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Spike Exec Insists ‘TUF’ is Still Awesome, Makes Crazy Comparisons to Super Bowl, World Series


(Celebrating 12 seasons of two faceless dudes fighting in a warehouse. PicProps: MMAOutsider.com)

Of all the things that consistently suck about “The Ultimate Fighter” – the repetitive plotlines, relentless douchebaggery of much of the cast and what feels at times like a conscious desire on the part of the editors to make everybody involved look as bad as possible, just to name a few — by far the most frustrating remains the show’s continuing unwillingness to reinvent itself. Aside from a couple of minor tweaks over its 12 seasons – one of which was, uh, this guy – fans have consistently been watching the same shit over and over again for the past five years. To say that the format has grown stale would be an understatement of Jake Shields-ian proportions.

That the show’s average viewership hasn’t dropped any lower than the approximate 1.5 million who currently tune in each week is certainly more of a testament to the loyalty of MMA fans than a reflection of quality programming. Even most of the people who (like me) still watch religiously admit that a lot of it is pretty god-awful. But to understand exactly why “TUF” insists on plodding forward from season to season with the mindless tenacity of a reanimated corpse, look no further than SpikeTV senior vice president Brian Diamond’s recent interview with MMA Junkie.

According to Diamond, “TUF” ain’t broken and he responds to the suggestion that maybe the show needs a facelift (actually, a complete body tuck would be better) by making some comparisons that are … well … totally fucking insane.


"That would be like saying, I’m not going to watch the Daytona 500 because it’s the same race ever year …,” Diamond says when confronted with the notion that ‘TUF’ may have ‘run its course.’  “(The) Super Bowl. (The) World Series. The designated hitter was the last real big thing that entered baseball years ago. We always challenge ourselves to try and come up with something interesting and different, but we don’t want to do anything contrived. We don’t want to make it feel unorganic to the process."

OK, wow. A bunch of things about that …

Oviously, it goes without saying that likening the UFC/SpikeTV joint venture into reality television to several of America’s most beloved and historic sporting traditions is, like, the craziest thing anyone in the world has ever said. Ever. Further, to imply that major sports leagues like the NFL and MLB aren’t constantly altering their products in the hope of attracting more viewers just isn’t true. Specifically, the NFL is regarded as the standard bearer for shaping and reshaping pretty much every aspect of its game to make it more fan (and TV) friendly. Even though baseball is far stodgier, MLB has taken similar steps, most visibly adding a wild card during the mid 1990s in the hopes of bringing its postseason to a wider audience. Weird that Diamond would forget that, since “TUF” just did the same thing last season.

Also, gotta call utter bullshit on any claim that “TUF” doesn’t “want to do anything contrived” and doesn’t want to make its broadcast “feel unorganic.” You know, besides imposing a team concept on an individual sport and then basically making its living off taking a bunch of testosterone-charged “alpha males” and injecting them into a million-dollar mansion where their only source of entertainment is free booze provided by the show. Nothing contrived about that, right?

"We challenge ourselves," Diamond says of ‘TUF’ trying to add new wrinkles. "The fights to get into the house, adding the wild card, trying to find a unique combination of coaches – whether it’s Tito (Ortiz) and Chuck (Liddell), Rashad (Evans) and ‘Rampage’ (Jackson) – or when Kimbo Slice came into the mix, those are things that we try to challenge ourselves on. But the reality is, people are still watching it.”

Give him credit here, “TUF” did indeed add the wild card recently. Of course, after just one season it totally undermined the wild card’s usefulness by giving it to the castmember who least deserved it this time around. Not to mention, even coupled with the rest of the “challenges” listed above the wild card can only be considered a Band Aid on the much bigger problem: That “TUF” only has three or four stock episode templates that just keep repeating over and  over again with new contestants and coaches cast in familiar roles.

To try to pretend that “TUF” doesn’t need a complete overhaul because “people are still watching” is, in my opinion, ludicrous. But now I guess we know how “Blue Mountain State” got renewed for a second season.

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stopdrinkingpee- November 9, 2010 at 10:50 pm
Some of the bullshit on the show is pretty stale, but I hardly think dramatically re-working TUF is a priority, and it always amazes me that CP brings this up about once a month, how ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL it is that TUF change its formula. Don't let it keep you up at night.
Robots- November 9, 2010 at 12:27 pm
I just record TUF and fast forward to the fight. I don't know anything about these guys, I don't care, and I like it that way.
Kuch- November 9, 2010 at 1:43 am
If you don’t like TUF, then don’t watch it. Period.
KarmaAteMyCat- November 8, 2010 at 9:37 pm
It's Only just for me to say that the Person Who Wrote This Article is a Fucking Reverse Troll. Good day! I still love the CP Nation though
Del Fuego- November 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm
Put two guys in a cage fight and I will not only watch it, but I will like it. I love the tournament format. The drama before the fight can be annoying but that is why god invented fast forward. Could it be better? Sure, but if the ultimate fighter went away, there would be less fights to watch.
DiazBrotherFromAnotherMother- November 8, 2010 at 6:41 pm
Dear CP,
how come every article i read now is about you guys fuckin whining about how shitty everything is. why dont you just kill yourselves already if life sucks so much? What do you mean TUF has been the "same shit"? you mean fighting? I was under the impression that TUF was about young fighters competeing to be in the UFC, which is what ive been watching and enjoying for 12 seasons. should they add some fireworks and strobe lights to peak your interest? maybe the losers can be kicked in the nuts by midgets just to spice things up eh? And on another note, quit hating on Dana White. Because if it wasnt for big bad DW we wouldnt even be talking about this sport and you wouldnt even have this shitty website to bitch on like your some 15 yr old girls who arent getting their way.
FreddyFangers- November 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm
@Alabama

Congrats on being biggest douche on this thread, playa!
KarmaAteMyCat- November 8, 2010 at 3:16 pm
I bet you do.
Alabama hot pocket your mom- November 8, 2010 at 3:05 pm
TUF is gettin gay. I watch cuz my friend is on this season.
ksgbobo- November 8, 2010 at 1:52 pm
I have not watched it at all this season, and only watched some of it last season. I honestly think most of the fights suck, so I don't even have that. Its a reality show, so you can't compare it to sporting events. You can compare it to gay ass American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and such - but if I had to choose on a reality show that I enjoyed it be TUF or some other drama filled show like the Housewives of such and such :)
KarmaAteMyCat- November 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm
Just for the record the World Series was so bad this year it had terrible ratings so you better believe that the only people watching that were either the fans of either team and or with no exception to Journalists who had to write about that Obvious marketing horror that was the World Series this year so that statement by Diamond was from from inaccurate if you consider this years ratings into the facts? Don't believe me the viewer counts are public and out there try using google.

Now it's really funny to me that you would argue that MMA isn't starting to shit on football because next year when there is no football because they have yet to sign a contract with the players union. Now with this in mind and the MID season changes they threw at the players I wouldn't expect any of the players Quarterbacks aside to dive into negotiations. The Players are gonna be making some demands.

Mix martial arts and Tuf as a whole on spike television this season has been getting ridiculous ratings. This season is a well needed shot of adrenaline because to be honest the heavyweights couldn't have been more boring if they tried. All useless shit aside Tuf and MMA are becoming just as much of an American Fundamental as Football/Baseball also note that there is no season for MMA its an all year sport.
J-Dog- November 8, 2010 at 1:01 pm
^^^ well I for one will watch both. There are a couple reasons I can do this:

1) I have a DVR so I can watch one show and record another at the same time so I can watch it later

2) I don't have to do this because TUF is on Wednesday and the WEC event is on Thursday
rearnakedchickenchoke- November 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm
Who will be watching TUF over WEC this Wednesday? Besides those who don't get Versus...
Stak40- November 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm
Like others have said i only watch the show for the fights. I dont give a shit about anything that goes on unitl that last 15 or 30 min. So really in my opinion if you want to make it better have more fights. Also, I get having teams and coaches is all promotional for an upcoming matchup. I kind of dont care about this but to make it better why not do another TUF where you put countries against each other or put schools against each other or maybe even fighting styles. There are a few possibilities to mix it up a bit but at the end of the day who fucking cares as long as I get to see a fight at the end of the show. How did we ever survive without DVR?
rearnakedchickenchoke- November 8, 2010 at 12:20 pm
I like the teamless idea for a go. It also wouldn't tie up good fighters and/or personalities (they have to be one or the other to coach usually) for 8-9 months anyway.
FreddyFangers- November 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm
I like your idea agentsmith, but in the end, no matter what Dana White says, that show was created to hype and sell the coaches PPV event. TUF was created at time when the UFC and its execs were contemplating if they could keep dumping money in while going further into debt. The PPVs werent selling, they decided to try something new. They landed on gold when Griffin and Bonnar decided to throw out the gameplan and instead opted to try to give each other brain damage..

But back to your idea. Now that the UFC is in a spectacular shape, it would be great to see your ideas put in play. I like everything you said, and now we have Countdown and Primetime to hype the fights anyway.
Elentius- November 8, 2010 at 12:12 pm
I like the TUF for the fights. I have the power to go back and forth through many channels during the shitty parts with this crazy thing called a "remote control". I can't get enough MMA so I watch everything I can.
agentsmith- November 8, 2010 at 12:10 pm
My #1 suggestion every time this subject comes up: get rid of the teams, make it every man for himself. Hire a staff of pro-level trainers (like they did for Season 4), and let a Tapout hat decide the matchups. The fighters will naturally develop cliques, friendships, animosity, etc anyway, that's just human nature... so there's no reason to expect any less drama to waste screen-time on.

The teams serve no good purpose other than to prop up the coaches' rivalry... in other words, to sell a fight that has nothing to do with the contestants anyway.
FreddyFangers- November 8, 2010 at 12:07 pm
I dunno, While I think that Fried Taco and KC are right on some levels, I also think that TUF can be a much better show. The first couple of seasons were entertaining no matter what because it was new. Now its not new anymore and we are starting to see the glaring flaws that the show has. Why not fix those flaws? There is nothing organic about the show at all. If it was organic, then the same tired plotlines wouldn't keep showing up. The production/editors/crew have made it pretty clear: If you want TV time, be the biggest douchebag bully villain that you can. Im not saying change the style every season, Im saying fix the issues, and stop chopping everything up to the point where we only see what you want us to see. Ya do this and ya got at least 3 more seasons before we start bitching again.
Biffmiester- November 8, 2010 at 11:57 am
Agreed with Fried Taco & KC Curtains, too. It's a losing battle. Reality shows are doomed to stay, unfortunately. Even though many people have written off American Idol & Survivor 5 friggin' years ago, it still fucking lives on. I think what we might be craving for is enough of the petty bullshit editing to overblow every little situation on TUF and just focus on the training and fights... but apparently that's asking for too much from us folk who don't like gossip and petty drama. Reality show producers are the biggest reason for failing grades and obesity in America...enjoy my slippery-slope argument, fockers!

By the way, aside the point, Ben, you're from the big apple right? You coming by the MMA World Expo at the Javits Center this weekend? You guys should have a booth like the UFC Fan Expo in Boston. I'll be like the NYC version of Rex, only without the salsa moves that are muy caliente for me. Just an easygoing head nod will suffice.
sonochamp- November 8, 2010 at 11:45 am
This season is the first season I stopped watching TUF. I've been less than thrilled the last few seasons. Most of the time I watched, it was background noise while I did other things on the computer. I would watch the fights, though. But after an unimpressive performances in the open for this season, I get about as much enjoyment reading the wrapups online the next day that I do watching it... when I actually care enough to read those. TUF has lost all my interest. I thought it was a waste as a reality show, but it at least had potential in the talent they brought in. Not any more. The Forest Griffens and Kenny Florians of the world that would've ended up on TUF 4 years ago are now signed by the UFC (or other promotion) and debuted on either a PPV undercard or during a fight night event. Meanwhile, the left over gunk at the bottom of the barrell are featured on TUF.
Maybe once they start doing Featherweights and Bantamweights, I'll watch TUF again, but in the meantime, the parade of never-will-bes will continue without my attention.
Kid Clam Curtains- November 8, 2010 at 11:43 am
I agree with Fried Taco. You can't really change the format every season when the only reason for its being is the fight at the end of each episode. I, for one, don't give a fuck what kind of grabassing and hijinks they shoehorn into each episode. The bottom line...TUF is a 10-15 minute mma fight with 45 minutes of beer commercials and caged retards for filler. That's what DVR's are for.
superflat- November 8, 2010 at 11:37 am
The real issue is that Diamond is making an apples to orange comparison. UFC PPV cards ARE comparable to major sporting events, because, well, they're sporting events. TUF is a reality show -- that is, the actual sporting aspect is only 50% of what the show is about.

I agree that they shouldn't change the basic structure -- up-and-coming fighters compete in a tournament to earn a contract. It's the rest of the bullshit that needs to change, and I'm open for something radical. For example, I think it would be interesting to have a gym vs. gym competition, where instead of living in the house, the UFC followed various fighters at there gyms, which would be interesting in its own right.
Ballkick- November 8, 2010 at 11:35 am
Like all reality shows on TV, TUF will run it's course.
I still watch the show for the same reasons I did during season one.
I will continue to watch TUF for the foreseeable future as long as it stays relevant to me.
I am still entertained.
I am still tuned in.
LET IT RAIN- November 8, 2010 at 11:29 am
speaking of Shieldzzzz, i just googled him on Bully Beatdown. anyone wanna guess what happened? he didn't finish a fucking amateur
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