If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it still make a noise?

This analogy applies perfectly to The Ultimate Fighter. If a show designed to produce champions and future stars fails to do either, does it even matter anymore?

Ever since the first handful of seasons, TUF has been on a gradual decline both in show quality and fighter quality. Look at the level of fighters in previous seasons compared to what we’ve been forced to watch lately and you’ll notice the product quality is clearly not what it used to be.

But to be fair, it’s not the fighters fault entirely for failing to put on a good show.

Originally, TUF was designed to be a vehicle to move relative unknown stars on the regional circuit into the UFC. It was meant to give that “once in a lifetime” chance to a fighter who may have not had the resources necessary to get noticed on their own. Not only did it give fighters the chance to grace the Octagon, but also created a number of stars in the process.

Fast forward to today’s TUF, and the show produces nothing more than mid-level talent. The show has transformed to be a marketing tool to build a fight between the two coaches. This flawed method of thinking is evident from how many coaches’ fights we expected to see, but that eventually fell through due to injuries.

The UFC thought making the tapings live would revive the series, and although it did grab some initial interest from MMA fans, the momentum fizzled quickly as, outside of a handful of fighters, few were able to capture our attention.

Yet despite some relatively bland casts in recent seasons, a vast majority of them are signed by the UFC to multi-fight contacts. What’s the point of having a reward if guys who lose on the show can still get UFC contracts too? It’s almost like old American Idol seasons where the winner doesn’t always get the best deal.

In previous seasons, the show has attempted to balance the MMA aspect and reality TV. For the most part, the show does a good job of balancing both, but for TUF to become relevant again, the UFC needs to figure out what it wants to do with the product. Does it want the show to be reality TV or does it want to create a program designed to turn rough prospects into future MMA stars?

Either decision will likely lose and gain fans, but it’s a choice the promotion needs to make if it wants the show to progress. With that said, however, I don’t see the American version of TUF returning to the golden years of earlier seasons.

Fighters nowadays have more outlets to become recognized by promotions and get contracts than their counterparts did back in the mid-2000’s when TUF was just launching off the ground. It’s a great tool for finding unknown fighters, but for the competitors who would bring back the level of quality we’ve seen before, TUF tends to be a roadblock on the path to the Octagon.

Photo: Al Iaquinta (R) connects with a right hand (Josh Hedges/Zuffa, LLC)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.