10 YRS AGO: The Ultimate Fighter changes formats, will this be good or bad for the reality franchise?

Ten years ago this week, The Ultimate Fighter 4 was set to debut with a new format, featuring experienced UFC fighters looking for a second chance. Columnist Nick Debrey wrote about the prospects of this new approach to the UFC franchise reality show…

The Ultimate Fighter Four (TUF4) is scheduled to hit the air this Thursday. The format for this season of the reality show is a little different than the first three seasons. This time around those competing on the show will not be virtual unknowns hoping for a chance to fight in the UFC. Rather, they are experienced UFC fighters.

I was a little perplexed when I first heard about the new twist on the show, and I had my doubts about how well the new concept would work. I couldn’t figure out what kind of motivation and experienced fighter would have for wanting to be on a reality show. Then I found out more of the details. Seems the experienced UFC fighters are those that haven’t performed all that well in the octagon. Their motivation? The winner gets a shot at the title in their respective weight class. I like it, and here’s why.

These fighters have had a taste of what it’s like to fight in the biggest MMA organization in North America. They may have a victory or two in the UFC, but none of the competitors has a winning record. As a result they are all likely on their way out of the UFC unless they can turn things around. TUF 4 is their vehicle to do just that. Not only is it a chance to save their UFC careers, but a title shot to boot. What might otherwise take them a couple of years to achieve through several impressive victories, they have a chance of getting simply by being better than a dozen or so fighters over the course of a six week TV taping. Any experienced fighter would recognize this as a golden opportunity not to be taken lightly.

Beyond getting a title shot, what these fighters also get is as opportunity for fans to get to know them and like them. Season three did just that for Tito Ortiz. Going into the TUF 3 there were plenty of people, including myself, that saw Tito as a prick and wanted Ken Shamrock to get the better of him. This was evidenced by all the boos Tito got at some of the events leading up to the start of season three. The thing is, the show turned everything around.

Tito came across as a super nice guy that went the extra mile for the fighters he was training, while Ken Shamrock came across as the jerk. I can totally see how something similar may result for some of these more experienced fighters in the new season. The commercials for the show are already doing a good job of promoting Shonie Carter. Something tells me he’s gonna come out of season four with a much higher profile than before.

Finally, what I’m really looking forward to for this season is that the fights we’re going to get should be way better. The previous season has had some decent fights, but they were very hit and miss. I think with more experienced fighters, higher quality fights should result.

The Ultimate Fighter has been a pretty decent show since it’s inception, and UFC management has done a good job of making improvements each season. I have little reason to believe that season four will disappoint. If you’ve yet to get hooked into the world of MMA, be sure to check out TUF4 this Thursday at 10 p.m. ET. Also, make sure you tune in early to The UFC Fight Night Live starting at 8 p.m. ET, which will lead into the debut episode. This Thursday should be kick ass!

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