GONAZLES: Here comes the Celebrity Ultimate Fighter – with William Morris in charge, this could be just the beginning

By Frank Gonzales, MMATorch editor

C.M. Punk (photo credit Jayne Kamin-Oncea © USA Today Sports)

Oh no!  A professional ‘wrassler with no real combat experience is going to fight in the UFC!  It’s the end of MMA as we know it!

And I feel fine…

Because I don’t have a problem with C.M. Punk getting in the cage on Saturday.  In fact, I’m hoping we actually see “C.M. PUNK” for a moment, as opposed to this respectful Phil Brooks character.  I want the intro and the arrogance and the attitude that made Punk so likable because of his unlikability.  I want a Pepsi Plunge from the top of the Octagon.

Instead, I’ll probably see an old-fashioned beatdown followed by a sea of “I told you so’s” from folks protecting the sanctity of our sport.  They better hope Punk doesn’t pop a decent buyrate, however, because if he does, get ready for Celebrity Ultimate Fighter.

That’s right, 16 B and C level “stars” training to fight each other with the final two duking it out on PPV.  Will the former teen-idol overcome the failed actor like he overcame addiction?  Tune in Saturday…

With William Morris now pulling the strings, I’m afraid this isn’t that far of a stretch.  They didn’t just purchase a fighting organization; they purchased a promotional vehicle.  And if you don’t think they’ll use their new platform to push their other “Endeavors,” I got two words for you…

Wake up.

Because anyone who shells out sixty bucks this Saturday isn’t just paying to see fights. We’re paying to see the last episode of a reality show that’s been airing the past few weeks on Fox.  We’re paying to see a celebrity from another industry attempt MMA for the first time.  And if it does well, it won’t be the last.

Regardless of your opinions on the Fertittas, no one can deny their commitment to the sport, particularly Lorenzo, who is a bona-fide fight aficionado.  But to expect William Morris to share the same passion and enthusiasm would be foolish.  They just spent 4 billion dollars on a company.  They need a return on their investment, and they know the same thing that we do – in MMA, stars make the money.

And now they own a star-building show all of their own, which is really all The Ultimate Fighter is, as opposed to a talent pipeline it once was.  With ratings struggling over the years, why wouldn’t they try to spruce it up with something new?  Why not fill the house with actors and actresses willing to fight to boost their career?  Would watching a fight featuring K-Fed be any less compelling than Ryan Benoit?  How bout an ex-football bad-ass?  WME represents athletes, too.

Personally, I agree with Jeff Sherwood, pioneer and founder of one of MMA’s most influential websites, who’s always argued that mixed martial arts is “entertainment” more than a sport, in that what matters outside the cage is more important than within.  With William Morris now at the helm of the UFC, you’d be foolish to argue his point.

(Frank Gonzales is a new MMATorch contributor. Look his “As I See It” column once a week here at MMATorch. Follow him on Twtter @frankieagogo.)

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