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What’s the verdict on the new Ultimate Fighter series (Jones/Sonnen)?

By Zach Arnold | January 22, 2013

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With FX & Spike feuding over MMA positioning for weekly cable programming, we ended up with FX pushing The Ultimate Fighter on Tuesday nights versus Bellator going live on Thursday nights. The Bellator show drew over 900,000 viewers last Thursday. So, how will The Ultimate Fighter fare on Tuesday nights?

For starters, Tuesday nights are better than Friday nights… but I still don’t think it’s a great night to run the show on. There wasn’t especially a lot of buzz for Tuesday’s debut.

As for the production values of the show’s new season, this is really the first time we’ve seen changes made and you can thank FX for that. The focus was more on story-telling and entertainment than it was on the actual fights. The biggest challenge for The Ultimate Fighter is convincing viewers that the fighters participating can actually have success and be a top fighter in UFC once the season is over. We’ve seen too many fighters win the show and go nowhere on undercards afterwards.

The change in terms of story-telling and overall production (slower frames per second, more behind-the-scenes focus) created quite a mixed reaction (read here to see what I’m talking about). There was definitely more of a focus to get names next to the faces and to have the fighters talk, which was both a plus and a minus. One fighter compared staying in ‘the house’ to visiting a Federal prison. Another fighter talked about not being able to pay bills, having a home foreclosed on, trouble making child support payments, and being divorced… but he still has God and fighting.

In the words of Smoogy:

“Looks like tears are the primary bodily fluid being thrown around on TUF 17. Dana is the ultimate armchair MMA coach. He always knows what you shouldn’t be doing.

“It was pretty underwhelming. Fights were edited heavily and the ‘personal drama’ was mostly a lot of repetitive crying scenes. Instead of a riveting human drama it was a dozen repetitive scenes of fighters in hotel rooms talking/crying about sacrifices.”

FX and UFC had to make a directional change with The Ultimate Fighter. The status quo wasn’t working. The question is… was the change implemented too polarizing or was it positive enough to win over new & old fans of the show?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 41 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

41 Responses to “What’s the verdict on the new Ultimate Fighter series (Jones/Sonnen)?”

  1. Light23 says:

    I liked the new direction.

    Considering how low brow TUF has been in the past, it’s refreshing to have it come across as an actual TV show.

    Having the family of the fighters there and focusing on the “human element” was a huge positive.

    The main problem was there were no actual fights. If you tuned in wanting to see MMA, you got none. In the space of two seasons, we’ve gone from having every entry fight shown live, to having barely any shown unedited.

    • RST says:

      “Having the family of the fighters there and focusing on the “human element” was a huge positive.”

      Feminist mma, GO!

    • Megatherium says:

      Yeah, the “no actual fights” part is gonna be problematic for me. All the blubbering about sacrifice in the world can’t hide the fact that there wasn’t any, you know, actual MMA FIGHTING on the show.

      Wow. They’re making this an easy season to not watch.

    • RST says:

      ” it’s refreshing to have it come across as an actual TV show.”

      I wouldn’t have a problem with that,
      back when the sport drove the show

      If I recall correctly in the early seasons either the coach fight was a legitimate title fight (Chuck/Randy),
      or it was just a one off fight between the coaches

      But to now have the belt and title shots being dictated by the needs of the show is just nauseating

      This cant be disregarded or credited as just a tv show IMO

  2. Kalle says:

    So the parts I always fast-forwarded through have been expanded while the actual fights that on occasion made the show worth watching are now just edited clips.

    They needed a change, true, but this is the exact opposite of what it would take to get me to watch TUF again. If TUF isn’t going to showcase talent (and I don’t mean acting talent) then the show might as well be dead for all I care.

    • Jason says:

      That’s all I needed to hear. I always DVR TUF and fast forward through all the BS to watch the fights. Guess I won’t be watching it this season if the new format is more BS drama and less fighting.

  3. RST says:

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt,
    that you didn’t REALLY think that forcing the best fighter in the world to fight the mugliest was a resurgence of the sport?

  4. RST says:

    Full disclosure,
    I didn’t watch it!

    I wouldn’t.

  5. The Judge says:

    Perhaps my take will be interesting, as while having been a fan of the sport for a while, this is only the second episode I have actually sat down and watched.

    I didn’t know the edited fights and focus on the fighters’ personal stories was a new thing. It felt natural. Showing 14 fights within two hours is difficult and wanting to establish these guys in your mind either through interviews or otherwise seemed essential.

    I think, believe and hope, that from this point on, all fights will be shown in their entirety as there is only one per show or so? If so, missing a few of the initial 10-minute grind downs is ok.

    I also agree with comments above that it’s a good idea to focus on the fighters’ personal stories, as long as those stories actually make for something interesting to watch. By the end of the show last night, I had about enough of seeing guys hugging their wife and father, while talking about how they had kids, dreams, no money and Jesus. It started getting really difficult telling them apart,–not exaggerating–while oddly enough, some of the more distinct features seemed to fall through the cracks.

    Overall, a good show. It will be interesting to see how the crew does in the next few weeks as they will no longer have multiple MMA bouts to keep the show going and will have to show human drama, that feels neither created nor boring, to keep the pace going for 40. On a 1 to 10, I give the show a 27 on the Adelaide Byrd scale.

    BTW, if it wasn’t obvious till now, all of Chael Sonnen’s heel personality is work for the cameras. He reached out to Jones hand first and never once came close to crossing the line. While I thought his picks were bizarre, it’s obvious that the guy’s real character is well-mannered, intelligent and bland.

    • Chris says:

      Yeah they had to fit 14 fights in 2 hours with commercials, they never were able to do that before, they always showed highlights of the decision fights, this time they also showed families and tried to tell you about the fighter so more fights were cut down.

      Going forward the fights will be shown in full like they always are.

      I enjoyed it, something different, fans seem to complain shit is boring and stale and then they change it and they complain its not the boring and stale version they liked, lol.

      Some solid talent, Hall, Gilbert, Luke, forget his name, Jones first pick. Def looking forward to this season.

      • The Judge says:

        “Yeah they had to fit 14 fights in 2 hours with commercials, they never were able to do that before, they always showed highlights of the decision fights, “

        Ok, Chris, help me out here, I am confused. As I mentioned I haven’t watched the show before. So they always showed only highlights of decision fights and never showed all 14 fights? Then what is all the complaining about? Is the format only new as far as some of the other stuff (family footage)? Or is it that they showed more of the fights before?

        “Some solid talent”

        I still don’t understand why Sonnen went Chris Matthews on Luke and Dana on Uriah, we will see if the new results justify them. One guy who seems to be under radar is Zak Cummings, I thought his knockout was brutal. The two fighters I also really liked are Adam, armbarring a bigger man like that and Gilbert, as he is an awesome combination of gentleness outside of ring and total aggression inside. I really hope he won’t be gone after the first episode.

        • Chris says:

          Yeah they never showed all 14 or 16 fights in full in any premier episode. It all would depend on how long the fights were, if they had 8 first round finishes they would show them and then depending on much time they had they would air some decision fights but they always aired highlights of some fights.

          They would say these performance highlights brought to you by Dodge or whatever sponsor.

          So they never showed every fight in full before but in past seasons they would show as many full fights as they could.

          This time they had the family stuff so they had to cut down alot more fights then normal which is what fans are complaining about.

  6. Chuck says:

    So…..fighters talking about themselves fighting for their families, their personal demons and troubles, and their need for winning the show, along with edited down fights? UGH! I knew it! It’s The Contender all over again! Might as well have Tony Danza host it and call it “The Contender: MMA”.

    Or we could have De La Hoya be on board and call it “The Next Great MMA Champ”.

    (Sidenote, for those confused as to why I mentioned Tony Danza….he hosted The Contender 4. The show was dead in the water on Versus at that point).

  7. 45 Huddle says:

    I can’t wait for the day that TUF is finished and Zuffa concentrates their efforts on a weekly fight series.

    Between the last 2 years of TUF and Bellator Tournaments…. It has mostly been pure garbage when it comes to the level of fighters we are seeing. Sure there is a diamond in the rough here or there, but mostly just junk.

  8. Headbussa says:

    Maybe I’m the only one but for me this is the worst seasin I’ve ever seen, so now the UFC has turned to exploiting fighters families to get ratings. I’d much rather see a boring fight that watch a losing fighters kids cry in the stands. All I keep reading from ppl is how the production is so much better, really now it’s like a scripted housewives of Hollywood bullshit to me, maybe I’m missing something cuz I’m in the Middle East and I’m watching it on espnhd, I don’t know, but I’m sure I won’t watch another episode, I’ll spend my time watching BET’s husbands of Hollywood, cuz right now Kevin hart is much more entertaining and honestly seems less scripted

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    Bisping vs. Belfort did 1.8 Million on FX and 250,000 on Fuel TV. Best for both channels for the UFC.

    Goes to show that more fans come out for bigger named guys even if there isnt much of an undercard.

    And the word on the street is that TUF did 1.5 Milion but has not been confirmed yet.

    My guess is that Bellator does 800,000 for tomorrow’s show. And then 650,000 for the 3rd show.

    • RST says:

      I thought the undercard was actually pretty decent

      Khabib was Khawesome

      If chael sonnen is big names these days,
      then I’ll take good fights over big names

  10. bluerosekiller says:

    Let’s face it, after the travesty that was last season, TUF needed a complete overhaul & from what I saw last night, I’m liking it.
    Is it a whole lot more like THE CONTENDER?
    It sure is & that’s a good thing IMO. You have to remember that back in the day, at least for the first couple of seasons, THE CONTENDER was a successful broadcast network show.
    So, while many of you are lamenting the new format & direction of the show, TUF as it was was a show clearly headed for cancellation. That tired old formula just wasn’t attracting or keeping viewers, it was driving them away. I no it did me. I actually tried to force myself to watch & keep up with it last season, but it was so damned painfully dull that I just gave up on it. And the season prior to that with Faber & Cruz? UGH! it was no better. Watching the two fighters & their teams continue to play all those childish, mind numbingly stupid pranks on one another was damned near torture.
    Last night was the first time that I’ve actually been entertained by an episode of TUF since THE HEAVYWEIGHTS was airing.

    – Jim

  11. Steve4192 says:

    At this point, ANY change is a welcome change.

    I liked the addition of a personal element, but hated the fact that they edited the fights. Last night basically was a carbon copy of the first season of ‘The Contender’, and my biggest problem with the Contender was the fact that they never let the fights speak for themselves. They always chopped them up, added sound effects, and completely destroyed the competitive aspect of the show. The one redeeming quality of TUF IMO was that the fights always felt real because they showed them in their entirety.

  12. Jay B. says:

    Good work Bjorn Rebney. Saying you would never sell to UFC. Hopefully you dont go back on your word like all the other idiots.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      It is not his choice. Viacom has a majority share in the company. If ratings go south or expenses get too high they will sell the company to Zuffa or Showtime…

    • nottheface says:

      Coker had no interest in selling either. He also had no choice in the matter, same as Bjorn.

  13. Mr. K says:

    Another night of great fights from Bellator. Their tourney format is superior to UFC’s dartboard matchmaking process. I hope it can really take off and do well.

  14. gaunt says:

    I liked the show actually. I knew there would not be 14 full fights (they have only shown all the preliminary fights once before, the rest were all bits and outtakes. They will show the entire first for the remainder of the series I’m sure.

    And frankly, while I dont enjoy lots of men crying, you NEED background for these fighters, so they are actual faces. Who cares about two unknowns fighting? If you know SOMETHING about them, then you care.

    My problem with the show always has been, and remains, the crappy reward.

    “You get a three year, six figure UFC contract!”

    Great, except the ‘six figure contract’ is 100,000, spread out over three years, meaning 33,000 a year, minus fees fighters must pay for ring doctors, cut men, etc, and thats before taxes.

    Meaning, join the UFC and fight at the poverty level.

    • Steve4192 says:

      I agree that the ‘six-figure contract’ is garbage, but it’s not as bad as you make it out to be. They payout is not $100K over three years, it’s $100K in the third year. It pays out something like $60K/$80K/$100K over the three years (assuming the fighter collects all his win bonuses). It’s still a crappy contract, but not $33K/year crappy.

      • Chris says:

        The TUF contract is like this.

        15/15 for the first 3 fights
        20/20 for the next 3
        24/24 for the final 3.

        Its a 9 fight, 3 year deal.

        If you won all 9 fights you make like 354K i think it is.

        So if you win 3 fights even the first year you will make close to 100k.

        Thats not bad for a prospect if you win your fights.

        • nottheface says:

          Roy Nelson is still on his TUF deal and he’s headlining cards.

        • Steve4192 says:

          I agree that the TUF deal is awful for an established veteran like Roy Nelson. But it’s not bad for a guy like Court McGee or Michael Chiesa.

  15. RST says:

    “The focus was more on story-telling and entertainment than it was on the actual fights.”

    And aint that chael sonnen vs Jon Joes in a nutshell

    In fact I’d go up a few rungs and call that the subtitle for modern zuffa

  16. 45 Huddle says:

    I was right again…. Bellator did slightly over 800,000 this time around.

    2 for 2 on ratings predictions.

    Next week will be around 650,000….

    • edub says:

      Who’s fighting on their next card?

      • 45 Huddle says:

        From MMA Junkie:

        MAIN (Spike TV, 10 p.m. ET)
        David Rickels vs. Lloyd Woodard – lightweight-tourney opening round
        Guillaume DeLorenzi vs. Patricky Freire – lightweight-tourney opening round
        Will Brooks vs. Ricardo Tirloni – lightweight-tourney opening round
        Thiago Michel vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy – lightweight-tourney opening round

        • chuck says:

          Next week’s Bellator card looks great. Definitely the best (on paper) tournament that Bellator has done in a while. My predictions for those four fights:

          Rickels
          Freire
          Brooks
          Michel

          No way will I give Sarnavskiy over Michel after him losing to Rich Clementi in 2012.

          I can’t wait until Attila Veigh beats M’Pumbu into retirement. M/Pumbu is, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst titlist of the major MMA companies right now. By a sizable margin at that.

    • Jay says:

      Its not hard to call that there will be a drop off Huddle. Thats how trends work. This trend happens to any TV show for that matter.

  17. Chris says:

    Nottheface, Roy Nelson headlining a card means nothing, your placement on a card doesnt impact the money you make.

    Nelson decided to go on TUF, he was on the highest rated season, he got to fight Kimbo, yes he is underpaid but he decided to do that, nobody forced him.

    Frankly the only reason he is a name and got those big fights and main event fights is because he did TUF and fought Kimbo.

    So he is underpaid right now but when his next contract comes up he will get more money. Doing TUF was the best thing he’s ever done.

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