I still remember the special tingle I got when Season 1 of the Ultimate Fighter came on the air. Back then, I was a new fan of the sport, ordering old UFC events on DVD from eBay, hungering for any MMA fight I could find during the everlong stretch between pay-per-views
Everything felt novel -- I had never seen fighters train, heard the way they talked to each other. There was a sense that anything could happen. Personalities emerged -- from Chris Leben to Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck to Stephan Bonnar and the tragically cut short run of Nate Quarry.
This was reality TV -- for MEN!
In the years since, something has happened to the hoary franchise. A sameness and staleness has crept in. It's become predictable. And predictable is the death of reality TV shows.
When this has happened in other reality TV franchises, they have mixed up the rules to keep it fresh. Survivor brought back favorites from seasons' past, or added a third team, or added an immunity idol to create a wild card.
That's what we need on TUF. And the obvious answer is staring us in the face.
THE FANS SHOULD VOTE TO CHOOSE THE FIGHT EACH WEEK.
Now that Ultimate Fighter is on FX and has demonstrated the capacity to air live fights, it's a no-brainer that TUF needs to go Big Brother-style and allow the audience to choose each week's fight.
This would involve creating a half-hour "results special" to air the day before the fight to hype the event with the announcement and a face-off.
This would incentivize fighters to be "Big Personalities" and create compelling Reality TV. As the Chael Sonnen/Dan Henderson situation pointed out, modern fighters need to go to "shit-talking school" to learn how to sell a fight. That is what TUF should be -- fighters learn to get over with the fans in order to get a fight, and get the fight they want (by naming their opponent, and taunting him until the fans demand to see it with their votes).
For FX, this format provides more content to counter-program against Spike (which recently announced their own "Vote for the Fight" web series with four established fighters including BE's own Ben Saunders (vote for him to fight Paul "Semtex" Daley!). There's likely an additional revenue stream in charging for the phone calls/texts to make the votes. Fans will want to watch and participate because they'll have more control over the content and get to see the fights they want to see. And you can guarantee there won't be any Roy Nelson-style "don't worry if it's boring, just get into the house" fights.
If you agree that we need to bring back that loving feeling from TUF 1 and give fans the vote, please REC this fanpost. You can also let Dana know by tweeting this article @danawhite on Twitter.