Must we go down this road again? Chael Sonnen thinks so. In fact, he spoke in great length to MMAJunkie about changing the show’s narrative, although what he really means is altering its perception from Real Life: Las Vegas to a legitimate mixed martial arts tournament. If the show’s producers would for even a moment entertain that idea, his words might actually mean something. But since the format will remain the exact same, it’s really just Sonnen being Sonnen: selling shit.
“That first season was nasty. You’ve got guys like Nate Quarry that didn’t win it, and look how great he is. You’ve got guys like Josh Koscheck that did not win it. Stephan Bonnar. Kenny Florian. These guys didn’t win it, and that’s when you can really understand that first season.”
First of all, Nate Quarry never had a chance to win it. He got injured. Koscheck was strictly a wrestler then. Florian was a lightweight fighting at middleweight. And Bonnar, the more I watch that epic fight, probably should have won.
“When you see the guys that don’t get into the house – when you see the black belts and the champions and the veterans and the flat-out studs with very incredible resumes that did not get into the house – that’s when you’re going to understand how loaded this bracket is. The No. 1 thing that I’m going to do is we’re going to change the narrative of this show. This is not a frat show, and it is not a reality show. I don’t know how those terms ever got coined. This is a tournament, period.”
If it was truly just a tournament, they wouldn’t focus so heavily on the house antics. If it was not a frat show, they wouldn’t stock the house to the tits with booze. And if it was truly not a reality show, they would take those talented fighters who didn’t make it into the house instead of the guy with the stupid hair and emotional issues.
Sonnen is delusional, although that’s no shocker. Of course the term “reality show” is meaningless, and that’s because it’s impossible to create reality. Reality just happens. When the cameras are rolling and people know it, they’re playing a part. TUF is a television show, plain and simple.
All the way back to the greats – Royce Gracie and Dan Severn and Ken ‘Never Should Have Been in the Octagon in the First Place’ Shamrock – they never went through anything like this. Those guys did a great job. Those guys got me in the sport, the Don Fryes and the ‘Tank’ Abbotts, the real fighters. But it’s nothing like a 32-man tournament. It’s nothing like having to make weight five times, fight five times, have no preparation, not have your coach, not have your team, not sleeping in your own bed – and be expected to win anyway. It’s nothing like that.
I won’t argue with Chael here. TUF is a brutal challenge. But calling it a 32-man tournament, while essentially true, is quite misleading. If it was a 32-man tournament then it’d be about the fights, not who ate whose chicken, or who sent whose mattress on a boat ride, or who pissed in whose Gatorade. It’d be a show about, duh, fighting.
“Somewhere, somebody called this a reality show, and I just don’t get it. So is the Super Bowl. It’s reality, and it’s a show, but I don’t get it. This is real. This is the realest tournament ever. We have a guy that lost his job for taking this opportunity. He’s got a wife and kid, and if he doesn’t win this, he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him. I could name a few of those stories like that. The sacrifice that these guys are going through to put it all on the line, it’s humbling.”
This is exactly why TUF sucks. They focus too much on this sort of stuff. And it’s not like people don’t care. They do. Hell, I respect that some guy has that much faith in his ability and that much drive to realize his dreams that he can actually bet it all on the financial stability of his family. But we all have our own problems. Try selling a guy who has been out of work for two years on some other guy who willingly gave up his job to chase a dream. He’d probably consider him a fool.
The reality is that people will only truly care about the personal narratives of the contestants if they achieve something in the Octagon. The obvious proof is that Sonnen was chosen to coach alongside Jon Jones for the next season, leap-frogging about five legitimate light-heavyweights, and will be granted a title shot at the show’s conclusion, despite not fighting in the division since 2006, all for the purpose of…wait for it…helping the show’s poor ratings. Why? Because he and Jones have accomplished some shit in the Octagon, and people will care enough to watch. Until the TUF participants do the same, the caring stops once the television gets turned off.