The live version of The Ultimate Fighter was an interesting experiment. After 14 seasons of the venerable reality show, it was certainly time to shake things up, to do something different. The show had grown stale and fans were tuning out. What better time to try something new than with the move to the Fox family of television properties?
It was the perfect opportunity, but it didn't pan out. Producers for the show—and that includes Dana White—were unable to craft the kind of storylines fans of the show were used to. The Ultimate Fighter is about fighting, yes. It always will be. But more than that, it's about characters. Not fake, blown-up characters created at the diligent pen of a scriptwriter, but real characters that allow fans to connect and invest in the show.
The old Ultimate Fighter was never about creating drama. Rather, it was about accentuating the drama that actually occurred in the house to create something intriguing for the viewers at home.
The live show had none of that, which is why I consider it good news that the show will be abandoning the live format and going back to taping next season.
I guess I can't say the live show had no effective storylines. Michael Chiesa's storybook win at the TUF Finale earlier this month after the death of his father early in the season? That's a real-life story that they couldn't have replicated even if they tried. It gave viewers a reason to root for Chiesa outside of the fact that, well, he's generally just a very nice dude.
But that wasn't always going to be the case, and White and his UFC production team were well aware of it.
Going back to a taped format may feel like a retreat to some. In reality, it's an advance, because The Ultimate Fighter was never about the hype and intrigue of a live fight. It was about seeing interesting stories play out over the course of 12 weeks. It was about seeing these guys who are complete strangers at the beginning of each season become more familiar to us than 75 percent of the UFC's roster.
This is a good move, and I applaud them for making it.