I didn’t know how I felt about it initially, but I’m starting to warm up to the Tapout show that airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Versus.
Actually, “warm up” might be an understatement.
It took me a couple of episodes, but I finally get what the guys behind Tapout are about. I found the way they dressed and carried themselves to be a little annoying. The names were a little hard to get past, too. I mean, “Sky Scrape,” “Punkass,” and “Mask?”
However, they’ve been in the game for quite some time, even before MMA really started to take off. The Tapout crew is all about MMA and they are helping a lot of inexperienced fighters by sponsoring them. It’s not easy getting into the fight game because training consumes so much time, yet there are mouths to feed and bills to be paid. Whatever extra money a fighter can get is a huge help. I think that’s another advantage MMA has over boxing; in MMA there are more sponsorship opportunities for younger fighters. Young boxers have a tough time getting training time in and a lot of them don’t develop rapidly as fighters because they don’t have the resources. You can’t reach your full potential as a fighter if you don’t train full-time. That’s why so many of the guys on TUF like Rashad Evans and Kendall Grove look like completely different fighters than from when they were on the show.
Even though you might not be into their antics, the Tapout guys are all about furthering the sport so I have to take my hat off to them for that.
Besides doing a lot for MMA, they are also involved with some very interesting television. The fundamental concept behind Tapout and The Ultimate Fighter are pretty much the same, as each show is searching for the next MMA superstar. I just happen to enjoy the Tapout format a lot better. The funny thing is, the show is produced by Craig Piligian, the same guy behind TUF.
I’m just sick of the house concept on TUF. They cram the guys together, deprive them of just about everything, and completely take them out of their element. I know that the UFC wants them all focused on fighting, but does that make for great TV? Sure, we get our 2-3 big moments each season after fighters finally go beyond stir crazy but Tapout has offered at least 2-3 big moments per episode. Last night they profiled a fighter by the name of Matt Major, who trains with “Crazy” Bob Cook at AKA in San Jose.
Matt is a talented fighter and last night’s episode chronicled his pro debut. The kid has a lot of potential but is a little out of control. The Tapout guys traveled cross country with him on their tour bus all the way to a small show in Decatur, IL. The highlight of the show was towards the end after Major’s successful debut, in which another fighter tried to offer him some unsolicited advice backstage. Major didn’t take too kindly to it, got in his face, called him every name in the book and appeared ready to kill the poor kid. Watching Major’s outbursts throughout the entire show was entertaining, to say the least.
Major also is deeply attached to his George Foreman grill. Going so far as to take it with him on the tour bus and cook with it even though Tapout’s bus had plenty of food and multiple ways to prepare it. I think Major even made a meal for himself inside his hotel room. The problem is, I don’t think the kid has cleaned the outside of it since he bought it! If you’re too lazy to clean the outside of it, at least get the model that comes in black, and not the off-white. So yes, the show has a comedy element too.
Another area where Tapout excels that TUF doesn’t is that it really getting behind the scenes of the fight game. They go out to each fighter’s individual camp. Last week they went to “The Pit,” which is where Chuck Liddell trains. This week they gave a lot of camera time to Bob Cook, who also trains Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, and Jon Fitch.
But while at The Pit, they followed a young fighter by the name of Antonio Banuelos, who just happens to be Chuck Liddell’s training partner, friend, and personal assistant.
Like the episode with Major, there were a lot of comedic elements here as well. After they got done showing Banuelos busting his ass in training, they showed the reality of his life in that once he got home, he was basically Chuck Liddell’s bitch. Hey, I’m not taking a cheap shot at the kid, he said it himself! But he not only said it, we got to see him cooking for Chuck, handling autograph requests, and doing his laundry. The camera shot of Antonio literally holding Chuck’s jock strap was hilarious. Subtle, yet hilarious.
TUF tries to re-create a fighter’s team dynamic by having a coach for two separate teams each year. But I would much prefer to see each fighter in their natural training environment. You just get a better feel for who they are and what kind of training they’re getting. I actually think TUF should consider changing formats. Keep the tournament concept, but get rid of the teams. Every man for himself. But most importantly, let them stay home! Let’s see what their family life is about, let’s see who they train with, and how hard they train. The house is just too constrictive and mundane.
By getting out of the house, TUF would give more exposure to established fighters than the current format. Under the current format, you have two coaches named before the season and that’s it. By adopting the Tapout format, it creates the potential of showing a number of fighters under UFC contract over the course of the season. Before Tapout, I knew who Bob Cook and John Hackleman (Chuck Liddell’s coach) were, but I had no idea what they were like. In just one episode I feel like I have a much better grasp of why fighters who train under them are successful. Granted, with the Tapout format, the UFC would have to put themselves in situations where coaches and fighters not under contract to Zuffa would get some exposure. However, the element of outsiders is one that the current season of TUF has pursued greatly this season. With a different format, you wouldn’t need to bring in guys like Randy Couture and Karo Parisyan to spice up the show because with the Tapout format, you aren’t taking away from their family and friends. If the UFC wants to pursue the dynamic of Karo and Manny Gamburyan being family, then just send the cameras to their home!
In some ways, Matt Major reminded me of Corey Hill. Both talented guys with no pro experience that talk to themselves and appear out of control at times (Major more so than Hill). We get to hear Hill’s story on TUF. But we got to SEE some of Major’s story on Tapout. Hill will talk about his family and his experiences in life, but I’d much rather see a camera there to document some of it.
Joe Lauzon is another guy I’d like to see outside of the house. Dana called him an Internet nerd “who will rip your f***ing head off.” Joe apparently works as a computer programmer, which really goes against the stereotype of a fighter. His younger brother, Dan, also competes MMA. But we don’t get to see any of that… we only get to hear about it. I just feel like there is a whole show going on that we don’t get to see. And I think TUF and the UFC are missing out by not showing us what really goes on behind the scenes. So many people were captivated by the first season of TUF because they had no idea what fighters were like and what they went through. But as I’ve been saying, TUF doesn’t even show you a quarter of what a fighter’s life is really like. We’ve seen five seasons of TUF now and we’re used to everything. It’s time to pull the curtain back even more and show us something new.
The way fights are presented at the end are much better too. TUF fights take place in an empty gym with a few fighters and some trainers watching. It’s so lifeless. The Tapout fights take place in front of small crowds and that really adds to the drama of the fight. The UFC can’t duplicate Tapout’s fight format because if a sizable crowd watched a match taped for later airing on TUF, the results would be out on the Internet almost in real-time.
But why not spend some money and tape the bouts live each week?
Instead of booking a small venue in Vegas each week, why doesn’t the UFC build a small television studio with a cage in it? Then, hire additional editors and a few more camera crews and send them out to where the fighters live. Have the crews spend a few weeks with the fighters leading up to their fight and then show the edited footage right before the fight goes live. I just think it would make for a more exciting show that would garner better ratings. Yes, the expenses behind producing such a show would be much higher than what Spike and the UFC spends now, but Zuffa can afford it.
If Tapout can do a lot of what I’m suggesting, why not the UFC?
So, for what it’s worth, I’m giving my endorsement to watching Tapout each week. And yes, I am actually saying that so far, I’m enjoying it more than The Ultimate Fighter. If you haven’t watched it, I think you should at least check it out. And if you watched it once and weren’t into it, I would recommend you watch it at least one more time and see if your feelings changed.
As always, I’m curious about everyone else’s thoughts on this matter.