After thirteen seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, it’s getting to the point where a coach would have to physically restrain us in front of the television to sit through the show’s stale format and predictable antics, but we still tune in because, damn it, we love this fighting stuff. If you’re in the same boat, there’s good news: thanks to the recent Fox/UFC partnership, the reality series is getting its first major shake up in years.
Previous changes to the franchise included dropping the team-vs-team physical challenges, competitors having to fight their way into the house, and the introduction of the “wild card” spot in the semi-finals. Now, the all new TUF of FX will feature live fights and put match-making responsibility in the hands of the fans.
Season fifteen will kick off with a live two-hour episode featuring 32 fighters battling for their spot in the house. Once the dust settles and the blood dries, the coaches will choose their teams from the 16 remaining athletes and determine which fighters are eligible to compete in the following week’s episode. Fans will then vote via text message on which fighters they want to see lock horns, with the winning pair throwing down in episode two.
Each subsequent episode will start with the results of the fan poll and announcement of that evening’s fight. The rest of the show will be the familiar pre-recorded, edited interactions between cast memebers in the house and at the gym. When it’s time for the bout, however, we’ll shift to a live broadcast of the fight. After the bout has ended, we’ll see the fighter consolations and celebrations in real time and get to vote on next week’s pairing.
I’m not one to vote in American Idol-style text polls, but I’m excited about these changes. Rather than having the whole series wrapped up before the first episode airs, we’ll be catching the action as it unfolds. There’s something about watching a fight live that makes it more exciting whether I know the outcome of the bout or not. Also interesting is that the show’s editors won’t be able to carefully construct the “plot” and direction of the season without the benefit of knowing what lies ahead. All in all, it looks like a solid effort to breath new life into the old series.
So will you be watching, and will you be voting?