(Props: MMA Fanhouse.)
I admit it, after watching the above promo video for season nine of Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter,” I’m excited. Maybe the hokey “It’s U.S. Against Them” tagline is working on me, or maybe (probably) I’m just a sucker for The Sex Pistols.
Regardless, the part of me that wants to believe fighters when they blame positive steroid tests on totally legit nutritional supplements also wants to believe that TUF can be fun again. And who knows, maybe exploiting nationalistic loyalties and hilarious cultural differences (just wait until the first time a Brit fighter talks about smoking fags) is the perfect solution for the stale formatting and predictable antic-heavy presentation. With that in mind, here are the five things I’d like to see from “The Ultimate Fighter” this time around:
1. Don’t Make Me Feel Bad About Myself For Watching This
Look, Spike TV producers. I’m a male between the ages of 18-34, but that doesn’t mean I want to watch grown men drink one another’s urine. In fact, when I find myself watching a show that is ostensibly about fighting, and yet the bulk of the episode is dedicated to the ingestion of bodily fluids, I start to question some of the decisions I’ve made that have brought me to this point. It’s the same with property destruction. We’ve seen it. There isn’t any new ground to break (pun intended). Please, let’s grow up a little and move on.
2. Show Me Some Training Footage That Isn’t a Montage
Obviously we don’t want to see a show that is nothing but guys working out, but why not include some more specific training footage that shows us what these guys are learning and where they are in their development? Getting to learn from Dan Henderson or Michael Bisping is probably a great opportunity for these younger guys to pick up some new tricks. At least, I assume it is. I don’t know, because I never see the TUF fighters learning much. I also don’t get a good sense of who the practice room badasses are, and I’d like to. These guys know who belongs there and who is just barely getting by. Why not let us find out the same way they did? You can do this while also educating the fanbase about the finer points of MMA. Imagine that.
3. Find A Way To Include “Stankie,” Or A Reasonable Substitute
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s boxing coach, Al “Stankie” Stankiewicz was criminally underused on the last season of TUF (why they chose not to air his sparring match with Efrain Escudero is anyone’s guess), but his brief bouts of brilliance proved that a crazy old coot of a trainer could really add some life to the show. I’m not even saying we need the original “Stankie,” though it would be awesome, but just someone to fill the “Stankie” role. You can’t tell me Bisping doesn’t know some insane old British boxer with an indecipherable accent he could bring in as a coach. Which leads me to…
4. Get the Coaches Involved More
I know that part of the aim of any TUF series is to hype the inevitable fight between the coaches down the line, but aside from the Ken Shamrock/Tito Ortiz feud (which sold itself, honestly) this hasn’t been done very well of late. We don’t necessarily need a personal rivalry, but it would be nice to get some time with the coaches outside of the gym. For instance, what do they do when they leave the training facility? If they don’t show up at the house, we’re left to assume that they’re cryogenically frozen until the next practice session. Use the show as a platform to help viewers get to know the coaches and they’ll end up giving a damn when it’s time for the fight.
5. Two Fights Per Episode, Whenever Possible
Last season things really picked up when we saw more than one fight per episode. Though this might screw with the pacing of the show somewhat, why not do that in the beginning, when the match-ups tend to be more one-sided and the fights often don’t go longer than a couple of minutes? A fight in the first thirty minutes also presents the opportunity to show the reactions in the winning and losing camps, which often get skipped over too quickly when the fight serves as the finale. Remember, above all else, this is a show about fighting, not about tainted fruit platters.