in?
The dynamic of having both sexes on the show breathes a little new life into it. One major reason many fans tune in is to see the fun or chaos that ensues from the fighters amongst themselves, or the coaches. The drama and stories play just as big, if not a more significant role to the show beyond the actual competition.
Besides the potential of some interesting interactions, there is the other side and chance that this season will not live up to the hype. When a new dynamic is inserted into the show, fans get something to look forward to. This generates interest, but also lets fans set standards of what to expect. When the UFC may/may not deliver, this is where the show can either boom or trail off.
For example, the last season was coached by Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. When this was announced, the first thing many people thought about was how Sonnen was going to be tearing into Jones unmercifully and pretty much spending the show talking trash, coming up with witty and clever jokes, and all around just trying to get under Jones’ skin. But this wasn’t the case. Soon after the announcement, the two had seemingly started to become friends, and what was once a debate of deserving, turned into both men respecting each other and changing their minds on the subject.
While there was still some tension, it was not what fans expected as far as the potential for some fun/chaos they came with the idea on paper. It wasn’t until even after the show was done that the tension between the two began to rise to a level we were hoping for during the show. Given the time and circumstance, it was the best marketing choice, but still failed to truly reignite the TUF show.
Ronda Rousey has become such a fan favorite though, and she has the potential to help liven up the scene. Especially with her original opponent out with injury, she is now going to coach against Meisha Tate, who brings similar attention with her as Rousey. There is again a potential for butting heads with these two, and we will see if it actually plays out that way.
There is potential for fighters to interact with the opposite sex in some inevitable drama and some other intriguing or hilarious situations. Some of the fighters may even try to prove their “undying love” for Rousey given this opportunity – you never know. These instances and situations can make or break this season.
The nice thing about this season is that is isn’t coming across too gimmicky. While it does seem like a business decision and marketing-based, it doesn’t feel saturated by that notion of looking solely at the bottom line. It is a staple in Women’s MMA history, and thus carries importance and fairness, along with any UFC agenda. The potential is great for this season, but even if it does flop a little more than projected, it still carries significance that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.
Time will tell if this season brings something truly unique that can reignite or build a new fire under the TUF brand, but there is potential for greatness and something that will be worth watching and following.