This past weekend, at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Chikadze, the latest season of TUF, titled ‘The Return of The Ultimate Fighter’ concluded.

Ricky Turcios won the bantamweight bracket, defeating Brady Hiestand via decision in a stellar fight. Harking back to the classic Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar clash from the finale of season one.

On the middleweight side, despite getting picked last for Team Volkanovski, the excellently named Bryan Battle defeated Gilbert Urbina by submission, to win the coveted UFC contract.   

Urbina was noticeably drained from taking the fight on short notice. Replacing Tresean Gore, the man that beat Gilbert in the semi-finals, due to a knee injury.

Turcios especially, looks like an exciting prospect. Another highly decorated fighter, and big personality added to an already stacked UFC bantamweight division.

UFC Fight Night results: Battle and Turcios become Ultimate Fighter  champions

This was TUF’s long awaited return since the shows demise, in 2018.

Ever since the shows inception back in 2005, its provided fans with world champion athletes, memorable moments and really cashed in on the rise of reality television.

The premise was simple. Put a bunch of trained killers in the same house, take away all contact with the outside world, train, fight and add in some alcohol.

It was revolutionary for the sport, and the show was a production line of talent. Many of whom are still affiliated with the UFC today.

No Winning Formula

Like most long running shows, the blueprint quickly became stale.

Unsuccessful tweaks were made, like making it live, country vs country, a gym vs gym and letting the winner fight for a title, all failed to keep the show fresh.

Historically, while the show offered up entertaining moments, the fights themselves barely lived up to expectation. Add in that the later editions were rammed with bland, and downright uninteresting cast members. And it’s easy to see why the ratings bombed, and cable deals fell.

At its core, the Ultimate Fighter is reality television.

While most fighters entered the famed TUF house to win the contract, and advance into the UFC.

We’ve witness people enter the show due to their noteworthy backstory, or eye-catching appearance. Despite the fact they had little, to no experience fighting at a professional standard.

This was kicked into overdrive in the later seasons. It was seemingly a requirement to have a sob story to make your way on the show.

While mixed martial arts, like any form of physical activity is a fantastic tool when dealing with inner turmoil. The Ultimate Fighter should be used as a springboard for future world champions, fast-tracking their way into the UFC, not to a fledgling hopeful with the right selling point.

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The Ultimate Fighter joined the reality television boom of the early noughties, but those casual fans aren’t tuning in anymore.

Those that watch the show are strictly fans of the sport, trying to search out the next breakthrough star.

They don’t need unnecessary drama, and pranks.

Instead, why not swap it out for in-depth training session footage, game planning, and the overall preparation that goes into an MMA fight. Keep the reality aspect but show the reality of what it takes to be a modern-day fighter.

Bigger Issues

The Ultimate Fighter joined the reality television boom of the early noughties, but those casual fans aren’t tuning in anymore.

Those that watch the show are strictly fans of the sport, trying to search out the next breakthrough star.

They don’t need unnecessary drama, and pranks.

Instead, why not swap it out for in-depth training session footage, game planning, and the overall preparation that goes into an MMA fight. Keep the reality aspect but show the reality of what it takes to be a modern-day fighter.

So whose your pick to win TUF redemption? | Sherdog Forums | UFC, MMA &  Boxing Discussion

The 16 fighters that appear on the show go through quite the ordeal for the six to eight weeks runtime.

As previously mentioned, they enter a hyper-competitive household, away from their home comforts, loved ones, and all forms of media.

They undertake multiple weight-cuts, all away from the supervision of their normal coaches.

All for the chance of a contract in the UFC, the dream scenario, right?

Not exactly.

Previous winners of the show have been openly critical on the contract they were rewarded. As they were locked in to a lengthy eight fight deal, for marginal pay.

This highlights the main issue with the show for a majority of the fanbase, the winning prize.

The Contender Series

As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to evolve, so does the nature of the fans.

UFC content is widely accessible to those that seek it out.

Those of you that watch Dana White’s Contender Series, will see several fighters get handed a UFC contract on a weekly basis.

The UFC brass surely can’t expect people to tune in to the Ultimate Fighter in their droves, and invest in the series, just for the winner to be gifted a contract, that is handed out on television on a regular basis.

Sure, winning the show was once a major scalp, and would normally catapult you into the upper echelon of the organisation. That’s not the case anymore, and the addition of a substantial cash prize should be in place.

The UFC roster is completely swollen, something that they need to do, as they run weekly events.

In its current state, it’s hard for MMA fans to tune in and latch on to someone, that could very well likely become just another interchangeable face on a less than satisfactory contract.

TUF 16 Finale results: Colton Smith dominates Mike Ricci to win Ultimate  Fighter trophy, six-figure contract - MMAmania.com

Yes, the UFC brand is as important as ever, and it remains the leader of global mixed martial arts. It’s the place most active fighters work towards, and hearing Bruce Buffer calling out your name would justify all the sacrifices you’ve made over the years.

But dangling that contract as a carrot after a gruelling season of the Ultimate Fighter, surely isn’t a reasonable prize with the Contender Series in play, is it?