TUF Puts Fighter Insecurities in the Spotlight

During the live results thread for last Saturday's EliteXC show I said the following prior to the main event:

Something about the way that Slice's entourage is having to hype him up so much before he comes out and his attitude when interviewed backstage just smacks of someone battling a degree of insecurity

This aspect of the mental game is something that gets overlooked by fans of the sport quite often.  You could see insecurity flowing from Kimbo when he was interviewed backstage about the change in opponent, it wasn't a "focus" as some have tried to pass it off, it was as though he knew that now that he was not going to be fighting a 44 year old who had lost 6 of his last 7 fights (all by KO or TKO) he was in a world of trouble.  Seeing that kind of attitude from a main event fighter who was being "given" a prelim fighter from a lower weight class was surprising to say the least.

Now tonight on The Ultimate Fighter we saw Shane and Junie join the ranks of young fighters whose insecurities were magnified by a combination of alcohol and TV cameras.  Chris Leben, Jesse Taylor, War Machine...the list of "kids" who were on TUF and had maturity issues exposed is so long that it has reached the point of troubling.

What needs to be understood is that athletes face a lot of pressure, but combat athletes are in a situation different from most other sports where the one-on-one, completely me-against-you environment where their flaws are out there for all the world to see.  When someone is not mature and not comfortable with who they are this kind of "you and only you with no excuses" sport can (and often does) absolutely wreck their mind.

I really enjoy TUF, moreso at this point than most other writers and readers of this site I'm sure.  But right now the show is more about watching insecure kids have trainwreck meltdowns as they drink themselves into oblivion than anything else.  If Dana White is serious about the development of these young fighters he needs to take the basic step of having a sports psychologist brought onto the show and having regular meetings (OFF-CAMERA) with the fighters to help them learn to cope with the pressures of the sport and the stress of being on a TV show, in a house with 15 other men who want to fight you and cut off from the real world with limited activities beyond getting shitfaced.

Until Dana takes the step to advance these kids as people rather than just fighters the show will remain a transparent attempt to create "compelling television" by throwing young men into a house with a never ending flow of booze so that he can eventually come in, call them "retards" (a potential PR disaster for any other "company president" in the world, mind you) and question their manhood and mental toughness.  This questioning of the fighters heart and manhood by the man they are most trying to impress is not helpful...it is, in fact, the most damaging thing that these troubled young men can hear after an emotional meltdown.

The show has advanced past the point in the early seasons where I said "I expect more of these fighters" to the point where I simply expect more out of the UFC.  It is far past time for the company to take all available efforts to help turn boys into men outside of the cage so they are able to do the same in it.

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