A Stupid & Ridiculous Proposal to Spice Up TUF That Just Might Work
I thought this was a pretty funny read:
I'm a night owl by nature. Having a nine-month old baby which comes with a 6AM wake-up call - that includes the weekends - sleep is hard to come by (the astute reader already knows where I'm going with this). Everyday is clockwork; my alarm goes off at 5:58AM, look in on the sleeping baby, go to the bathroom, look in on the baby again and she's wide awake.
Unfortunately, she is not just a morning-person but a night owl as well. She's up until 10 almost every night, no matter what her mother and I do to try to get her to go to sleep at 8. I think we're overpaying for daycare, because if she's supposed to sleep 13 hours a day, and she only sleeps 8 hours a night, well, she's sleeping way too much when we're paying someone to look after her, ya dig?
So, clearly, sleep is at a premium in the Hansen household. Even when she goes to bed at 10, I need a couple hours to unwind and relax, otherwise literally every moment of my week is spent watching the baby, driving to the office, working, driving home, and tending to the baby. When else am I going to do anything other than keeping that fragile little ball of crawling energy safe and secure?
The wife and I trade off, giving each other breaks every night for sanity's sake. I take the baby downstairs so the wife can clean up the upstairs a little and watch America's Next Top Anorexic, and she takes the baby from time to time so I can, well, so I can fix the sink, mow the lawn, hang the new light fixtures, install the garbage disposal, and not catch up on sleep.
It's a wonderful life, and I wouldn't trade a moment of it with anyone for any reason. It's just also a sleepless life. With one exception.
Every Wednesday night when I get time to myself, I tell the wife I'm not fixing the sink, mowing the lawn, hanging new light fixtures, or installing jack doodoo (I'm a parent). I'm getting one catnap a week by God. And since I only get an hour, and since I normally need a couple hours to unwind, there's only one solution. And that solution is found on Channel 241-1 on my DirecTV HD receiver.
The Ultimate Fighter, once the best reality show on television (a low bar, to be sure), is the one and only thing that I can count on for a solid 50 minutes of shut-eye. The franchise which was once the best reality show on television, and was also the most important programming in the history of the sport, is now more potent than Nyquil. On the bright side, if my household were a Nielsen household, I'd definitely count as a consistent viewer. After all, once I fall asleep at 8:06 PM every night, which is about 30 seconds before Brock Lesnar talks about chicken excrement for the second time every week, I'm physically unable to change the channel, even through the commercials. I can't honestly make a snarky joke about the quality of the sponsors, because I'm unconscious.
Because of my love of unexpected sleep, I want the format of The Ultimate Fighter to stay in tact forever. After all, I can't be the only one using TUF to get in a good power nap, so the ratings can't get much lower than they are right now because of us sleepers, which is a metric Nielsen can't ever account for.
That said, eventually the baby will be on a proper sleep schedule, and when that time comes I'm going to want TUF to not, well, suck. Eventually I'm going to want to see TUF return to its rightful place in the MMA landscape, as opposed to the boring, meaningless pile of dreck that it has been reduced to in recent seasons.
I am confident that pretty much everyone with any knowledge of the MMA landscape realizes that TUF is never going to recruit the depth of talent they had for Seasons 1, 2, 3, 5, etc. And for every Ryan Bader or Roy Nelson that they're sporadically able to sign, there will also be 30 guys taking part in the show who wouldn't even catch a sniff from all but the lowest level of independent promotions. As a result, any proposal for improving TUF can't include the idea of improving the talent pool.
It's also unrealistic to say that the easy way to improve the show is to pick two charismatic coaches, or to pick two coaches who will cap off the season by fighting for a title or for a title shot. Chemistry isn't manufactured, it either exists or it doesn't. Case in point: The MMA world went gaga over the idea of Brock Lesnar appearing on TUF, until Brock Lesnar appeared on TUF. Lesnar might be a lightning rod, and he might be the most compelling figure in the sport, but clearly the combination of him and TUF didn't work. And frankly, it doesn't matter why he didn't work. Lesnar as a coach didn't catch on with the public as a coach; proof of that is in the ratings.
Even the combination of face vs. heel, champion vs. cocky challenger can be a total dud. Don't believe me? Well, "you're a male nurse, you're a male nurse, well you're a male nurse, so nanny nanny boo boo." That, gentle reader, is bad television.
So if I'm going to improve TUF, I can't count on improving the talent pool, and I can't just rely on the two coaches to make for good television, because for every season of Rampage vs. Rashad (which did get old by the end), there's plenty of Brock Lesnar vs. JDS and Mir vs. Nogueira seasons to go along.
For Season 14 of TUF, Dana White has booked UFC mainstay - and paragon of all that is wrong with the universe Michael Bisping - to coach against UFC newcomer* Jason Miller. An inspired matchup for sure. It's also a matchup which guarantees absolutely nothing for ratings. And of course, ratings is what it's all about. If no one watches, the show will eventually disappear.
*-Miller is 0-1 in the UFC, losing a decision to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 52. But relative to 99% of UFC fans, Miller will be making his UFC debut.
Miller vs. Bisping on TUF may very well provide a ratings spike for Spike TV (I kill me), but the improved ratings it would provide would be a one-time deal. First of all, at this point you could pit any two UFC fighters against each other as coaches and not do worse than Lesnar and Dos Santos have done this season. Season 14 could be Rich Clementi vs. Kurt Pellegrino, and they're likely to generate a cumulative 1.1 rating, so Miller and Bisping seem fated to improve from the ratings of Season 13. And while they may provide a substantial ratings increase for Season 14, what about Season 15? And Season 16? And infinity and beyond? They can't coach every season. And even if they did, the law of diminishing returns pretty much guarantees that their ratings would degrade every subsequent season. So what to do?
Three coaches; three teams.
Who says there can only be two coaches and two teams? If the formula you're using is providing a stale product, change the formula. Zuffa has changed the formula several times already.
Season 1 was totally random. Sam Hoger made the semi-finals of the show without having to fight his way to the semi-finals in the first place, while Josh Koscheck, Chris Leben, and Diego Sanchez each had 42 fights apiece* to qualify for the semi-finals. So after Season 1, they implemented a format where every fighter had to fight in order to advance. They also pretty much dispatched of hostess Willa Ford as Dana White's popularity (notoriety?) expanded exponentially.
*-I'm rounding up to the nearest factor of 42, so don't quote me exactly on that one...
Other seasons featured other formula changes. The first three seasons featured two divisions of young fighters. The fourth season featured two divisions of journeymen. The fifth and sixth seasons featured only lightweight fighters. The UFC changed the way fighters were assigned and the manner in which fights were booked. They even instituted a policy where fighters had to fight their way into the house. So it is apparent that the UFC isn't married to any one specific facet of the show.
The UFC wants you to believe that the coaches are competing against each other; that they have a burning desire to see all of their fighters win every single week. They feel a need to convince the viewer at home that there is nothing more important to any coach on TUF than for their team to win. But that just isn't so. Ask Ken Shamrock. Ask Rampage Jackson. Ask Rampage Jackson again (he did appear on two seasons, after all).
The simple fact is that these celebrity coaches are being paid to appear on the show, and their primary motivations are either money or exposure. And of course they all try to impart some wisdom. And they all want to do at least enough coaching so that their reputations don't take a hit (sans Rampage). And of course there are coaches who do fit the narrative, who give their all and want nothing more than to not only win, but to just be a good coach.
The percentage of coaches who fit that bill is a small number indeed. Their needs to be some juice, an inducement, a bribe even.
Enter the three coaches, three teams concept. 18 fighters, six fighters per team, which allows for a little more personal instruction than when a coach has eight fighters to manage. Fights are decided round-robin style. A Team A fighter fights a Team B fighter week one. The next week, a Team B fighter fights a Team C fighter. The next week, a Team C fighter fights a Team A fighter. Lather, rinse repeat until we're down to nine winners.
We just had nine first round fights, which left nine quarter-finalists. After those nine fighters advance, Dana White eliminates the one quarter-finalist who displayed the worst performance in victory. So now we've got fighters who are inspired even more to fight an exciting style of fight. No more Roy Nelson vs. Kimbo Slice fights in the first round. Also, if one of the nine opening round winners can't continue due to injury, then no winning fighter needs to be chopped, which eliminates the concept of a losing fighter advancing.
Once Dana chops one fighter, we're down to our standard number of eight quarter-finalists. Those eight fighters fight down to four semi-finalists; and those four fight for the right to fight in the finals at the end of the season. And either on the Ultimate Fighter Finale or on the subsequent PPV, the coaches fight each other, just like normal. See? It's just a small tweak.
Now, if you're still paying attention, you've probably noticed something. Um, if there are three coaches, how in the hell are the coaches fighting at the end of the season? Is there going to be a three-way dance? Is that really your proposal, you jackwagon? Well, worry not, friend. Here's the part that gets the coaches motivated, which provides intensity to every week's show.
The first coach to lose all of his fighters doesn't get to fight at the end of the season.
Think about that one for a second. There's nothing a prizefighter likes to do more than to fight for, well, prizes. Imagine having to coach for six weeks, with no fight at the end of the tunnel. To dedicate that much time and energy into a project, only to be told by Dana White on national television that you didn't do well enough, and you don't get a fight.
If you want the coaches to be inspired by more than just reality television hijinks and weak trash-talk, there you go. Not to mention the fact that the only fighters willing to coach an entire season, knowing that there's a 1/3 chance of not getting a high profile fight at the end of the tunnel, are men who would be completely dedicated to their own success. Fame and money are great motivators, but so is the fear of failure in front of your peers.
That's it. Three teams of six. The most unimpressive of the nine opening round winners gets cut. When a coach loses all of his fighters, he too gets cut. Like I said at the top, this is a stupid and ridiculous proposal to spice up The Ultimate Fighter, and it has no chance whatsoever of being implemented. But I'll tell you one stone cold fact about my proposal:
I'd give up my weekly Wednesday night nap for it.