7 Ways to Reinvent the Ultimate Fighter

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistNovember 12, 2012

7 Ways to Reinvent the Ultimate Fighter

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    It is news to nobody that The Ultimate Fighter has been downright aching in the ratings department. It has been trending downward ever since the end of TUF10, the all-heavyweight season that featured YouTube sensation Kimbo Slice.

    The UFC has tried numerous ways to bring fans back to the once-popular reality-show-fighting-tournament hybrid. Blockbuster coaching match-ups like Junior dos Santos vs. Brock Lesnar and Georges St-Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck. Injecting melodrama and shenanigans with Jason “Mayhem” Miller vs. Michael Bisping and Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin. Switching the very nature of the show with TUF: Live.

    Nothing has worked so far and if the controversial pairing of Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones does not turn things around, the UFC is going to need to shake things up in a big way.

    So, how can they do this? What can they do to make the twentieth season of TUF its best ever? Find out right here!

Have a Celebrity Version of TUF

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    Is this really, really stupid? For sure. That said, it could still be very, very fun.

    We have seen and heard of all the different athletes and actors who train in MMA. This, in the past, has translated directly into big ratings. The greatest example, of course, being Herschel Walker, who fought for Strikeforce twice in a desperate attempt to get viewers.

    Honestly, when you sit down and think about it, this could be absurdly entertaining. High-profile athletes like Chad Johnson (or Chad Ochocinco), Donald Brashear and Shaquille O'Neal all actively train in high-profile gyms. Add to this celebrities with a legitimate martial arts background, like Jason David Frank (best known for playing Tommy the Green Ranger in the original Power Rangers), professional wrestler Kurt Angle and martial artist-turned-actor Wesley Snipes and you have some seriously fun television there.

    Would this be downright belittling for the UFC? No question. But tell me you wouldn't tune in to watch the Green Ranger fight Shaq.

Bring Back Country vs. Country Seasons

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    TUF9, also known as The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom, was a generally solid season. Part of this, naturally, was rooting for your countrymen to beat those no good British such-and-suches (or to "beat those no-good colonist bashtids" if you're English). This, obviously, has been rehashed very recently in The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes, which pits the United Kingdom against Australia

    While America is traditionally not as high on international competition as other nations, it still adds appeal to the relatively stale formula that has led TUF into the ever-worsening ratings nightmare it finds itself in. Will it return TUF to the talent-bolstering days of its earlier seasons, or have the gargantuan ratings of TUF10? No. But it's still something to make TUF a bit more interesting.

    Obviously, there are many options for nations that can go opposite the USA, but Brazil, England, Canada or Japan are the best choices. Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva? Johny Hendricks vs. Georges St-Pierre? Josh Koscheck vs. Dan Hardy? Brian Stann vs. Yushin Okami?

    Again, it probably would not completely reinvigorate The Ultimate Fighter. However, it would certainly give the series a nudge in the right direction, and would double as one of the international versions of TUF that have actually been successful so far.

Finally Start World Cup of Fighting

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    A while back, Dana White floated around the idea of a “World Cup of The Ultimate Fighter.” Maybe it is about time to get the ball rolling on this.

    Obviously, TUF is present in America, Australia, Brazil and Britain. The UFC is committed to a season in India in 2013, and are eyeing to expand their presence in Asia as well, making Japan, China and Korea a possibility. Canada, naturally, is also sitting just to the north with a strong MMA scene. Finally, the UFC has ever-present, ever-mysterious plans to increase its presence in Mexico.

    Once TUF is a consistent presence in enough countries, there are a few ways to line this up. Whether there are eight individual seasons, or perhaps four international editions (USA vs. Canada, China vs. Korea, etc.) with a common weight class, the UFC can pull together a tournament that would, eventually, result in a single international winner.

    Again, this would not completely revitalize TUF in America, but it would make for solid TV and would be a great way to attract TUF fans into regularly watching UFC events.

Stop TUF in America, Exclusively Focus on International Editions

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    At this point, you may be noticing a theme. Obviously, The Ultimate Fighter is floundering. If it wasn't, this article would be entirely pointless.

    The thing is, while TUF16 here in America is struggling to get back to a million viewers, TUF: Brazil was a gargantuan success. It pulled in over 10 million pairs of eyeballs per episode in Brazil. Keep in mind, the highest-rated MMA event in American history was the Velasquez vs. Dos Santos title bout on Fox which peaked at about 8.5 million. TUF: Brazil out-performed it by a substantial margin.

    If the upcoming Jones vs. Sonnen season flops, it may be time to pull the plug on the long-running series in America. However, it is still too valuable a tool to not use overseas, and the 500,000 loyal fans the show has left might be willing to tune in to Fuel TV to get their weekly dose from some of the spin-offs.

    Will, say, TUF: India be as popular as TUF: Brazil? Probably not. It can still perform well in its own right.

    Could these get aired in America? Maybe, maybe not. TUF: Brazil was shown weekly on Fuel TV, but The Smashes is only available on YouTube. Either way, any international version of the show has a very strong chance at outperforming the original at this point, and casually making it available on cable can do plenty.

Have a Season of TUF Dedicated to Bringing Back Former UFC Fighters

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    Over the years, the UFC has been home to a great number of great fighters. Some of these great fighters, for a variety of reasons, have left (or been ejected from) the promotion.

    Whether it is contract disputes, losing streaks, failed drug tests or bad attitudes, there are a lot of fighters out there that have been shown the door that are better than the guys the UFC has kept around. The UFC already makes a habit of bringing back fighters it previously cut loose, so why not turn it into a season of The Ultimate Fighter?

    There are a lot of possibilities that come to mind here. Maybe a heavyweight season that features guys like Todd Duffee, Jon Madsen and, what the hell, Tim Sylvia? Maybe a version for some of the various fighters cut loose from bought-out promotions like Pride, the WEC and Strikeforce? Maybe one specifically for previous TUF cast-offs?

    There are many possibilities that could help the UFC reintroduce fans to fighters that they are already somewhat familiar with. It could make for some interesting television and, perhaps, would get the UFC a few fighters that could instantly make an impact in their division.

Use TUF to Bring in Female Fighters

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    One of fans' biggest criticisms in recent years of The Ultimate Fighter is how the show has failed to produce any especially great fighters. There have been a couple exceptions in Roy Nelson and Jon Dodson, sure. Literally, though, those are the only exceptions. With news breaking that women are now being added to the UFC, a women's season would easily have the biggest impact of any other potential option in terms of injecting talent into a division.

    Depending how the UFC plays their cards, particularly with weight classes, a season with Ronda Rousey coaching opposite Cris “Cyborg” Santos or Miesha Tate could make for good TV. The only question is: who would watch it?

    While Rousey is quite popular at this moment, TUF is already struggling to get ratings. An all-female season would be a dicey endeavor for FX. If, perhaps, Zuffa could work out something with a more female-friendly TV station, it could do a great job of both increasing exposure for the women's divisions, and could generate more interest from female fight fans.

Reach out to Olympic Boxers, Wrestlers, Judokas and Taekwondo Practitioners

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    So, as you may have noticed, there was this big sporting event in London earlier this year. The best in the world at boxing, wrestling, Taekwondo and Judo all came together and did battle. Now? They are out of a job for the next four years.

    The UFC could benefit greatly from extending them an offer, and given how many prominent fighters have come from the Olympics, it could be a very lucrative season from a matchmaking perspective.

    Dan Henderson, Mark Coleman and Daniel Cormier are all alumnus of the United States Wrestling Team. Ronda Rousey owns a bronze medal in Judo from the 2004 Games and other Judoka like Satoshi Ishii have had varying degrees of success in MMA. There have been no Olympic boxers or Taekwondo practitioners to take a noteworthy foray into MMA, but both striking styles have a major place in the sport.

    Should-be gold/silver medalist Travis Stevens has already admitted on Twitter to kicking around the idea of transitioning to MMA. On top of that, the New Englander has been training with other high-profile Massholes like Joe Lauzon and Tom Lawlor.

    There is a lot to like about an Olympic Edition of TUF. The international angle. The style vs. style appeal of MMA's Golden Age. The niche programming for fans of boxing, Judo, WTF-style Taekwondo and Greco-Roman wrestling. The pure, true greatness of seeing world-class talent come together and learn how to take their already-elite striking or grappling game and build upon that.

    If you are a true fan of mixed martial arts, your mouth should be watering over this idea.