There certainly isn’t any shortage of people who’ll complain about The Ultimate Fighter.
It’s stale, they’ll say.
Quality of fights has dipped, they’ll say.
No one cares about fighters on a reality show, they’ll say.
Friday night is a death knell for anything on television, much less anything targeted at males 18-34, they’ll say.
And you know what? They’re mostly right. At least they have been for the past couple of years.
But you know what else? Given how the show’s sixteenth season is shaping up, it might be one for the ages and the exact thing that rejuvenates the franchise.
The reasons? Read on to see what they include.
The fact is that Roy Nelson, appearance notwithstanding, is a smart guy.
He’s also a smart guy with boatloads of coaching experience, and time in the cage. There’s a very good chance that he’ll have plenty to offer the guys who end up on his team.
Shane Carwin, it’s no secret, is also an incredibly smart guy.
He moonlights as a mixed martial artist, taking time away from his job as an engineer in Colorado. That’s impressive stuff, and it indicates that he—along with a crack coaching staff following him from Grudge MMA—should also have plenty to teach his boys.
If you like seeing what guys make good coaches, you definitely won’t be disappointed in this season.
Mullet, beard, massive gut.
You might be describing one of The Nasty Boys there, or you might be describing Roy Nelson. In this instance, it’s Roy Nelson.
He marches to the beat of his own drum; he says and does things that no one else will, and he is completely unapologetic about his appearance and general approach to the fight game.
As a result, he’s become something of a working class hero in the UFC. The fact that he’s as ridiculous as he is adds to that, and he’s guaranteed to provide some entertainment on his own simply by interacting with others on set.
There’s also the fact that Nelson hates Shane Carwin, and Carwin hates him right back.
The two have been eyeing each other through the proverbial cage for a while now, engaging in heated Twitter battles and openly stating how much they want to punch each other for almost three years.
Despite past bookings falling through, they’ll have weeks for their feud to stew face-to-face before they fight in December, and viewers will get to see the whole process unfold.
Hatred between coaches often sells seasons. Look at TUF: Live as the exception that proves the rule, instead of the reason that this claim is lunacy. Please. For all our sakes. This one should be no different.
In an effort to seemingly cement his reputation as a guy who does whatever he wants, Nelson quickly added Cesar Gracie’s team to his coaching staff when filming began. That includes Gil Melendez and Jake Shields: two relatively mild, level-headed dudes with plenty of experience upon which to draw.
It also includes the perennially entertaining Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, who are rumoured to be excellent coaches and among the best jiu-jitsu/boxing combatants in the world today.
They’re also two of the greatest antiheroes in the sport—guys who will unapologetically flip off anyone they don’t take to—provided they don’t decide to simply jump them and lay a Stockton Stomp on them instead.
Both guys are unconventionally charismatic when a microphone or camera is trained on them as well, usually leaving people begging for more. Any amount of Diaz on TUF 16 that’s more than “absolutely none” is a lock to be worth watching.
If there was ever a worse idea than making TUF a live program on Friday nights, it almost certainly came after drinking tequila for six hours straight.
In a way, you have to appreciate the willingness to try something new on the behalf of the UFC (even if it seemed like an FX scheme that was pushed on Dana White to try and sell to fans), but that bastardized version of TUF sure wasn’t it. It was choppily edited, offered little in terms of fighters' backstories, and sometimes ran several minutes over or under the allotted time.
Getting rid of that feature and going back to a tried-and-true format makes sense, and might actually make people remember that back in the days of Spike the program was at least consistent and well-run even if it did get tiresome towards the end.
Plus, fewer awkward Jon Anik interviews can’t be a bad thing, can it?
Even if you can’t get behind this season of TUF for the sensible reasons listed (or sensible reasons of your own that you cook up), at the end of the day there’s one question that you need to answer going into the season: who doesn’t love a good train wreck?
If you answer any variation other than “I don’t”—any variation at all—you need to give this season the ol’ college try.
Dana White gets visibly addled talking about it; Roy Nelson is doing anything in his power to turn the program into a circus; FX clearly has no idea how to handle the property that they acquired here when they acquired rights to the UFC, and fans have largely railed on the show since about 2008.
There is so much powder in this keg that the slightest spark might blow the UFC Training Center clean off the face of the Vegas desert.
If you don’t want to donate your time to seeing that, there isn’t much hope left for humanity, much less for UFC fans.