Writer: Tim McNamara for Cageside Fight Co
November 12, 2012
The Death of TUF
When I was a kid, I had to trick my mom into renting the original UFC’s from Blockbuster so that I could watch them. They were marked Youth Restricted Viewing like most of the cool stuff at Blockbuster, but it worked, and I watched Royce attack the joints and breathing of multiple opponents on one night. Where boxing had been my first love of fighting, martial arts in general then took over forever.
For years, the internet became the only place to find information about Mixed Martial Arts. It was relegated to relative obscurity due to McCain and others deriding it as human cockfighting. I would read sherdog forums and use my dial-up internet connection to download fights from Pride and the latest UFC while I was asleep and watch them the next afternoon when I got home from school.
We as MMA fans now find ourselves as purists, lampooning and deriding the fact that so many UFC events to watch in a month’s time that “none of the fights on the card matter” or “they’re not worthy of Pay-Per-View”.
In a month’s time from October to November there will be no less than 4 separate UFC events, all of which are available on cable TV or non-PPV channels. Some of us may not have Fuel TV (Who does? Seriously? I’d rather see the fights than stream them online the next day) but we can still watch UFC programming on FX and Fox networks respectively various other weekends.
With the advent of times when a month of UFC programming that exists entirely on cable and/or free TV (TUF, UFC on Fox, UFC on Fuel); the Ultimate Fighter series continues to limp along like a show in its final seasons where the writers have clearly run out of ideas and it’s only nostalgia that keeps us coming back.
TUF has most recently become a way to branch into new markets like the UK and Brazil and now Australia, and this may represent its last remaining purpose and novelty. Brazil’s Ultimate Fighter season, or “TUF do Brasil”, was actually refreshing. Hearing the lives of fighters from a different culture and with a different outlook on fighting and training and the like; I found myself actually interested in fighters on the show, much more so than I had been for probably 5 years of TUF in America. The UK vs USA TUF series was a welcome change of pace as well in several years’ worth of otherwise forgettable TUF seasons.
The hardcore fans of the sport will track down these TUF seasons and watch them online. We won’t complain or spend the next weekend on various MMA sites complaining about the lack of relevance, lack of talent, or lack of novelty. But if TUF should continue, let it be as a market-building tool and use that new market, with fighters from cultures different from our own bringing something new to the show’s rather limited format.
Instead of the older days of the UFC when guys we’d never heard of populated the undercard of a PPV while the main card was marquee names, now, the undercard is TUF alumni, with a few last minute replacements, and the main card is increasingly full of less than high profile match-ups as the meaningful fights must be spread across headline spots for Fox, FX, Fuel, and of course Pay-Per-View.