The UFC is gearing up for season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter. Now, MMA Junkie is reporting that the show will make its debut on FX on September 14. And, in case you missed it, yes, that is once again a Friday night.
For season 16, coached by Heavyweights Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin, TUF will consist of 32 Welterweight fighters, with an elimination round to start and 16 fighters making it into the house. That will be followed by a single elimination tournament, culminating in a Live Finale on December 1 that will also feature the Carwin vs. Nelson fight. No word yet on fighters who will take part in this season.
The big change for TUF 16 is that, while the show is once again airing on Friday nights, this time they are abandoning the Live format used last season, returning instead to the old pre-taped format. It's not a surprise that there are changes being made - last season boasted some of the worst ratings in the 8 year history of the show. Yet, for my money, they're making the wrong changes.
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The live format was a bit tricky at times, but did add a new element to the show, with a fun air of unpredictability, plus the intrigue of events you read about (such as Dominick Cruz's injury) then unfolding on the show. The complaint about going live was that it led to less time to focus on the fighter personalities, which led to the show not being able to produce many memorable characters. While it is true that last season did not feature many memorable fighters, they're putting the blame for that in the wrong place.
I would argue that the problem is not the editing, but simply the lack of quality, compelling fighters on the show. When you are featuring a large number of not ready for UFC fighters, they're not always going to grab the audience. Taped vs. live won't change that.
Meanwhile, one of the real issues from last season - the Friday night timeslot - has not been addressed. Friday night is just not a good fit for UFC fans, particularly if the fight is pre-taped.
Given the Friday night time, the relative lack of star power from the coaches, and the continued use of the same tired format, don't expect TUF 16 to turn around the ratings slump we've seen in recent seasons.