If you didn’t enjoy last night’s season premiere for the seventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” then chances are you don’t like fighting.
The first episode of TUF 7 was pretty much nothing but fights. UFC president Dana White set the stage with a variation of his infamous “Do you want to be a f—— fighter” speech and informed the cast of 32 fighters that they would have to fight their way into the house.
Most of the fighters were stunned by the development but didn’t have much time to mope around because they had just 48 hours to make weight for their first fight. One fighter, John Clarke had to cut 17 pounds. It never ceases to amaze me when fighters don’t show up on weight because even if there were just 16 fighters, there still is a chance a fighter could fight soon after their arrival.
Despite being bigger and more experienced, Clarke slumped after a quick start and ended up being arm barred by 21-year old Cale Yarbrough.
In addition to the fights, we were also treated to the comedic stylings of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Forrest Griffin. Both had several one great one liners that really added to the entertainment value of the show. A new innovation for the show which served to be a great utilization of the colorful personalities of White, Griffin, and Jackson were the cut-ins during the fights. I felt the commentary of the three really added something to some of the fights.
With wall-to-wall fighting, a narrative of some kind was needed otherwise there would be very little communication during the course of the full hour since so much time was devoted to the fights. Once the show gets underway I hope they keep the cut-ins so that Griffin and Jackson’s comments are more audible than the typical communication we hear from the corner.
Griffin is already a recognizable star coming off his appearance during the first-ever season of TUF, but if last night was any indication of things to come, he’ll be an even bigger star coming out of this.
As for Jackson, he was made for TUF. Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, and Randy Couture are three of the biggest draws in the history of mixed martial arts. Jackson has the fighting ability and charisma to join them as the fourth biggest but he just needs to get the exposure. I’ve felt for awhile that the UFC really has not done a good enough job of promoting Rampage but TUF is a major step towards rectifying the problem. When the season is all said and done, Jackson will have taken a major step towards reaching the same plateau as Ortiz, Liddell, and Couture.
A lot has been made about the departures of Couture, Mirko Cro Cop, Tim Sylvia and the potential losses of Ortiz and Andrei Arlovski, but if the UFC can build Rampage into the megastar that he has the potential to become, it will help offset some of the defections they are experiencing.
The change in formats was a welcome one for a formula that had become predictable and stagnant. But while we are promised eight more fights next week, what happens after the first two episodes air and everyone is in the house? Change is good but the show needs sustained change. Hopefully some other surprises are planned.
Results from last night’s full-length fights are as follows: