I first heard the expression “the sickness” as it pertains to pro wrestling several years ago. It was used to describe wrestling fans. Not your average wrestling fan, but those who can never get enough. Those who seek out wrestling in any form whenever they can. I once had that sickness, but I was cured in the last few years. I now have a new illness. My illness has to do with my desire to see all things MMA. Whether it’s reading MMA news on line, in magazines, or watching anything and everything on television, I’m always working to get my fix. I suspect that this is the reason I continue to watch The Ultimate Fighter 4.
When I first heard that this season of TUF was going to have less-successful UFC fighters, I was on board. I admired the UFC for wanting to do something different and wanting to take a risk. Besides, I believed that more experienced fighters would make for better fights. Unfortunately the fights we’ve seen so far this season have been lackluster affairs. There was the Edwin Dewees vs. Gideon Ray bloodbath, but beyond the drama of having all that blood, the fight itself was nothing special.
I was also happy to learn that this season Georges St. Pierre was to be a coach – I mean trainer. I’ve been a huge fan of his for some time and was looking forward to get to know him better through the show. I figured his French accent and occasional mixing up of words would also provide for some entertainment. Alas we’ve seen very little of St. Pierre and his fellow trainer Randy Couture.
There have been some improvements to the show this year. The one thing I really love is the fight clips from old UFC pay-per-views. Those clips are actually my favorite part of the show. I think it’s great for both old and new fans of MMA to get a little recap of what a given fighter has done previously.
Still, the main problems with the show are the fights and the non-existent trainers. Since I hate to complain about things without offering solutions, here’s what I would do to improve TUF.
So far this season the fighters have been incredibly cautious in the octagon. It’s as if they are hyper-aware of the opportunity they have and they don’t want to screw it up. In previous seasons of TUF there was also plenty on the line, but most of the fighters who put on a decent showing wound up fighting in the UFC anyway. This time around the winner will not only fight on in the UFC after all is said and done, but he gets $100, 000 AND a title shot. Those are three pretty huge rewards. I believe the grandeur of all that is making these guys way more tentative during their fights.
To get the fighters minds off the big prize at the end, I believe they need to have a smaller prize to focus on for each fight. I know that the fighters already get incentives for ending a fight early, but there’s no way those incentives can outweigh a hundred grand and a title shot.
Working cautiously in an attempt to get a decision victory is the smart way to go. I say that those incentives for ending a fight early need to be improved. Specifically the incentives for a knock out. Why not have an incentive of $25,000? Sure it doesn’t compare to a hundred grand at the end, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. I can imagine guys doing everything they can to end a fight early à la Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin I. That’s the type of fight I want to see.
What about Randy Couture and Georges St. Pierre? Why have they been virtually invisible this season? I think a big part of the problem has to do with the fact that they are trainers rather than coaches. That is to say that they’re not competing against each other in any way. They appear to have very little on the line in this season of the show. In previous seasons the pride of the coaches was on the line too. If their fighters lost, it was a reflection on the coach. For this reason the coaches need to represent a team.
In season three when Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock were the coaches, there was even more on the line. I like the idea of having two guys who have a grudge against each other as coaches. Or perhaps if a grudge doesn’t already exist, one will start if you put in someone with a volatile enough personality. Tito Ortiz is the first name that comes to mind, but others such as Nick Diaz, Tank Abbott, or Robbie Lawler would also add some excitement. As with the end of season three, you could also have the coaches square off against each other on PPV.
At the end of the day, I’m less concerned with the role of the coaches as I am with the quality of the fights. If I want to watch a bad reality show, I can tune in to “The Flavor of Love” or “The Simple Life.” All I really want to see are some good fights. The UFC is about MMA, not so-called reality television. Just give me good fights. I don’t care if they’re clips from old PPVs or if two no-name or has-been fighters go at it, just make it good. The fights on this season have been a huge let down. I’ll keep watching because I’m sick that way, but a cure may be just around the corner.
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