The UFC shook up the MMA world last week when it was announced that Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen would coach The Ultimate Fighter 17. The move was an obvious last ditch attempt to save the falling franchise but are two star coaches really enough to pull this one off of life support?
The game plan here is good. Past seasons of The Ultimate Fighter where opposing coaches brought the drama always did well. TUF seasons 3 and 10 for instance were two of the highest seasons in show history. But that doesn’t always work? Plenty of other seasons featured tension between star coaches and didn’t click as well as 3 and 10. The biggest difference there between those seasons and the upcoming is that the popularity of MMA was different. This is why I think Jones and Sonnen will have the kind of impact on TUF that the UFC and FX are hoping it will.
Coaches are definitely a problem. The second Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson were announced as coaches, I tuned out. On the flip side I did enjoy the first few weeks of the previous Dominick Cruz-Urijah Faber season, specifically for Cruz. I really enjoyed watching Cruz work out with the contestants. As far as the tension or anything else, it really didn’t make a difference.
There are much bigger problems than the coaches, the first and foremost being the oversaturation of Mixed Martial-Arts on television. One of the biggest reasons TUF worked for so many years is that there was very little MMA on television. Now, you can see a free MMA television show or card almost weekly if you have the right cable channels or Internet connection. TUF fights are glorified amateur fights and why would any fan want to go out of their way to watch amateur fights when they can see pros on TV elsewhere?
The format is outdated and incredibly stale. Quite frankly I don’t know what you can do to fix it at this point. It’s the same show every season with new fighters. Dumb pranks, boring amateur fights, and manufactured storylines are your typical TUF season. I wrote a blog several months ago with seven ideas on how to improve The Ultimate Fighter. There are things that can be done. Bringing in star coaches was not one of them and would be at the bottom of my list.
Star coaches are not always the answer. Brock Lesnar was the biggest drawing card in MMA history. Yet after the hype, even Brock as a head coach wore thin fast on The Ultimate Fighter. What people are missing about Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen is that most MMA fans don’t like either one of them. This isn’t a case where you have a clear cut good guy vs. bad guy story between coaches. A lot of MMA fans have become complacent with both which is a very bad thing if you are expecting them to tune in and watch TUF.
Jon Jones isn’t connecting with fans. Dana White in one of his dumbest moments ever as a promoter buried the guy for almost a month to the media and fans. It was promotional suicide. I said it at the time and I’ll say it now. For a full month he was buried as a coward, not a “true fighter”, and disconnected with the fans. Now you are expecting those same fans you told Jones was basically a fraud to tune and watch him every week on TUF?
Finally, I have to wonder if the UFC actually set the standard too high here with Jones and Sonnen. Will the audience expect to see the biggest stars of the UFC coaching on TUF? With all due respect if the UFC follows this season with something like Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis, can they really expect fans to get into the show the same way they did with superstar coaches? I think a huge part of the bad season right now is the coaches, although that wouldn’t explain the successful Michael Bisping vs. Mayhem Miller season.
So for all of those naïve writers in the media who are telling fans that don’t like it that they’ll watch anyway, my hunch is that you’re wrong. Sure the ratings will greatly increase but will they sustain? Will they produce at or above expectations on a new night? My hunch says no and while this is a nice shiny band-aid on The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC and FX need to do a lot more to close the wounds and keep them from bleeding permanently.
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