It's been 8 years and nearly 20 seasons (depending now how you count) since Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar had their epic clash that single-handedly saved the UFC, but long gone are the days of such talent emerging from the show. The first five seasons of the show saw UFC mainstays Diego Sanchez, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping and Nate Diaz (among others) grab the six figure contract, but the last five seasons have been forgettable, at best. At times, the quality of the participants has been offensively low and it seems like if the best you can come up with is Colton Smith or Leonardo Santos, you have a problem. And the root of the problem is not that difficult to uncover.
The landscape of MMA has changed drastically in the past five years and TUF is no longer the appealing alternative it once was. It's a psychologically challenging task to undertake, you're away from your family and loved ones for weeks and the payoff if you win is often times more conveniently achievable outside the TUF format rather than within it. It's hard to convince a fighter with true skill, talent and potential to stop taking pro fights outside the UFC (where he is making a living and hopefully advancing his chances to get a call from the UFC) to move into a house filled with people who want to stop him from achieving his goals.
The reality is, the people who should get their chance in the UFC probably have a better chance of getting it outside 'The Ultimate Fighter' and the cons far outweigh the potential pros of entering the house. Because of this, TUF attracts a level of talent far too low for what should be acceptable to put on TV and only a small handful of the fighters actually have a chance of making any sort of impact whatsoever in the UFC. The show was essential for the growth of the company and thus it's not hard to see why the UFC are unwilling to let it go, but as far as I'm concerned I have no interest in viewing any new seasons of TUF unless the format undergoes a complete overhaul. The upcoming season which will be coached by Rousey and Tate and will introduce the concept of men and women entering the house together will likely do solid ratings, but will do so for all the wrong reasons.