There is no question that The Ultimate Fighter has been wildly successful over the years. The UFC and the sport of MMA as a whole would not be where it is today had it not been for that magical first season. But the show has become stagnate. Too many fighters play it safe in their fights on the reality series, and it is hurting the final product.

In this current season of TUF, there has been only one finish—a second-round submission by middleweight semifinalist Dhiego Lima in the elimination round of the competition. The fights have been so lackluster that UFC President Dana White has been quoted as saying, “It was without a doubt the worst season and the least motivated the fighters have ever been.”

The Ultimate Fighter is still a great vessel for introducing promising young talent into the promotion but the show’s format needs an overhaul. The fighters need new motivation to not just win, but do so in impressive fashion. So, what should the UFC do to solve this problem?

The first possible solution is an easy one, and it could be introduced without changing the format or makeup of the show. The UFC should hand out bonuses for finishing opponents. Money is the ultimate motivator in the world of professional athletics, and that is never more true than with fighters who are struggling to become full-time athletes. Why not hand these fighters $10,000 when they finish an opponent? It would be a nice incentive for fighters to push the pace and look to get the stoppage. In addition, the UFC could make it known that at the end of the season the fighter with the most impressive finish, as voted on by the fans, would earn an additional $50,000. That is more money than most of the fighters who compete on TUF make in an entire year, and it would motivate them to press the action and go for broke.

That doesn’t solve the problem entirely, though, as some fighters would still play the long game for that six-figure contract at the end of the season. The money would serve as a temporary fix while a better format could be fully developed.

It would take some doing, as the timing would be very difficult to pull off. However, what if The Ultimate Fighter incorporated a World Cup-style format with round-robin pool play leading into a traditional tournament format. Again, this would be very difficult to pull off timing-wise, but a round-robin “fight in” would make for great television, and it would motivate fighters to look for the finish.

Each season would have to be limited to a single weight class. Doing more than one weight class would be way too difficult. Just like past seasons with a single weight class, the UFC would invite 32 fighters to participate. Those 32 fighters would be broken down into eight separate four-fighter groupings. All fighters in each grouping would fight one another. Fighters who win by stoppage would earn three points, fighters who win by decision would earn one point, fighters who lose by decision would get zero and fighters who lose by stoppage would lose one point. The eight fighters who emerge as the winners would automatically move into the fighter house as the top eight seeds. The next eight fighters would be selected based on total points earned in the round-robin format.

Under this format, fighters who win all three bouts by decision would only earn three points, meaning a fighter could lose a fight and still win the round-robin pool if they finished their other two opponents. It would create an atmosphere where finishing fights is the only surefire way to move on in the competition. You pair that created mentality with the “finishing bonuses” for the 16 fighters who make it into the house, and the entire complexion of the competition drastically changes.

The fact of the matter is that if the UFC wants fighters to take risks in the cage and finish fights, then there has to be an added incentive. Right now, the incentive just isn’t there because a fighter knows the only thing that really matters is getting the win. The UFC needs to change that philosophy, and this new system would throw that way of thinking out of the window.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.