For The Ultimate Fighter to remain relevant and continue to reach the masses in the United States, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen must come through.
They must be a draw, much like Kimbo Slice was for the 10th season of TUF. The debut of that season drew 4.1 million viewers, while the this past season of TUF, featuring Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin as coaches, is averaging 869,500 viewers as of the ninth episode, according to MMA Junkie.
So let's face it—TUF is running out of gas. Sure, it's on Friday nights and that has a reason for its lackluster ratings, but just look at the formula of the show.
The drama in the house is childish, and the fights are mostly boring. Why is that? Well, fighters have smartened up and realized that the best way to get through a tournament format is to stay as healthy as possible. Therefore, fighters fight with caution.
Wrestlers will dominate the competition by taking their opponents down and earning a decision with control. That's not exactly can't-miss television.
So the UFC and TUF has to change its model. It can no longer advertise the fighters and try to get people to tune in for the bad blood between these no-name fighters living with each other. That obviously isn't working.
Instead, the UFC needs to bring in the top guns as coaches and market that. Developing a feud on camera between two popular UFC fighters is a great way to not only build a title fight but get ratings for the reality show.
Using Jones and Sonnen is a perfect way to get fans back interested in TUF and tune in. Who isn't going to want to watch Sonnen harassing Jones for an hour and uttering ridiculous comments throughout the show?
And who isn't going to want to watch Jones to learn more about his mannerisms and attitude. People who hate him will tune in to try and find more reasons to hate him, while his fans will tune in because they love him. You could actually say that for both men.
Well done UFC, but if this fails, TUF could very well be on its way out. It's as if the UFC put all of its eggs in one basket here.
The company is bringing two of the most polarizing individuals in the sport, and with them interacting with one another, it should make for compelling television.
But will the people take the bait? After going through 16 seasons, have people finally had enough of this repeated format? The recent ratings certainly suggest it. So now, it's up to Sonnen and Jones to bring the UFC's reality show back in the limelight.
For TUF's sake, they better.