In case you missed it, our friends at MMAjunkie.com broke the news yesterday that it appears that one of the new wrinkles for “The Ultimate Fighter” reality TV show promised by UFC president Dana White is that the final cast has been expanded from 16 fighters to 32. And all fighters must fight and win before they can be assigned to a team and allowed to take up residence in the TUF mansion.
I have no inside info on the concept in which Spike plans to deliver the possible addition of 16 fights to the show’s season. However, the news has me extremely excited and curious. Curious enough that I’ve actually been trying to envision how the new format will look and how the additional fights will be presented.
I envision two scenarios:
1) The fights will all be recorded and shown in a montage. The show opens with Dana White in front of 32 hungry fighters saying, “Do you want to be a f#$%@#* fighter!? Well, we made some changes for this season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and one of those changes happens right now. You’re going to have to fight your way into the house… right now!” They then cut to a reaction shot of some fighters being excited about fighting right away while others react and go, “Oh crap, I have to fight right now!?” Then we’ll see some confessional interviews and a minor buildup of some of the more interesting fighters. From there, Mr. Narrator will say some words, they’ll cut to a commercial and when they come back we’re blitzed with a montage of the finishes to the fights and Mr. Narrator voice talks about who goes into the house and who goes home.
2) They take a huge departure from the show’s format and they show wall-to-wall fights for the first 3-4 episodes. What if TUF became a fight show and we see ALL 16 first-round fights in their entirety with no editing? What if the initial drama was simply winning and losing and who stays and who goes? No drama over who ends up on what team, who misses their girlfriend, angry outbursts, etc. What I envision with this format is similar to BodogFIGHT’s format with a bunch of fights taped in a secure location. Many hardcore fans have asked for a weekly fight show that isn’t a reality show. It’s a tremendous asset for a promotion to have a weekly TV presence as opposed to a periodical one. One day we’ll see a live weekly MMA fight series like the old Tuesday Night Fights on USA and the Friday Night Fights that currently air on ESPN2. But a live weekly series isn’t in the cards right now and the Bodog format of showing first run fights that are taped might be a better concept than some people want to give credit for.
I am hearby publicly begging the UFC and Spike TV to go with scenario two. Blow us away by completely revamping the show and showing us every single first round fight. I don’t think this concept is too radical. Look at American Idol. They don’t start with the final field of contestants and instead take you inside the final casting process showing everyone the good, the bad, and the ugly. Showing every single fight for the first 3-4 episodes is similar in that viewers will be brought into the final round of casting by seeing who actually makes the final cast of 16 and goes into the house.
One request though; if the UFC and Spike TV go with a wall-to-wall fights format I hope they use announcers. No announcing for one fight at the end of a show is fine. But I find there’s an overwhelming lack of energy when multiple fights are shown with no announcing and no crowd. Hearing Matt Serra yell, “I need you to breath for me! DON’T YOU TAP!” is okay for the first few minutes but ten minutes of nothing but communication from the corner becomes a little stagnant. I understand there can’t be a crowd there due to the risk of someone running to the Internet and immediately spilling the beans, but the announcers can be sworn to secrecy. Hell, why not have Forrest Griffin and Rampage do the announcing with Mike Goldberg for the first round of fights before anyone is assigned to their team? It would be very interesting to hear them talk about fighters they may end up “drafting” and it would be a great way to expose more of the public to their personalities.
Wow, suddenly I am excited about “The Ultimate Fighter” again!
While I am in beg mode, let me also politely request that Spike TV turn the April 2 UFC Fight Night 13 telecast into a three-hour extravaganza. The card is way too stacked to just show four matches. There are usually repeats of “Unleashed” at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. that serve as a warmup before the live broadcast. But what better way to get us hyped for the feature matches by showing us some live prelims? I realize a three hour Fight Night telecast and a season premiere of TUF 7 means four hours of first-run MMA programming but real fans will hang for the entire duration.