With two finales set to go, The Ultimate Fighter may be losing momentum


The Ultimate Fighter was originally created as an experimental show to gauge if reality TV based on MMA would work, and has produced a number of successful fighters for the UFC. It has also given many unknown fighters a chance to rapidly catapult their names into relevancy via the show, something that would have taken them years otherwise, if it ever happened. And of course, the TUF Season 1 finale between Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar is given credit for propelling the UFC into its current age of prominence.


However, as more and more fighters enter the UFC, creating the necessity for more diluted cards, serious fans of MMA have begun to question the true relevancy that The Ultimate Fighter holds for today’s rapidly moving MMA world. Take the two most recent seasons of TUF that were filmed here within the United States. The first, TUF:Live, featuring Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber as coaches, was an experiment in itself that ultimately saw a ratings decline and not a ton of fan allegiance. Perhaps the Friday night time slot had a great deal to do with this. Seeing Michael Chiesa triumph in the wake of his father’s passing was truly inspirational. I’m just not sure enough fans tuned in to see his emotional victories take place. 


The second season of TUF on its new network FX will end this weekend when Mike Ricci faces off with Colton Smith at Welterweight. Again, at the Friday night time slot, the viewership of this season has been less than stellar. This may depend on the coaches, as Shane Carwin seemed to legitimately care about his team and tried to better them. Ricci has stated he did not think there was anything that he could learn after training at TriStar with Rory MacDonald and Georges St-Pierre, but that he surprisingly did get much better. Roy Nelson’s team, on the other hand, has constantly complained throughout the year about the lackadaisical attitude of their training while being alienated by the odd strategies of Coach Nelson and his team. 


Perhaps choosing a fighter best known for his huge gut was not the best choice of action for a TUF coach, especially when you are trying to up the ratings on a new network. Dana White expressed his ire towards Nelson on several different occasions. Also, the season-ending fight with Nelson facing Shane Carwin had to be canceled because of an injury to Carwin. Now, Nelson will face Matt Mitrione at the finale. Is that truly a fight that UFC fans will be clamoring to see, especially in a year full of outcry surrounding too many watered-down cards? I would have answer that question with a resounding no.


That brings us to the debut of two TUF seasons in countries outside the US, one in Brazil and another featuring Great Britain versus Australia. The first Brazilian season, coached by Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, brought us a very lackluster finale that failed to deliver for Brazil in my opinion. Belfort was hurt, so the main bout featured Silva versus Rich Franklin, hardly a headlining bout in my eyes. Now, we are set to see George Sotiropolous face off against Ross Pearson in the finale of TUF: The Smashes this weekend. Nothing against either fighter, but is this the bout to headline a Friday night card when many are losing interest in the UFC due to so many events? I know that big names don’t always result in great events, but casual fans most likely don’t care about that.


It doesn’t seem to be working right now, we will see how the ratings turn out for the two cards this weekend. Obviously the UFC has taken notice as well, scheduling a move to Tuesday for next season and signing two huge names as coaches in Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. The two will face off in April for the ultra-prestigious UFC Light Heavyweight title, so there is much at stake here. Expect a spike in ratings for sure next spring, but if the UFC needs to go all-out to sustain any bit of lasting popularity for their reality show, can that be a good sign? I’m all for unknown fighters getting their shot at national exposure, but is this turning into too much of a good thing? Where do you think The Ultimate Fighter should head as fans?

  • Too many events? Fvck you Mike Drahota, and Mitrione vs Nelson is going to be awesome.

    • Yea the problem isnt too many ufc events…It Shitty Fight Cards…cards used to be stacked now they put 1 or 2 fights on a ppv card people actually get excited about..as far a TUF i think the problem is Not So Talented Fighters=boring fights for new fans…unpopular coaches nobody really cares about..and like it or not the show needs more of the reality aspect special since the fights suck.

    • Dropping the F bomb from behind your computer is awesome. And sorry, but Mitrione vs. Nelson is not a headlining bout bro.

      • i know cool guy right? he can read he just cant comprehend the article, so dont blame him some people mis-interpret life and lash out at those who are "brighter".

    • yea not as awesome as carwin vs nelson would of been. plus that was a tenth of the article if your going to pick on the article at least be smart about it and not pick out one sentence, because chances are, people like u will find anything to talk crap on, it gets old.

    • yea not as awesome as carwin vs nelson would of been. plus that was a tenth of the article if your going to pick on the article at least be smart about it and not pick out one sentence, because chances are, people like u will find anything to talk crap on, it gets old.

  • With free FOX live, PPV main events, and TUF seasons there is so much happening at UFC.

    Cards are getting thinner, more injuries are happening and there is less time to promote a single event. Old school stars are retiring, there are more weight classes and now there is a new womens class.

    Lets face it, the UFC has to keep pumping out reality shows to try to manufacture new talent. GSP, Anderson won't be fighting forever….They need to hype up and create new products….

    The UFC will keep flogging a dead horse in ultimate fighter until the network says no more because of declining ratings. They are not quite there yet but eventually it will happen like any other tv show.

    In UK vs Australia TUF, the major ratings boost attempt was when three british guys used a personal mobile phone in the house breaking the rules…A whole show was focussed on this never happening in TUF history…thats why this show is becoming irratating. Creating reality shows out of knobs throwing chairs in the house and having food fights and a guy forgetting to take his adhd medication and fliping out

  • The problem is not the concept, it's the format. The format has become boring and predictable. Particularly the… lets get drunk and trash the house, episode. Also, being on Friday night hasn't helped and the move to FUEL cost them a lot of viewership. I think everyone had SPIKE and not everyone has FUEL.

    However, I think the real problem is the lack of promoting the actual fighters. The audience has no emotional investment in any of these guys. It's just guys getting into the cage and fighting. Most times it's not even a good fight. I think the lack of an audience also hurts the show. It's like they're fighting in someone's garage.

    To turn TUF around I think they need to personalize the fighters more. Maybe start with less fighters in the house and they don't fight every episode. What if the show started with only 4 or 6 fighters and the show is just about them training, getting ready for the fight, with the show ending with the fight(s). The value in that show, as I see it, is not in the fights, but in getting to know / promoting the fighters.

    …and get rid of the "coaches challenge". It's boring.

  • While TUF doesn't compare to PPV or the Fox cards, don't underestimate the effect it has, which can't be measured in rating alone. In the ever expanding media world of a zillion cable channels and be able to stream every show ever made, market share is hard to maintain.

    Unlike most shows, which generally become more expensive the longer they are on the air, the TUF show costs haven't really gone up that much. Not by TV standards.

    It's a reality show, and while it might be repetitive to the serious fan, they have a wide appeal. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by Mike Chiesa's story.

    My wife will watch the really big UFC fights, but doesn't ever miss a TUF episode. She always has her favorites in the show, more for who she likes than how they fight, but she still ends up getting really into it.

    And she enjoys the house drama more than the fighting. So while they shows can be boring, and repetitive if you've been watching for awhile, it does help take MMA to a wider audience.

    And it is definitely better than no TUF.

    • Well said. Great anecdotal point about your wife and what a female fan (an audience that they wish to cultivate) wants to see / enjoys.

      I personally think that they'd be better off weeding out the lesser fighters and bring in only the fighters who will fight in the finals. Make the whole show about the training, lead-up, drama and hype. Focus on a few fighters and let us get to really know them.

      To be honest, I'd probably even give the house a couple of cute house keepers, cooks etc. Some excuse to add a female component and tension to the house, would help. Anything to add a different dynamic to the show and some drama. Heck, put a few women in the house trying out to be the next ring girl. Something, other than heavily tattooed who put on the occasional good fight, in front of no crowd.

      Your wife is right. The drama is the best part of the show and they need more of it. Weird, a show about fighting need less fighting and more build-up to the fight. More back-story.

      • Women only watch TUF show to perve on the guys…lets be realistic….

        They are not into leg kicks, triangle, anaconda. Maybe 5% of women dig submission, ground game, ground and pound, but the rest are there just to watch guys train without shirts. You can't blame the women when they look at their partners with massive beer guts.

        there is a no drama in TUF, its just trash talk,food fights, and people flipping out mentally.