There’s a lot behind why the ratings for this season of “The Ultimate Fighter” having poor ratings. You can point at Brock Lesnar acting like a human being instead of a frothing at the mouth lunatic, doing everything in his power to pick a fight with Junior Dos Santos in an effort to create a rivalry of the personal and not professional variety, as one reason. Part of the allure of the show is two fighters scheduled to fight one another engaging in antics designed to provoke one another. The fact that Lesnar is acting like a professional doing a job as opposed to finding a way to continually look like a jackass can be blamed as there isn’t drama like GSP-Koscheck or Rampage-Rashad. Personal rivalries fuel ratings, obviously, and there isn’t one to be found. But one seems to be glaring and few acknowledge it: the fighters.
Here’s the thing when you watch the fighters on the show: they don’t act as if the contract is something worthwhile. It’s the thing that keeps coming up throughout all the “drama” of the household and the fights. When you hear guys complain about being called a name and it getting them down in some aspects, it makes you just want to scream one thing: What are you, 12?
It’s the one thing that has slowly crept into the show since the very first season, when it was more of a reality show than a fighting show. The success of the show, and the fighters on it, has given the show a feeling like “American Idol” currently has. These aren’t the best fighters in the world, nor are they the best prospects, but they happen to have a handful of very good prospects mixed in with guys that have potential, etc. They’ve been picked more for television than for their fighting abilities and it tends to show. It’s understandable, considering a season full of Gray Maynard types would be insanely boring, but a bunch of guys there to be television stars isn’t what “The Ultimate Fighter” ought to be about. And that’s the thing that is driving people away from watching the show: it’s hard to root for guys who get offended at being called “chickens!@t.”
One understands why Brock would call his team that, probably having been called far worse in the wrestling rooms he toiled for over the years, and he and Dos Santos seem to be the only guys who understand the opportunity provided. It’s understandable to see him frustrated because everything that he has done to that point isn’t in the realm for the guys he’s coaching. He’s a guy who spent years working extremely hard to become a wrestling champion, a guy with natural athletic abilities who worked twice as hard as anyone to be the absolute best. Considering he’s gone from being a former amateur and professional wrestler to one of the five best heavyweights in the world in such a short amount of time is a testament to his work ethic. It’s the one thing you take away from watching Brock during “Countdown” and “UFC Primetime” shows: no one outworks this guy. He just isn’t coasting on natural abilities in his fight career; who’d have thought he would beat Shane Carwin by a head-arm triangle choke?
It seems hard to say that most of the cast of this season’s show is doing the same.
The one thing that keeps popping into mind when watching this season’s show is that fighters on both sides are more concerned about television drama than their fights. They’ve come to embrace reality television stardom, fleeting as it is, as opposed to being hungry and wanting to be the next Ultimate Fighter. It’s impossible to root for people who are whores for fame as opposed to guys genuinely wanting to be the best. It’s the thing that stands out about this season; it should be an honor that guy like Brock Lesnar cares about your progress and wants you to “wow” him. He wants to turn guys who have proven nothing in the UFC into potentially people who could.
If he just showed up and said “have a good fight” like he was Ken Shamrock, not really doing much, then it’d be something. But Brock isn’t a cheerleader or a psychologist and apparently that’s what this cast wants: someone to tell them they’re special and unique. You can tell by the way he works with his team that he’s genuinely interested in doing so. Whether they are is up for debate, sadly.
That’s why Kimbo Slice was such a nice revelation during the heavyweight season; he was a freak show fighter who genuinely wanted to prove he was more than that. For all the talk of his past, Kimbo was a humble guy who embraced the format and came out a better fighter. Slice came to learn and show that he wasn’t some freak show fighter there for a ratings pop. He was a guy we could get behind because it’s impossible to root for someone trying to leave a lifestyle like his behind. He was doing the right thing; he just wasn’t very good at being a professional fighter it turns out.
And it’s why people didn’t like Junie Browning, or his brother, from seasons’ past because neither was in it for the right reasons. They saw guys like Josh Koscheck acting like jerks earlier and thought by acting foolish they’d become famous. People want to root against dishonorable people and for the good ones. But they don’t want to waste their time with people who want to be famous and will do anything to get it. And that’s what this season’s show feels like: a bunch of people trying to get famous by fighting on a television show. No one is hungry, wanting to take on all-comers and not caring about the ancillary, dramatic portions of the fight. They look and sound like cry-babies who get their feelings hurt because of name-calling.
And really … who wants to watch that?
Tags: Brock Lesnar, Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck, Junior dos Santos, Kimbo Slice, Mixed Martial Arts, The Ultimate Fighter 13