The UFC has generally received rave reviews regarding their massive broadcast deal with the FOX Network, that includes shows on several channels within the network. ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality series was also moved to a FOX affiliate, and changes including live fights were promised that were to infuse new life into the series. This past Friday night, we saw the opener for the ‘TUF’ show’s 15th season, and hey what is not to like? Sixteen preliminary fights right off the bat in the first episode, trimming a field of thirty two competitors down to sixteen. New host Jon Anik opens the show with Dana White, explaining some of the changes we can expect. Then White reveals that all of the preliminary fights for the opening show will be one round of five minutes. In typical foul mouth, White says “Make it the best f—ing five minutes of your life” to the guys. Huh?
Well one of the things that White was so proud of when they announced the deal with FOX is that supposedly he had held out in signing similar deals in the past, and that the FOX deal represented everything that White would have wanted in terms of control over the product.
Well, with 16 five minute fights crammed into a two plus hour episode, it certainly looks like production and TV contract obligations trumped the fact that Dana is managing a sport with rules and presentations that change greatly when you mess with the format.
Imagine showing up at a spring training tryout for a baseball team, and they hustle you into teams have you play three innings, and then send half the guys home. Some of those players are going to feel they got a raw deal.
And some of the fighters who lost their bouts are going to feel that way too, especially with roughly half the fights going to the judges cards.
Both the coaches, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, expressed concern that the one round format didn’t give them much to go on when scouting for team selections. It is hard to assess talent with so little actual in ring time to review.
Thankfully, the format returns to fights with multiple rounds for the rest of the season, so there is a chance the UFC won’t repeat the mistake they made here.
Bottom line is that I am not going to pick a favorite for this season, I just haven’t seen enough of the fighters either. And that is a shame, because with the live format, it could have opened the possibility up for some of the books to take bets on the reality series.
It is a shame – if live fights, and at the network’s convenience, 1 round fights, are going to be the only changes to that come to ‘TUF’ with the new contract, then excuse me if I’m not impressed.