I like that the UFC is willing to bring drastic change to The Ultimate Fighter. The show needs it and the fans want it. And Fox has the cred for running the most popular reality competition show of all time, American Idol. Unfortunately, Fox has also produced Temptation Island, The Swan and Who's Your Daddy. And this I why I am concerned about a live TUF show. It could be great, but there's some big potential for failure as well.
First, the general format. After season 13, Dana White said he would never have a season where guys didn't have to fight to get into the house. Let's hope he sticks to this. We don't need these fight-in bouts to be live. Tape them several weeks in advance, give us a kick off show with the highlights and bios of the guys who made it. But they need to fight to get in. Bringing in fan voting for fight selection? I don't know. We've seen things like votefortheworst.com try to screw with American Idol. Ever read a fanpost or comment from someone pushing a really bad fight idea. Yeah, that guy is going to be voting. Also, we need more skilled fighters and fewer Junie Brownings, even though the Junies of the world tend to get picked for reality shows. But Fox needs to remember this is a competition reality show, not Jersey Shore. Talent is more important than willingness to be an ass.
Second, the coaches. So the coaches are going to have a thirteen week camp to prepare for a fight, while training their fighters? I can't imagine we are going to see top contenders or champions as coaches. There is not enough incentive to risk distraction from a fight that will be either the final step towards a championship fight or an actual title fight. I can't see a way that you won't have coaches that are either middle of the pack, but exciting fighters, or guys that are on the downside of their careers. At best, think Franklin vs. Ortiz. At the low end, Sam Stout vs. Spencer Fisher; experienced and exciting, but not relevant. Not that this is horrible, but will it take something out of the show? Also, I'm hoping that the UFC will set up two different gyms, since the coaches will have to train as well and this will allow the fighters to train alongside their coaches and let the coaches set their own schedule without having to share gym space.
Third, the house. We've seen the kind of insanity being locked in a house for six weeks brings out, what do you think will happen after 13 weeks? They've got to give these guys some access, even if limited, to tv, phones, email and the outside world. Even the crackheads on Celebrity Rehab get to use their cell phones for an hour a day. We don't need talented, promising guys to snap in week 10 because they haven't spoken to their wife and kids for two months.
Finally, the fights. The fact these are going to be live is great. More drama, more pressure. But I can't help think injuries are going to derail this. Let's say you have a guy who fights last in the first round. If he's lucky, he won't fight for four more weeks. Then two weeks after that. Then the finale the following week. That will be four fights in 8 weeks, including the last two fights in a two week span. That's a lot of damage, even without serious injury. Swollen knuckles, thigh bruises, slight strains, minor cuts. These are things that most fighters have after one fight, but four in eight weeks? That's a lot to deal with. Also, the guy who fights first in the first round gets eight weeks to heal and train for his next fight, a huge advantage. And last, one thing that was good about having the finale months after the season taped, was that you usually ended up with two pretty talented, tough guys who then got 3 months to go a train hard and really improve their skills before the finale. Unless they are doing more of a comeback season, with more experienced fighters, guys are not going to have the chance to improve as much.
I hope that all of these concerns are addressed and that the show is phenomenal. I'm a fan and hope the show can create more fans. But I will be concerned that the risk/reward of the new format is too high until season 15 wraps up.