The Ultimate Fighter’s New Look | EDITORIAL
A few days ago, season seventeen of UFC’s television series The Ultimate Fighter aired featuring the current light heavyweight, Jon Jones, and notorious trash talker Chael Sonnen. In familiar fashion, a pool of young prospects and seasoned competitors stepped into the octagon with the opportunity to pursue their dreams of becoming the next Ultimate Fighter.
For those unacquainted to the series, The Ultimate Fighter is a reality program that follows a group of fighters as they compete against each other in an elimination styled tournament to be crowned The Ultimate Fighter. The fighters are divided into two teams which are coached by current UFC roster fighters and a staff of their choosing. Following the end of the season, the coaches square off along with the final two competitors of the show. The winner is awarded a three year and six figure contract with the UFC.
This time around the UFC sought to bring back its wild card format which grants four eliminated fighters a second opportunity to stay in the tournament. This wild card change was first introduced in season eleven of the show and was instituted to allow fighters with controversial losses and high promise another chance to win the tournament.
What was instantly noticeable in the season’s premiere episode was the improved production quality of the program along with its higher concentration geared at emotionally investing the viewer to the fighters. The improved production can be seen in the improved picture quality in the fighter’s interviews as well as in the dramatic use of lighting, camera movements, and special effects. Additionally, this episode marked the first time that the competing fighters were allowed to bring their family members to their first fight, which often determines whether they remain on the show or are sent home. Because of this, more treatment was spent detailing the back story of each fighter than in the previous seasons. This came at the sacrifice of airing more fight footage as most fights were rendered to highlight reels and only a few were shown in its entirety.
While this new format came at the expense of less octagon footage, the time the show spent humanizing the individuals did arguably allow for fans to connect to the fighters at a level beyond what was originally given. This in turn created some excruciating and emotionally gripping moments such as watching a fighter who had professed that he is thousands of dollars in debt in lose or seeing the anguish and disappointment a fighter experienced after losing in front of his family and friends.
It seems to be clear that the show seems to be transforming itself which is obvious in the metamorphosis of the show’s image and immediately noticeable new look. The reoriented focus towards the fighter allows the viewer to relate to the person stepping into the cage by opening their eyes to their life outside of it. While exposure to fighters in the past was restricted to twenty second segments of them declaring their confidence in ensuring that they will defeat their opponent, more attention is being invested in portraying these fighters in more personable and relatable ways. This new shift in marketing seems to a bit more progressive to the professional image of the sport and the UFC and is complimented with cleaner and improved camera aesthetics and production. Unfiltered trash talk and excess bravado has been replaced with real back stories that illustrate the motives and lives of these fighters and the moments that have led these competitors to this stepping stone in their life.
Because of the aforementioned, the show definitely deserves a look, or in the case of some fans who had abandoned the series, a second look. Only time will tell if the series continues to portray itself in a professional light and does not fall back into the direction of glorifying unprofessional and crude behavior. Nonetheless, the exchanges between Jones and Sonnen have proved to be entertaining and the talent pool of this season alone warrants a view. Tor Troeng, Uriah Hall, and Clint Hester are just a few of the many fighters that have showed impressive promise in their victories over their opponents and we can only expect more to come as their skills are refined by two of the UFC’s most proven fighters.