Every show has its moment when it becomes passé. The generation that grew up on it gets older, the writers of the show change, or the culture of America changes, while the show doesn’t. When one of American’s iconic television shows Happy Days started to drop in ratings, it began to take gimmicky risks. In an episode, Fonzie attempts to jump over a shark in water-skis, an episode that is regarded as the moment in time when the show lost its moxie.
The UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter probably jumped that proverbial shark long ago. There’s nothing really wrong with the show. The UFC has put the spotlight on young fighters and presented its own form of reality TV to the masses. The problem, however, is that the show is just old and not really that original anymore. No longer is there a driving factor that makes people demand to watch the show. Here’s a look at some of the reasons the UFC should take a break from TUF.
Like The Real World, in the days of Puck and Pedro, The Ultimate Fighter once had originality and buzz. Chris Leben and Josh Koscheck kicked off the first season with hilarious hijinks, but these days the show lacks the surprise factor of the early episodes. Cable television is also already oversaturated with reality television, so behind-the-scenes brawls aren’t as novel. The shock factor is gone and the next Kimbo Slice just isn’t out there.
5. Tired formula
The UFC mixed it up this season by showcasing female coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, but that alone isn’t enough to fuel new interest. Essentially these up-and-coming MMA athletes compete for a chance to fight at the TUF finale, and then for a UFC contract. After 18 seasons, we have seen the rise and fall of the fighters, and we understand the struggles that they must go through to make it to the UFC. It’s not easy. Now what? Maybe the show should drop the teams and just pull names out of a hate every week and match those fighters? That would be less predictable.
4. Too Many Network Changes
Even if you were a hardcore fan of the show, it’s annoying to follow the show every time it jumps stations. The show debuted on Spike TV, then moved to FX, and now is on Fox Sports 1. So much of television ratings success is based on brand awareness. The status of a network can sometimes help a show. The Ultimate Fighter at one time was a strong ratings draw, but moving it Fox Sports 1 this season forced people to search for it on their cable guides. Some people simply will choose not to go hunt for the show. When ratings are up, it’s not because there’s a rise in hardcore fans. It’s usually because casual fans have caught on and are suddenly paying attention to the show. Casual fans won’t watch if the show’s not on the same channel, on the same night every week.
3. Uriah Hall
Hall was supposed to be the next big thing in MMA. He broke people’s jaws and knocked fighters cold with his kicks. Everybody was talking about him, and the so-called rising star was supposed to be a UFC star. He didn’t even win the show. Hall choked in the finale against Kevin Gastelum, losing by decision. Hall then lost in his UFC debut. Now Hall is scheduled to fight Season 1 fighter Chris Leben at UFC 168. When a guy who dominates so greatly on the show can’t win the big one and then must fight Leben, who was in his prime eight years ago, it’s a bad sign for the show.
2. It’s About the Coaches, Not The Fighters
The show has lost a lot of that gritty, raw feel. It used to be that you could root for the contestants because they were fighters you could identify with. They were hungry, with a dream and destiny. Now, the fighters too often feel like backdrops to the coaches. TUF 18 was really about promoting the Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate rematch. Earlier in the year, the show was really about building up the Chael Sonnen vs. Jon Jones fight. The show feels less organic and grassroots these days, and more corporate and manufactured.
1. Too Much MMA On Free TV
Back when TUF took off, there wasn’t a lot of MMA on television. In fact, TUF finale in 2005 was the first live, free MMA event on television. The show offered something unique and intriguing: an opportunity to see guys fighting inside a cage. But today, there’s enough MMA on free TV to satisfy even the most hardcore fan. The UFC competes with itself with so much live and repeat MMA programming on the various FOX stations. Bellator is on TV nearly every week and there’s even the World Series of Fighting every now and then. When some of the best MMA fighters in the world are already fighting on free television, it’s tough for people to get excited about less skilled fighters learning the art, in a controlled environment. American Idol has tossed its judges repeatedly in an attempt to give the show a fresh look. TUF needs to do the same, or considering taking a break from the show for a year.