It certainly doesn’t seem that long, but it has been. 12 years ago yesterday, mixed martial arts changed forever. On January 17, 2005 the UFC aired the very first episode of The Ultimate Fighter. Since that time, the show has evolved into what we see today. It is breeding ground for fighters to showcase their skills, before potentially hitting the big stage.
Of course, there were the standard growing pains that any new television show had to endure. At one point, the show was all about entertainment and not who the best fighter was. Coaches were matched up based on animosity that could create drama. Contestants were encourage to drink booze and act a fool. All, in the name of trainwreck television.
Before the UFC became synonymous with FOX, their home was Spike TV. Spike executives had all the power as to what was being shown, how things went down, and even which contestants were picked. It wasn’t about how good of a fighter you were. Rather,it was about how much of a mess you could make of things. Guys like Cub Swanson, Frankie Edgar, and Tyson Griffin all tried out for the show, but didn’t make the cut. Less than qualified fighters made the show, however. Simply because they had some sort of dramatic edge that producers saw as a way to get ratings.
It wasn’t until the UFC branched out and left Spike TV that they had creative control. What was once the Wild West, became an actual reality show focusing on reality. Granted, the mainstream fans stopped watching as much, because they want Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Champions have come from the show, validating it’s usefulness. Fighters like TJ Dillashaw, Forrest Griffin, Matt Serra, Rashad Evans, and Michael Bisping all got their start on The Ultimate Fighter. In short, the show works. It worked when it began and it continues to work today.
The Ultimate Fighter was also a great avenue to showcase the UFC’s biggest star, Dana White. His role on the show has created some of the greatest lines in the sport’s history. Season 1 was when he uttered his now famous phrase,
“Do you want to be a fu**ing fighter?!”
Since episode 1, Dana always does the fight breakdowns in every show. Having the President of a company be so involved with a show, set the foundation for every season. In other words, Dan being on the show makes it work.
It has been 12 years since Mike Swick was a chubby 205 pounder, begging Dana to fight at 185 pounds. 12 years since the coaches challenge, where the season 1 cast almost dropped Randy Couture into the ocean. Lay-Z-Boy Challenge was one of the worst ideas in the history of the show. It’s been 12 years since Diego Sanchez told Stephan Bonnar that he didn’t know what asparagus was and Bonnar telling him he might actually be his father. It’s been 12 years since “Fatherless bastard.”
My, how far we’ve come. Happy birthday TUF!