I wrote a fan post a few months ago about missed opportunities for UFC, and how it could fix TUF. If you do not want to read the entire post, the main point is that TUF is a show where guys are getting free publicity for three months straight, and UFC is wasting it on mid-level, non-headlining talent at best. I'd put this thought in the background for now, because we do not have a TUF season going on right now, but then I saw Kid Nate go on an rant that summed up all my feeling on how UFC is struggling to produce stars, and wasting the tool that should be generating stars during his MMA tete-A-tete yesterday with Luke Thomas.
In the previous fan post I wrote about three seasons where I though UFC missed big opportunities to put a quality cast of talent on the show. I touched on the WEC Light-Heavyweights (Cantwell, Stann, and Munoz), but I feel that UFC missed another opportunity when it folded the LW, FW, and BWs into UFC. Pettis would have been exempt, because he was the champ, but how awesome would a season of with guys Cerrone, Bendo, Castillo, Varner, Roller, and Njokuani matched up against some of the other top prospects in the sport. Not only would Bendo, and Cerrone have received a ton of attention on the show, but the show would be advertising itself moving forward because evertime one of these guys fights in a main event, or co-main event. How much free advertising would they get if during every main event Rogan, and Goldie can point out that we are about to see some TUF Veterans.
UFC is in a very similar situation with Strikeforce that it was with WEC a few years ago. There are talented fighters over there, but many of them are suffer from in-frequent fights, and a lack of exposure. I propose that if Strikeforce is to fold, then UFC uses the talent it has in place to make a great season of TUF. Team Strikeforce v Team Prospect. There are two prime weight classes that I think could best fit this concept.
Team Strikeforce - Coach - Nate Marquardt
Team Strikeforce - Coach - Gilbert Melendez
I was thinking about Middleweights, but the talent Strikeforce has is high end. I would not even think about asking Jacare, Tim Kennedy, Robbie Lawler, or Roger Gracie to be on TUF. If they did a split season with Welterweights, or Light-Heavyweights then you could look at Luke Rockhold coaching against Chris Weidman, or Alan Belcher. Out of the SF middle weights, you could look at picking four out of the group of Lorenz Larkin, Derrick Brunson, Lumumba Sayers, Danillo Villefort, or Adlan Amagov.
Depending on how the Strikeforce Situation works out, UFC could potentially do both 2013 seasons with Strikeforce talent against outside prospects trying to get in. Imagine if for the fall season, they did an elimination round in the UFC on a Fuel card in April or May, I think it would be great.
The first episode can start with Dana White talking to the camera "18 months ago we purchased Strikeforce, which many people considered the second best MMA promotion in the world...(mix in highlights of coaches)... now these guys want to prove that they belong with the best in the world, and we are going to give them their chance."
I am also a big fan of pushing prospects only a few UFC fights onto the show to improve their marketability, and find out where they stand. Andrew Craig, and Buddy Roberts at Middleweight, James Head, and Siyar Bahadurzada at Welterweight, Tim Means, Reza Madadi at Lightweight are guys that come to mind
I know the criticism of this idea will be that, none of the Strikeforce guys I listed is really scream title contender, but neither did Donald Cerrone when he came over from WEC, and he is a significant contributor to the LW division. At a minimum they provide a quality baseline that you know the prospects will not drop below, and provides an interesting storyline for the season. If you surround the Strikeforce fighters with quality prospects that already have 1 or 2 UFC wins, and the best talent from the regional scene then you are looking at a star in the making.
Fill the cast with the best quality you can find, and let the cream rise to the top, and in the process remove the mid-level fighter stereotype that lingers around TUF today.