I'd love to do an uplifting obituary for the Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. The show -- and particularly the finale between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar -- helped lift the UFC out of the $44 million hole the Fertitta brothers had dug for themselves. Without the Ultimate Fighter, it's possible we aren't talking about the UFC at all, let alone a landmark deal on network television.
The show needed to get off Spike, though. It wasn't nearly as bad as people, myself included, made it out to be up to the heavyweight season with Kimbo Slice. (Spike, however, filled that season with bait-and-switch tactics that turned me off.) The eleventh season, featuring Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, was the first time I stopped watching mid-season. These weekly TUF posts were preceded by a trip to Wikipedia to find out what happened the week before.
My lack of interest carried over into subsequent seasons. The problems are numerous: a shallowing pool of talent, a Churchillian stubbornness resisting change, a lack of engaging personality from the coaches, etc. The show, already in the toxic genre of "reality TV," gradually became a caricature of itself, utterly predictable season to season.
How that blame should be divvied between Spike and the UFC is up for debate, but the move to FX has instigated a major change to the format: the taped portion of the show will be from the preceding week, followed by a live fight to cap off each episode. It seem unlikely, on a cable channel that decided to play hardball by using TUF 13 as a lead-in for the doomed Coal series, that such a change would have been possible on Spike, considering the investment necessary.
So here we are, the final season on Spike TV, with a pair of coaches that will probably put on an entertaining 13 weeks of television. Or as entertaining as this trailer with donkeys, naked dudes, and mariachi bands might indicate. And then it's goodbye.
Sneak peek of the first episode (9 p.m. ET) after the jump.