(“Beauty might be skin deep, but so are our viewers.”)
If you were overcome with a sudden feeling of deja vu while reading that headline, you’re not alone. We’ve written some variation of it at least three times now — once for the TUF 16 premiere, again for the TUF 18 premiere, and probably once for TUF 19, but we don’t care enough to look it up — with the only variant between them being the perpetually-descending number of viewers tuning in each season. But yes, the numbers are in, and with 536,000 viewers, TUF 20: Easy on the Eyes, Hard on the Face has shattered the record for the lowest viewed season premiere in the show’s history. I guess we should have seen this coming.
I don’t mean to make some overarching statement about the state of WMMA here, but this can’t be a good sign for the popularity of the women’s strawweight division. Between the social media campaign, the PR tour, the red carpet premiere, and the blatantly sexualized marketing campaign that was put together for this show, it was safe to say that the UFC had a lot riding on TUF 20. Expectations were high, and the season premiere bombed. Hard. Like, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive line hard.
The craziest thing about all this? The TUF 20 premiere was actually good. The brackets, the attention to the fighters backstories, the massive upset that was Torres vs. Marcos — it was a top notch episode from production to pacing. While the dwindling quality of seasons past has been rightfully reflected by its viewership (or flat out discussed on the show itself), TUF 20 is the first season in the show’s history to crown a champion at its conclusion. It had stakes, dynamic participants, all of the stuff that reminds us what a compelling show TUF can be. Yet no one fucking watched it.
I’m not sure what there is to take away from TUF 20‘s abysmal numbers, really, other than the fact that FS1 will likely never be a comparable platform for delivering MMA content to Spike TV. But be honest, how many of you actually tuned in for last week’s premiere?