A new sneak-preview of some of the goings-on in The Ultimate Fighter 16 has now emerged ahead of Friday’s season premiere on FX.
Right from the off it’s clear that this edition of the show is going in a different direction from the TUF: Live format which focused heavily on the fights in the cage.
Instead, it looks like the reality-TV drama angle is being pushed hard, with various incidents of fighters getting into physical and verbal altercations in the TUF house dominating the footage.
Some fans might be turned off by that, but honestly I think it’s exactly what they need to try to claw back their viewership after TUF: Live did very poor numbers earlier in the year.
After that it’s not so much about appealing to the hardcore fan base as it is about drawing in casual viewers who wouldn’t otherwise have tuned in. Of course we all hope that some of those who are drawn in by the behind-the-scenes craziness are then also sucked into the sport too, but at the end of the day the most important thing is to get as many eyeballs as possible watching the show, regardless of the reason why.
And let’s not forget that the reality side of the show has always had a big part to play, even in the very first season on Spike TV. Without it I doubt people would boo as hard for pantomime villain Josh Koscheck, root so passionately for the troubled Chris Leben to finally overcome his demons, laugh so loud at Diego Sanchez’s wacky antics or cheer so loudly for a ‘good guy’ like Mike Swick when he finally made a successful return to the Octagon after a career-threatening illness.
TUF is about discovering new talent, but it’s also a rare opportunity to flesh out a fighters personality at an early stage in their career and give fans a reason to want to tune in to see them fight in the future.
The combination of those two factors are how stars are born, rather than just providing more faceless cannon fodder to fill up spaces on the roster.