Another season of The Ultimate Fighter has come and gone, but did this latest season and its “Redemption” gimmick really pay off?
The Ultimate Fighter 25 was subtitled Redemption, and it was a constant theme throughout the season. As a disclaimer, it’s the first season in a while that has drawn me back into it, so in that sense, the concept worked. Yet it was the fighters, made up mostly of recent TUF also rans peppered with a couple of longtime MMA veterans, that made the show watchable.
The format as a whole? Well, The Ultimate Fighter remains as stale as ever in that regard.
So what went right, and what went wrong? Why was a season that should have been a home run just sort of okay?
Lets get to the good stuff first. Joe Daddy, winner of The Ultimate Fighter 2, may have been defeated twice on TUF 25, but he showed how to handle a loss, and how to support your fellow fighters even after having your comeback crushed. The role played by Stevenson as a coach after being eliminated from the competition was not insignificant, as fellow fighter Tom Gallicchio noted how the veteran helped him with his guillotine defense.
Then there’s JT Money, earning himself a real shot at redemption by making it all the way to the finale. We won’t know whether or not he gets that until Friday night, but even going to the finale is huge for a fighter who was once thrown off the show. Win or lose, there’s a good chance Jesse Taylor will fight in the UFC again. He’s been a staple of the welterweight division for years, after all, and seems like the type of fighter Bellator could use if the UFC overlooks him.
Dhiego Lima? He now has a chance to live up to the bar set by brother Douglas, who recently defended his Bellator MMA title against Lorenz Larkin in New York.
There were some other good story lines as well. The main problem becomes, however, what we can call “the usual.” Pointless bickering between coaches (lets be honest, bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt does not acquit himself well in the show). A coaches fight that once again isn’t happening, at least not any time soon. The same tired format.
The coaches fight issue — well the best we can say is, they tried. The problem is the number of times such fights have fallen through before. Not to mention the fact that it was never going to headline the finale, anyway. Realistically, the UFC might as well move away from trying to make the coaches the stars of the show. Make it all about the fighters trying to earn their way into the UFC. Forget the drama unless there’s a relevant reason to have the coaches take some of the spotlight.
The bickering? Leave most of it on the cutting room floor. There’s only so many bleeps you can really hear before you want to put the show on mute, after all.
The tired format? That’s a tough one. Like The Ultimate Fighter 20, TUF 26 will likely provide more meaningful television because a belt will be on the line in a brand new division. However, you start to wonder whether a massive overhaul of the series isn’t needed when you look back through the years. What about allowing the fighters to compete in a tournament but not having them in the TUF house, instead following them to their own gyms, and spending time with them at home?
What about having a one-night tournament to finish the series, rather than just having the finale at the big event to end the season?
There are ways The Ultimate Fighter could be revived. For now, however, while some fighters may have earned redemption at The Ultimate Fighter 25, the show itself did not.