By Jillian Bullock
On March 16, 2013, at the UFC 158 prelims, UFC president Dana White announced some major changes to The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show.
“For the first time ever, we’ll have two women coaches, and we will have 135-pound men and 135-pound women living and training in the house together,” White said.
For season 18, TUF will welcome UFC women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey as one coach. Whoever is victorious in the April 13 bout between Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate will be the other coach. Amateur bantamweight fighters, men and women, will come together for six weeks.
When the MMA community heard about White’s announcement, many people weren’t pleased, including MMA commentator, Joe Rogan, who stated: “That sounds ridiculous.”
However, considering the past few seasons of the show has become dull and boring, it is understandable why White is trying to breathe new life into an otherwise stale show. To use Rousey, who is a media darling and extremely popular with men and women, to promote the Tuesday night show may make White a sheer marketing genius.
On the other hand, it’s one thing to change the format up and bring female trainers in to coach the fighters, but as Eric Gargiulo of CamelClutchBlog.com put it, “mixing of sexes in the house is just asking for trouble. There is a lot that can go wrong there. All it takes is one bad incident between a male and a female to put a big black eye on MMA and play into the stereotype. This could be a recipe for disaster.”
Clearly not everyone is happy about the idea of the upcoming changes. Here are a few comments from some noteworthy MMA professionals.
Mike Drahota, MMA Frenzy: “It seems like they’re trying to make their own version of The Real Word: UFC. TUF ratings may be on the downward slide, but creating a freak show is not the answer to that problem.”
Chris Leslie: MMA Frenzy: “I know the UFC is in a war with Viacom, but they did not have to turn TUF into a half-assed version of Jersey Shore/Real World to fight it. There is so much potential for disaster here with potential fights and other drama that usually gets annoying when it is only guys in the house.”
Miguel Barragan, Fighters.com and FightLine: “The next season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring both men and women living in the same home can be summed up in one word: desperate. This reeks of desperation, desperation for ratings.”
However, there are just as many who disagree with the above comments.
Brendhan Conlan, FiveOuncesofPain and Fighters.com: “The UFC makes a lot of bone-headed decisions but this isn’t one of them. Not only does it give female fighters a platform to showcase their skills, deepening the bantamweight division in the process as well, but it also injects a little excitement into an otherwise stale product.”
Dana Becker, FightLine and MMAConvert: “It’s all about ratings, baby! Why do you think there were a hundred seasons of The Real World? Hell, I’m actually surprised it has taken the UFC this long to bring females into a house with amped-up, hot-headed male fighters.”
Sean Beanblossom, MMALinker: “Choosing Ronda Rousey to coach TUF, and bringing female and male fighters together to live in a house, is the perfect way to attract fans who appreciate the excitement of reality television and drama. Relationships mixed with fighting will be just another branch off the tree of MMA expansion in terms of versatile publicity attempts. Smart move for the UFC. Expect TUF ratings to flourish.”
Tim Thompson, MMALinker: “The time is now for women’s MMA to be pushed into the spotlight and it is undeniable the TUF ratings will benefit by having her (Rousey) on the show week after week. As long as they can showcase some exciting fights in the house, there is no reason that this won’t be a building block to another huge expansion for the UFC.”
Of course there are pros and cons to this new twist on the show. TUF could be reduced to just another cheap drama highlighting fights, sex, irrational attitudes, and out of control behavior. On most reality shows when women are featured, such as The Braxtons, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, TheBasketball Wives, Bad Girls Club, and others, they’re pitted against each other and it usually ends disastrously. This is what the threadbare phrase, “put a bunch of women together in a room, and you get a catfight” is based on. On TUF this could be even more eventful considering when female MMA fighters get pissed off they could actually do some serious damage to one another. Still, the ratings for these types of shows prove that people love to watch a train wreck. This may be just what TUF needs to boost its ratings, too.
Sex Sells Even More!!
Sexual adventures or misadventures will more than likely take place in the TUF house because any time you have men and women together, especially in close quarters, romance or just plain sex is bound to happen. This could be a great way for two fighters to begin a serious relationship or it could backfire and turn into a bitter experience where jealousy, arguing and fights break out constantly. Again, ratings for the show are likely to increase because even people who have lost interest may now tune back in just to see what happens.
The Bottom Line
Over all, this could be a great opportunity to showcase how men and women fighters are much alike, with the same quest to do well, to achieve their dreams, their struggles to balance family, work and what they want to do as a career, how they handle injuries, fears, hopes, failures, and self-doubt.
In an article written by Maggie Hendericks from Yahoo Sports! Philippines, she stressed that the best way to make TUF work and be of significant importance would be to forget trying to sensationalize the show, but instead “Take an honest look at how male and female fighters support each other.”
Bringing Women’s MMA To The Spotlight
Having women as coaches on TUF could not only help the ratings roar, but more importantly this could be a wonderful opportunity to really get to know the coaches better on a personal level and see their strategy for working with both male and female fighters.
Despite the fact that women have been fighting for many years in Strikeforce and Bellator, there are still a large number of MMA fans, who express themselves through comments on MMA sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, who still don’t believe females belong in this sport simply because they can’t fight. TUF can help change their beliefs when they watch the female fighters train just as hard as their male counterparts each week.
Do You Have What It Takes?
Since The Ultimate Fighter debuted in 2005 it was become a springboard for the career of more than 100 UFC fighters. Some of these fighters, like Rashad Evans, Matt Serra, Forrest Griffin, and Michael Bisping, have gone on to achieve very successful and lucrative careers in the UFC. You could be next. If you are interested in trying out for TUF, Season 18, click on the link below for details. Open tryouts take place April 15 in Las Vegas. http://media.ufc.tv/TUF/TUFApplicationSeason18.pdf
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