TUF Overhaul Coming

The Ultimate Fighter reality show is coming with some changes, according to Dana White. While he won’t get into what’s changing, I have some thoughts to offer on the franchise.

Now that there’s some distance from the Finale of this last season of TUF, we’ve had some time to reflect on what was good about the “Live” version and what, let’s just say “has room for improvement”…

First easy way to improve TUF: Get it off of Friday night!

Moving it off of Friday night wouldn’t really improve the show, per se, but it would improve it’s ratings and visibility.

OK, now that that’s off of my chest…

Looking at the show, there are two basic elements: The storylines/dramatic tension of “life in the house” and the fights.

The “Television Show”
This season, being “live” gave the editors at Fox very little time to include (or create, if you’re cynical) these elements. Returning to a taped format allows the talented editors at Fox (Fox having really mastered the “reality show” format) to bring out the kinds of storylines and dramatic tension we’ve come to expect of the show. While I enjoyed seeing more of the training, I don’t think it necessarily improved the show for most viewers. And the cutaways to the “live” prepping for the fight segments were lacking the excitement they were trying to build. Which leads me nicely to the second area for improvement…

The Fights
Because of previous seasons’ use of recorded fights, the fights were put together in a way to emphasize the drama of the bout. The direction of the fight sequences was freed up to make better use of the cameras recording the match than could be done in a live situation. So the viewers got the best possible version, from a television perspective, of each fight. I did appreciate the “live” aspect of the fights but handling the recording of the show as one segment of production and the editing/assembling of the show as the second did allow for a better TV show.

The way I see it, the UFC can go two ways with the fights: Live or Edited. Edited fights are easy. They look good, given the best possible camera angles and presentation and are the way they were up until this season.

Live, however, opens up all kinds of possibilities. My thought: Turn the fights into events. Bring in an audience. They’re already in Las Vegas—between tourists and locals, there will always be people looking to watch live MMA. It will add excitement. This last season, the live fights lacked energy.

Call the fights. You’ve already got John Anik there, add a color commentator and have them call the fights. Hearing occasional shouts from the coaches interspersed with the relative silence of the fighters moving in the cage while their teams cheered in the distance didn’t really bring home the immediacy or impact of the fights. Having a professional announcer with color commentator does.

Dana White has often mentioned that the UFC has over 375 fighters on it’s roster. Put them to use. Add two or three professional fights to the fight cards. This will draw viewership and provide fighters on the roster with added exposure to the public. If the whole point of TUF is to develop stars, this would only carry that mission further. Seriously, how many fighters on the roster can you name? This could only help with promotion. Of course, you’d increase the expense of the show and you’d probably have to extend the show to an hour and a half: an hour of the “television show” followed by a 30-minute “event” each week, and some would only watch the “event” but you’d pull viewership in and give them something they want. Weekends like this one, without any UFC action (with the exception of TUF Brazil airing on Fuel TV) leave fans watching UFC: Unleashed when they could be watching live MMA!

Sure, these suggestions add complexity to the production of the show, but reality shows are a lot cheaper to produce than scripted ones. There’s some room for growth here.