Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ultimate disappointment?

I have been a fan of UFC's The Ultimate Fighter from jump street. I found it fascinating as both a mixed martial arts fan but felt it also offered something unique to fans of reality TV (which I am not). At it's best it has introduced many people "on the fence" to the world of MMA and create several stars some of whom have become mega stars. I think it has become one of, if not the most important marketing tool Zuffa has. So, why am I left feeling flat this season? I guess for me, the early seasons introduced not just fighters but personalities. You loved or hated these guys depending on their personality. You got to see some great and some not so great fighters and when they debuted on a UFC show, everyone knew who they were. Fighters were picked based not just on fighting but on personality, etc. Recently, they have taken the path of better fighters, better fights. Well, I think there's a problem there. First, in this day and age, I think it's getting harder and harder to find that great untapped talent they were able to find several years ago as most "name" guys (think Div I wrestlers etc) are scooped up by some organization right away. Secondly, by the "win and you're in" concept you may (not always, but may) end up with better fighters but you also lose the potential of some real TV stars which is really what they want and need. Anderson Silva, even at his dominant best, can barely draw flies at the top of a card. Yet his fight with Forest Griffin will do huge numbers because Forest is a TV star. It's really just that simple.

Looking at the current season here's what I see; No breakthrough stars at all, Cameron Dollar being the closest thing wit all his anxiety and self doubt. The only strong personality is Demarques and he comes off more as a dick then anything. Jason Pierce is miserable but not entertaining miserable like Mac Danzig, just plain miserable. Dan Henderson comes off like a super nice guy but the show hasn't really made him into any more or less of a star. Maybe the one thing they have done well is make Mike Bisping a tremendous heel in the U.S. to counter his hero status overseas. He comes off as wayyyyyy more unlikable then he did when he was on the show itself. Unfortunately, there has been no underlying heat between him and Hollywood Hendo to create more buys. Then again, with the card they are fighting on, does UFC really need more buys?

In the end it's hard to quantify my feelings. I love MMA for the pure sports aspect. However, as a fan of pro wrestling and boxing, I know personality and promo ability sells fights. I think there's a happy medium somewhere. I am intrigued to see what next season with Kimbo on board will bring

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