Folks, its nearly here. The season premiere of "The Ultimate Fighter 16" is right around the corner. The new season which kicks off on September 14th, on FX, will feature UFC heavyweights Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson as coaches. As always, viewers should expect fireworks. The UFC and FX however can expect ratings to fizzle. Here are five (5) reasons why this season of the Ultimate Fighter will see the lowest ratings in the reality TV show’s history.
1. The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil - TUF: Brazil was a huge success for the UFC. After the first episode, Dana White announced that 12 million viewers had tuned in to watch the highly anticipated season premiere. UFC executive Marshall Zelaznik stated "Brazil is quickly becoming the No. 1 market for the UFC when it comes to fan support... You're talking about 10 million people watching each week. We're No. 1 in the timeslot."
TUF Brazil was a great move by the UFC because it was another giant step in their continued effort to grow the brand internationally. The US audience on the other hand, was left with much to be desired. Unless US viewers streamed the show live over the internet, they had to wait for a closed captioned version of the reality show to be aired on Fuel TV on June 10th, 2012. This allowed time for only two episodes to be aired prior to the tournament finale at UFC 147 on June 23rd, 2012. This isn’t an ideal way to transition into the new season.
2. "The Ultimate Fighter: Live" – TUF: Live was the most recent season filmed in the US and it saw the worst ratings to date for the historically popular reality TV show. There are a number of possibilities why the drop in ratings may have occurred.
To list several:
(1) The show which previously aired on Spike TV, made its debut on FX. (2) The show changed to live format, which was also a first. (3) The show featured a group of quarrelsome lightweights who were coached by two lighter and even more quarrelsome men - Bantamweights Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz. In America, size matters, and as popular as Faber and Cruz may be (I'm personally a big Faber fan), the casual, uneducated, beer guzzling, American MMA fan prefers to watch two larger than life humans go to war. More on that another time…
The drop in ratings could be attributed to one, all, or none of these possibilities, but the fact still remains - ratings suffered.
3. UFC 151 – Emotions have started to settle. Ticket holders and Pay-Per-View buyers received refunds. The majority of fights on the card have been rescheduled, but is there still a sour taste in everyone’s mouth from the way things transpired? Maybe, maybe not. However, the season premiere of TUF 16 will air exactly two weeks after UFC 151 would have transpired. In the past, Dana White has always dedicated a lot of time during the UFC event preceeding the upcoming season of TUF to promote the reality show. The fiery personality that got us all riled up when UFC 151 was cancelled uses that same passion to brilliantly promote each upcoming season of TUF. Dana White is quickly becoming the best fight promoter in the business. In the absence of UFC 151, what unique tactics will he use to get us psyched out of our minds for this season?
4. The Boys of Fall – It’s football season baby! College football kicks off its season this weekend, and the NFL kicks off its season on September 5th. In America, there’s simply nothing like the start of football season. Hell, Kenny Chesney wrote a song about football that reached #1 on the Country Billboard and peaked at 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Singles. Even if you don’t watch football, you still enjoy football season. Why? - Because NFL and College towns start to bustle. Bars and restaurants open earlier and stay open later. People stay outside to enjoy their last several weeks of warm weather. It’s a phenomenon that happens this time every year, and it’s impossible to ignore it.
MMA is the fastest growing sport in history and the UFC has grown faster than any other professional sports league, but the UFC has a ways to go before it can compete in popularity with the likes of the NFL and college football.
Also, lets not forget that FX is owned by the FOX Entertainment Group, and FOX IS the NFL.
5. The Coaches Fight – In 15 seasons of the Ultimate Fighter we’ve only seen the coaches fight six (6) times as scheduled, and the last time it happened (Bisbing vs. Miller), it might as well not have – If you missed that fight, consider yourself lucky. TUF: Live (Season 14) saw Dominick Cruz pull out of his fight against Urijah Faber, and most recently, TUF: Brazil (Season 15) saw Vitor Belfort pull out of his fight against Wanderlei Silva, which resulted in UFC 147 (The season finale) seeing only 140,000 Pay-Per-View buys - an all-time low for the UFC post "The Ultimate Fighter".
Half the lure of The Ultimate Fighter is knowing that two UFC veterans will become genuinely competitive by coaching against each other, and then eventually get a chance to settle their differences by going toe to toe in the octagon. I’m not sure who we’ll see fight on the season finale, but the odds suggest it won't be Carwin vs. Nelson.
So there you have it, five (5) reasons why The Ultimate Fighter 16 will see the worst ratings in the show’s history. Is anyone else as psyched about September 14th as I am?