The UFC has decided to take the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter in a radically new direction, one that will feature Ronda Rousey vs. the winner of Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate as coaches. It will be the first time that Women Fighters have ever been featured as coaches, buts what’s more, both female and male fighters will share the house this time around.
This could be both a good and a bad thing for the standing of TUF, and for many reasons. Let’s start off by taking a look at the positive aspects that could arise from a co-ed season.
Obviously, both the male and female UFC Bantamweight divisions could use an influx of talent. Both are young and relatively top-heavy, with Rousey making the women’s side a one-woman show right now. Getting some top quality fighters who could immediately contend into the promotion is a must, and killing two birds with one stone is no doubt an ambitious and potentially good move.
Also, the UFC Women’s Bantamweight division could use some more exposure. Sure, almost everyone knows about Rousey by now, but again, it’s probably not in the UFC’s best interest to have her as an unstoppable champion because then the female side of the UFC will get too predictable and boring, and may lose its luster much too quickly. Giving them the limelight of a TUF season could and most likely will gain some good media exposure to further the division. Tate or Zingano could provide a respectable rival to Rousey.
On the other side of the coin, however, things could get a bit messy. Many have begun early criticisms of the show’s format, viewing it as a quick money grab due to controversy and/or sex appeal. I must admit, it does feel like a season of The Real World: UFC is about to play out. There’s not much doubt that two or more of the contestants will end up romantically ‘linked,’ lending to the ‘sex sells’ avenue of television for the UFC.
Perhaps this is what they want. After all, it does sell, and sell well for the most part. And The Ultimate Fighter, although currently featuring some of the best talent it’s had in years, as undergone a steady ratings decline over the years. The UFC brass is probably thinking they need a fresh avenue and direction to take, although this one is quite the radical choice.
Which brings me to another possibility, because although Rousey is a huge draw, UFC Bantamweights as a whole have not been. With that said, I do see people possibly losing interest due to the lower weight class being featured. If ratings drop when some of the most talented divisions are fighting, could 135 lbs. be a bit of a risky undertaking. I think that they could.
The UFC could be banking on Rousey’s popular name to carry the show, and it very well could. But will it be too much of a good thing? Rousey has recently stated that she doesn’t want to be the only female fighter to carry the torch for Women’s MMA, and that’s a fair request. But it seems as if the UFC is quite content with heaping it all upon her shoulders.
Hopefully some new female contenders come along and give Rousey a run for her money. Even if they lose, I just hope they can be competitive so Rousey’s one-round destructions don’t get too stale and make the division a novelty act. The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 is new, it’s groundbreaking, but it also seems like a money grab to me. It does sacrifice a bit of respect for martial arts and MMA as a sport, and it does so for the sake of good TV ratings.
Perhaps it will be a good thing for the UFC and MMA as a whole, bring more talent to the 135 divisions for both men and women while simultaneously introducing a new and diverse set of fans to the great sport of MMA. It could also turn longtime viewers of TUF off to the show. And it could also turn out to be a drama-filled mess that has no cohesion in terms of focus on actual fighters and their talents within the Octagon. I’m interested to see how it actually plays out.
That’s what they’re counting on too. Love the idea or hate it, we’ll be watching. How do you think that Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter will play out?