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How to fix The Ultimate Fighter, 2011 edition

With this past Saturday wrapping up what many consider to be the worst season of the Ultimate Fighter in the history of the show, it seems pretty obvious that the show needs to be shaken up a bit. And no, I don’t think bringing Mayhem Miller and Michael Bisping in as coaches constitutes that shake up, no matter how entertaining I’m sure they’ll be. With next season being numero 14 and international versions of TUF about to sprout around the world, it’s time to take a close look at the UFC’s flagship TV program and see what can be done to revitalize it again.

Make it for a million dollars
The ‘six figure UFC contract’ TUF winners earned might have been impressive back in 2006, but it’s pretty weak in a world where fighter pay can jump so quickly off a few impressive performances. The show just isn’t attracting prospects any more because it’s several weeks of hell for the slim chance to win a long term deal of questionable attractiveness. And on the viewership side, TUF fighters often end up in the UFC regardless of whether they win the show or not, making the ultimate prize pretty meaningless to them.

But a million bucks – a nice big number used by many other reality show competitions – could change things around. These guys are prize fighters, so it makes sense to offer a better a prize if you want better fighters. That doesn’t just apply to the winner. Fighters should be paid for the fights they have on TUF. It doesn’t have to be crazy money, but we’re past the day where you can expect a professional fighter to fight several times for nothing. If the price is right, you’d have all the top prospects you could ever want clamoring to get on the show. Surely there must be some money lying around considering the UFC gives away over 100,000 in bonuses after every event.

Open TUF up to fighters who are already in the UFC
TUF exists to turn new fighters into stars. But why shouldn’t guys already in the UFC be allowed a chance to shine too? If the UFC wants to convince people that the contestants on TUF are worthy of being in the UFC, what better way than to mix them in with existing UFC fighters? Sure, you’d need a step up in the quality of contestants you bring in, but that’s kinda the point of all these changes. There’s also nothing saying you have to let the Jon Fitches of the world in – fighter selection would obviously still be at the UFC and Spike’s discretion.

Stop letting the coaches pick the fights
Matchmaking is an extremely important part of mixed martial arts. Not only does the person who picks the fights have a major advantage in knowing who’ll win, but it also determines how entertaining a fight will be. On TUF, winning a fight earns your team control of matchmaking and this has often led to one team holding onto control and picking the other team apart.

It’s also led to a lot of terrible fights where weak fighters survive by facing handpicked opponents who’s holes are exploitable. We’ve seen the result of this season after season: the opening round where coaches get matchmaking control is terrible while things get more interesting in the semis when a consensus on fights needs to be reached. That also ties us into the next point:

Force the coaches to spend more time together
I don’t know if this is the answer to how matchmaking on TUF should be handled, but you could always force the coaches to sit down with Dana and hammer out what matchup should happen in each episode. The obvious advantage to this is that it forces the coaches to deal with each other on a weekly basis in stressful situations where there’s bound to be disagreement. But that’s just one random idea – the important part of all this is forcing more coach interaction.

One of the biggest problems with the current TUF situation is there’s so little mixing between coaches – they may run into each other as one team arrives to train and the other leaves. Past that there’s just weigh-ins, fight announcements, and the fights themselves, where it’s easy enough to stay in your corner and focus on your coaching job. Contrast these situations to the coaching challenge in every season, a fan favorite where coaches have no choice but to deal with each other. Surely some smart television people can sort out more ways to make these guys spar. It’s what the fans want to see.

There’s a bunch of other things the show could do, but if I wrote them out I’d just be rehashing the list I made way way back in 2007. A lot of those ideas still stand true as well, especially getting rid of the losers and giving fighters more rewards. But a lot of those ideas are light cosmetic switch ups. The most important changes that need to be made are the ones that would see the quality of the competition go up, and there’s no better way to accomplish that than by dangling a bigger carrot and opening up TUF to the UFC’s own talent pool.

  • Reverend Clint

    new locale like california or something.

    let the guys train at where they stay. Coaches stay there too. Let them get out more and less booze.

    The fighters maybe having more guest coaches.

    boss battle against a seasoned UFC fighter instead of a semi final fight.

    10k per fight won and an extra perk like a night with family for a ko or sub. I bet more guys would fight harder and not quit that that black guy did this season if they had a shot to see there kids/gf/wife/golden retriever.

    a shot at 1 million dollars and 5 fight contract. if after 3 fights won they get a shot at a contender and if they win that the champ.

  • glassjawsh

    how to fix TUF, by glassjawsh:
    cancel the show

  • iamphoenix

    “if after 3 fights won they get a shot at a contender and if they win that the champ.”

    so how’s third grade treating you?

  • Reverend Clint

    hows that 3rd grader treating you?

  • lukustra

    all solid ideas and the number one contender season was awesome too but considering that almost every season theres a fighter who has his career ended in that house, its tough to get good prospects.

  • lukustra

    additionally with most good prospects either a.) feeling theyre only about another win away from getting a shot in the ufc b.) dont want to rush into their stint in the ufc or c.) simply apply into the UFC which is now possible, there is no reason for anyone to put their body thru that anymore. most of the guys in the house this season have been TRAINING, not just FIGHTING but TRAINING for 2-3 years. theyre no bodies looking to be famous/make a quick buck.

  • lukustra

    additionally with most good prospects either a.) feeling theyre only about another win away from getting a shot in the ufc b.) dont want to rush into their stint in the ufc or c.) simply apply into the UFC which is now possible, there is no reason for anyone to put their body thru that anymore. most of the guys in the house this season have been TRAINING, not just FIGHTING but TRAINING for 2-3 years. theyre no bodies looking to be famous/make a quick buck.

  • lukustra

    remember its not about how many fights youve had in mma, its talent level. a fighter with 2 fights can easily beat a fighter with 30 fights. thats why each season theres at least 1 guy thats greatly superior to everyone is the house. tony looked like he was beating on a kindergardener in chuck in the SEMI FINALS.

  • Joon4s

    Million bucks is a lot considering that the winners usually aren’t worth even the 6-figure sum.

  • P W

    Using TUF as a way of finding and evaluating talent is just flawed, and it makes the UFC seem like a joke. Sometimes it appears like UFC events only exist so that the cast from TUF will have something to do after the series is finished. No one is stupid enough to think going through a reality show is a natural part of the recruiting process except Dana White and Donald Trump.

    Cancel that shit already.

  • Letibleu

    TV producers have a hand in the pickings I think.

  • agentsmith

    I’m almost positive they get $5K bonuses for finishing fights on the show.

    But like you said, the premise of this show is that the winner gets a contract… but often everyone who made it to the semifinals (or not even that far) gets a shot too, with an almost identical contract from what I’ve seen.  So there’s no real reward for actually winning the show… the winners from the first couple seasons at least got a Scion car, but I think that may have ended as early as Season 3.  I’d suggest something like a 6-figure prize for winning the show, PLUS the contract.

    I think the biggest problem is that it seems like most of the good minor-league fighters aren’t bothering with TUF, and are working their way into the UFC the old-fashioned way.  The guys on TUF are usually still pretty green, and use the show to get a shortcut into the big leagues, knowing that the UFC usually brings up the TUF alumni slowly while giving them more attention than they actually deserve.

  • frickshun

    Ryan–>let me get this straight… wanna give a MILLION dollars to the winner? Okay, so you wanna pay some scrub more than the top fighters in the UFC (barring the PPV cut guys) make in a year…..for winning a dumb reality show?? How do you think that will sit w/the current guys on the UFC roster?

    This past season was the 1st time I didn’t watch a single episode. And I feel good about it.

    The real reason we don’t care about the show any more is b/c we get a helluva lot more free fights between UFN, prelims, Facebook & Versus. Not to mention Bellator, Strikefarce & HDNet stuff. When TUF 1st came out, I was clamoring for content. Now I get to pick & choose how I waste my time (usually it’s on FL).


  • Letibleu

    You’re being cunty. I agree with cunty this time.

  • glassjawsh

    angry frick is back

    this pleases me

  • P W

    But the whole concept was thrown overboard right after the first season. I think everybody was under the impression that the winner of the show would get to move on to the UFC, but everybody else wouldn’t. That was the premise, and that was the prize. But then when it turned out that seemingly every single fucking cast member became a recurring PPV fighter unless they begged Dana NOT to, the original purpose of the show got lost.

    Now the idea behind the show simply seems to generally promote the UFC, and get the audience emotionally attached to a fighter through recognition, and I’m not even sure how well that works, since 95% of the participants come of as cronically unlikeable emotionally unstable meatheads. And the last thing they deserve is more money, that’s for damn sure.

  • frickshun

    ^^PW summed it up nicely.

  • Letibleu

    Agreed. with PW.

    We like seeing consequences. Thats why we enjoy this reality tv stuff. The public enjoys seeing people go through really bad shit we wouldnt want to go through ourselves. We like to see others suffer. Fear factor was the first to push that enveloppe if my memory serves me right.\

    The first TUF I saw was season 4. I was heavy into Pride back then and had not followed TUF at all. I tracked down season 1 and was stunned to find most of those fighters that were in the season were fighters I recogfnized  fighting in the UFC. The bedazzle of the show wore off immediately. I was under the impression that the show was there to give someone with a little chance of getting into the UFC a chance to get a crack at the big show. Since then I find it retarded. Show should be about guys that dont quite have it in the UFC but one of them gets to try it full time with a shitty contract but good enough of one to try it while training full time to see what happens.