Is ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Truly A Failure? — What Needs To Be Done To Fix TUF?

Over the course of over two decades, Americans became addicted to reality television. Starting back in the early 90s when MTV introduced The Real World, the concept for reality TV was that the shows would be unscripted, showcasing real people in unique situations. Whether it be a survival competition such as the Survivor series or Big Brother series, talent competitions such as American Idol or America’s Got Talent, or a look into the lives of prominent families and their businesses such as Duck Dynasty or Pawn Stars, Americans can’t seem to get enough of them.

Because reality television gained so much popularity, it was only a matter of time until Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) jumped on the bandwagon. That is exactly what they did back in 2005 when The Ultimate Fighter (often shortened to “TUF“) first aired. However, it is now questioned if TUF is truly a failure now. Such a debate was spurned by the release of Eddie Gordan, the second TUF champion in UFC to go without a win. Is TUF finally a failure?

Answering such a question has been spearheaded by Jay Anderson of The MMA Corner. In Anderson’s argument, he is of the opinion The Ultimate Fighter is, in fact, a failure now. Backing up his claim, he states the recent seasons of TUF are no longer a collection of the best MMA talent found outside of UFC fighting for a chance to be signed to them. Instead, the fighters are individuals UFC would not consider a loss if they were to sign to Bellator MMA, World Series of Fighting (WSOF), or any other MMA promotion.

Forrest Griffin was the first The Ultimate Fighter winner. He has fought some of the greatest fighters such as Tito Ortiz and was also champion. (via Jon Kopaloff/Getty)
Forrest Griffin was the first The Ultimate Fighter winner. He has fought some of the greatest fighters such as Tito Ortiz and was also champion. [Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty]
To be fair, Jay Anderson does have a point. In the early days of The Ultimate Fighter, MMA fans got champions like Forrest Griffin (Season 1), Rashad Evans (Season 2), and Michael Bisping (Season 3) in which Evans and Bisping are still competing in UFC. After that, only a few TUF champions have proven their worth. These include Nate Diaz (Season 5), Ryan Bader (Season 8), Roy Nelson (Season 10), John Dodson (Season 14), Julianna Peña (Season 18), and Carla Esparza (Season 20).

To fix The Ultimate Fighter, contestants truly need to be good fighters UFC would sign on even if they weren’t competing in TUF. According to Bleacher Report, that is the first thing TUF needs to fix. If UFC were to do that, probably 70 percent of what is wrong with TUF right now would be resolved. Other things that need to be fixed (or added) are mentioned in the article as a means to fix the remaining 30 percent. The one that stands out the most, other than the aforementioned suggestions, is to truly make TUF a competition.

Ronda Rousey and Friends
Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Bazsler both lost in TUF but were still signed on to UFC. The fact they are close friends with Ronda Rousey might have something to do with it. [Photo by Ronda Rousey Facebook Group]
Making The Ultimate Fighter truly competitive again is very important for fans because, for the longest time, watching TUF has had no true purpose. The reality show comes off as a competition in which one (or two) fighters win a contract with UFC. Yet, even the losers of TUF are given contracts, too. In The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn for example, Eddie Gordon and Corey Anderson won UFC contracts. However, more than half of the season’s contestants were eventually signed on, too. In The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate, Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke were both defeated in the first elimination round of the female fighters tournament. However, both of them were signed on to UFC afterward. Unless the TUF is a special season (such as Season 20), losers shouldn’t be given contracts to UFC.

If The Ultimate Fighter wants to become respected again, it needs to go back to its basics. Thankfully, that seems to be something Conor McGregor is trying to do in this current TUF season. If future coaches follow his lead, maybe TUF will come back to its original glory.

[Photo courtesy of UFC/The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber Promotions]