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By: Brad Walker, MMATorch Columnist
The Ultimate Fighter has seen its ratings decline heavily over the past season, even with the new format of live fights mixed with pre-recorded footage in the house. The ratings have been beyond dismal, and although the folks at FX are happy with them, you know deep down it's killing Dana White that the decline has been so sharp and sudden. This is the show that brought MMA to America's doorstep, and in turn made UFC much more mainstream, exposing millions who had shied away from the sport previously to the art of the Octagon. How can this show possibly be saved, what will it take, and with the removal of the live gimmick, how will it fair? I have a few ideas on how to make the show cool, or at least better again – then again, you may think my ideas suck, but hey, that's what keeps things fun.
I remember the season of TUF that featured comebacks by previous UFC fighters going to war for another shot on the big stage of MMA. This would be a relatively successful way to make this show a hit again: provide names people recognize battling it out for another chance to be a star in the sport. There are numerous former UFC champions out there trying to find their ticket back into the organization - so why not give them a chance? You could split it into two weight classes, preferably heavyweights and middleweights, then go forward from there to your selection process. There are some downsides to this argument, however, like how much Zuffa would probably have to shell out to get these guys to even do the show.
Names like Tim Sylvia, Rumble Johnson, Sean McCorkle, Andre Arlovski, Renato Sobral and even Nate Marquardt jump to the top of the list. The problem as I said is these guys still generally demand high salaries, and some had very bad breaks from the UFC when they left. The premise of the comeback show is more intriguing to me than a bunch of middle of the stack fighters going at it under two less than entertaining coaches while I fast forward to the fight. Let's face it; the show is incredibly boring, almost to the point that reading a rundown of the events taking place puts me to sleep. It's become so incredibly repetitive that I don't even know what to do with myself when I find it on my DVR – do I delete it and read Jamie Penick's rundown or do I fast forward through 55 minutes of boredom to watch a lackluster fight?
Dana White and the folks at FX should work together to make this show marketable and watchable again – hell I don't even care if they do TUF: Celebrities – as long as it keeps me awake. Use any gimmick you need to make it relevant again, because at this point on Fridays I'm watching Bellator, not TUF. Everything that can go wrong with this show has; it's gotten stale, it's gotten repetitive, and the coaches always seem to wind up injured and unable to fight. There's no blow off at the end to make us feel like we earned anything from watching the show for an entire season. If TUF goes any further south in the ratings it's going to start making Impact Wrestling seem like a powerhouse.
Let me know what you'd like to see on TUF in the future; personally I'd like to see another comebacks season or another heavyweights season, as those were both extremely entertaining to watch. FX is happy with crummy ratings on a Friday night – UFC is obviously not, and they need to turn the boat around as quickly as possible. It's become a third run show, it's not even second string for people with DVR's anymore. There are a vast amount of things I'd rather do with my Friday night then watch underwhelming fights between guys who will never crack into the top 20 in their division. Can it be saved may be the question to ask, but I don't know if anyone truly has that answer. Let's cross our fingers and hope that next season we get something that we actually want to watch – not something that feels like a burden to the DVR's of the world.
Questions? Comments? Follow me on twitter @BradMMATorch
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