In an effort to boost sagging ratings for its flagship show, UFC is delivering big with the new season of The Ultimate Fighter by making light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Chael Sonnen the head coaches.
Jones and Sonnen are slated to square off for the light heavyweight championship on April 27, so this is the perfect forum for these two charismatic stars to build their fight and help turn the participants on the show into names that fans know.
One big problem the UFC faces when trying to market the show is the formula is so well-known that you need to provide the audience with stars at the coaching level in order to draw in an audience. Considering how great Sonnen is at talking, it shouldn't be too hard to convince fans to watch.
Here is a full look at the television schedule for the new season of The Ultimate Fighter up to and including the finals.
|PROGRAM||DATE, START TIME||NETWORK|
|The Ultimate Fighter 17 Season Premiere||Tues. Jan. 22 at 8:00 p.m.||FX|
|The Ultimate Fighter 17||Tues. Jan 29-Apr. 9 at 9:00 p.m.||FX|
|The Ultimate Fighter Finale||Sat. Apr. 13 at 9:00 p.m.||FX|
|UFC 159: Jones vs. Sonnen||Sat. Apr. 27 at 10:00 p.m.||PPV|
Start times listed are ET
|THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER 17 CAST|
|Dylan Andrews (16-4-1)|
|Kito Andrews (9-2)|
|Luke Barnatt (5-0)|
|Leo Bercier (7-2)|
|Ryan Bigler (9-3)|
|Kevin Casey (5-2)|
|Adam Cella (4-0)|
|Zach Cummings (15-3)|
|Andy Enz (6-1)|
|Nik Fekete (N/A)|
|Kelvin Gastelum (5-0)|
|Uriah Hall (7-2)|
|Collin Hart (4-1-1)|
|Clint Hester (7-3)|
|Jake Heun (3-2)|
|Mike Jasper (6-0)|
|Nichaolas Kohring (3-0)|
|Robert "Bubba" McDaniel (20-6)|
|Fraser Opie (10-5)|
|Milton Keynes (3-0)|
|Mike Persons (3-0)|
|Jimmy Quinlan (3-0)|
|Scott Rosa (4-1)|
|Joshua Samman (9-2)|
|Gilbert Smith, Jr. (5-1)|
|Eldon Sproat (3-1)|
|Tor Troeng (15-4-1)|
Eric Wahlin (5-1)
Timothy Williams (7-1)
What We Want To See
We know how the show plays out. No one tuning in should expect to see anything different from previous years. You are going to see the fighters battle to make it into the house, then the coaches pick their teams, the cameras capture some drama and at the end of every episode there is a fight.
What we don't know is what will happen when you put a camera in the face of Sonnen and Jones.
Sonnen, in particular, has become a superstar thanks in large part for his ability to cut incredible promos on anyone standing in his way. There might be some controversy about him getting a title shot without winning a fight at 205 pounds, but in terms of marketability, there is no one better.
It will also be interesting to see how Jones portrays himself on television. There has been some backlash against the light heavyweight champion for being a selfish prima donna after turning down a fight with Sonnen last year that resulted in UFC canceling a pay-per-view.
Jones' personality, which can make him come off as an entitled athlete that the rest of the world should admire, is another turnoff for some.
Putting two lightning rods like Jones and Sonnen under one roof for the next three months as they try to prepare for their fight, mentor other fighters and cut promos on each other should make this one of the most memorable seasons of The Ultimate Fighter ever.
All FX has to do is shove a camera in the face of Jones and Sonnen, let them talk and the show will be spectacular. If there are great, compelling fights that tell a story, that is an added bonus.