At the height of reality TV and the beginning of the UFC explosion, “The Ultimate Fighter” took stage in Jan. 2005. At that time, most people had only heard of the UFC and seen clips of fights here and there but had no knowledge of it’s 10 year history or really any of its top fighters.
The main reason for the ignorance towards the UFC was mainly due the fact that all of it’s events were pay-per-view only and many believed the sport to be barbaric and violent. “The Ultimate Fighter” was the first time a lot of people had ever seen an MMA fight.
Dana White (UFC President) gathered the top unsigned MMA talent from around the country to come show their stuff and fight their way to a UFC 6-figure contract.
The fighters, though split into 2 teams, were forced to live under the same roof (like the “Real World”). The teams trained separately with their respective coaches. Those coaches were Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Known then as just UFC fighters, since the first season of the Ultimate Fighter and the boom of UFC and MMA popularity, Chuck and Randy are now house hold names.
The talent from that first season included; Forrest Griffin (former light heavyweight champion), Josh Koscheck (lightweight championship contender), Diego Sanchez (lightweight championship contender), Kenny Florian (lightweight championship contender), Chris Leben (10-5 UFC record), and others that still fight in the UFC.
Fast forward 10 seasons later and the UFC has never been more popular. Their main events are still shown only on pay-per-view but the exposure is enormous. ESPN now covers MMA and names like Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, and George St. Pierre are widely known across the world. Young and upcoming MMA stars are now scouted out and brought in as “rookies” and it shows in the caliber of fighters in the recent episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter”.
Fighters on the show now are obviously the guys on the fence that Dana White wants to “prove themselves” in order to get a shot in the big times.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the coaches each year are picked specifically to hype up a fight between the two. Two seasons ago, the coaches were Rashad Evans and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Although the fight eventually happened, it was delayed due to Jackson’s involvement in the movie “A-Team”. This most recent season featured coaches Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Tito and Chuck, these two men HATE each other. I wont go into the history but needless to say, the only reason Chuck agreed to coach this season was the opportunity to bash Tito’s face. Well, Tito pulled out of the fight with a few episodes left in the season, after trash talking and hyping the fight the whole time. Just another let down for the MMA fans.
It was inevitable that eventually the talent on the show would dwindle due to lack of unsigned “good” talent. Another factor is the rise of other MMA organizations taking the best of the fighters overlooked by the UFC that might otherwise be eligible to fight on the show.
In short, its a shame to have watched the show from the beginning and slowly realize that the winners of the newer seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” aren’t much better than the losers of past seasons.