by Ivan Trembow
The season premiere of The Ultimate Fighter has come and gone, and it was a largely entertaining show that was only marred by two fighters quitting.
At the beginning of the show, I loved the idea that whoever was picked as the “weakest link” in each weight class would not actually be eliminated without ever getting a chance to fight (which was BS in the first season), but would instead get a chance to fight for their survival and could fight the opponent of their choice. That would have also solved the problem of not having a fight in the season premiere, which hurt the show in the first season. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out given the circumstances with the two quitters, but no one could help that.
As for the two quitters, I could go either way on Kenny Stevens because he did quit, but that kind of sauna environment is also dangerous no matter how commonplace it is. As a result, I can’t come down too hard on him if he was legitimately out of it from the weight-cutting.
Eli Joslin is a different story. First of all, how in the hell did he get on the show with an MMA record of 1-0? And second of all, he says “the camera thing” isn’t working for him? Did he think he was going to study to be a monk at a secluded temple somewhere? He signed up to be on a reality show! I guess if he was not completely mentally stable, it was good that he did quit, because there could be disastrous or tragic consequences if a mentally unstable person is put in a house with nothing to do, with other aggressive males around, and with large amounts of alcohol. (I don’t know if there is alcohol in the house in Season 2, but given what happened in Season 1 and how much more serious that could situation could have been, it would be nothing short of a Trash TV move if there is alcohol in the house again this season).
In the first season, the UFC had a lot of contestants get red-flagged at the last minute for various things, whether it was something on a background check or a drug test. That’s why you saw so many natural 185-pound fighters competing at 205 pounds, and that’s why you saw so many 170-pound fighters competing at 185 pounds. The UFC also had a hard time filling out the roster of heavyweight fighters for Season 2 due to the background checks, drug testing, and medical tests, not to mention the fact that good heavyweights are hard to find in general.
Nonetheless, it’s very important to do all of those tests, and I think the producers should add an extra layer to the screening process for Season 3. I think they should add a mental health exam, which is a standard thing with a lot of employers even when the job at stake is a lot less inherently risky than fighting for a living. It’s perfectly legitimate to check on that kind of thing, for the fighters’ own good.
I’m not necessarily saying that contestants who are being considered for the show should be subjected to the kind of “brain-typing” that is done by many NFL and NBA teams. I’m just referring to a general psychological exam to make sure that nobody makes it on the show who is more likely than the average person to become paranoid about “the whole camera thing,” or to compare the experience of being on a reality show to being in prison. There should also be exhaustive questionnaires and interviews to make sure that the contestants are 100% committed to being a fighter and are not going to quit.
Obviously, the producers of a reality show don’t want to have 18 people who are all completely mature and mellow at all times, but I’m sure they also don’t want to have quitters who lower the total number of fights that are actually on each season.
Other thoughts on the season premiere…
The element of Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes getting angry at the contestants when it’s warranted is something that we didn’t really see in the first season with Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, who never really got angry with anyone. This adds an extra dimension to the show because you rarely get to see world champions like Hughes and Franklin in that kind of environment, getting angry and reacting as they naturally would. So far, Franklin appears to be the more easily annoyed of the two, while Hughes’ greater level of coaching experience makes him harder to upset.
Jorge Gurgel has star written all over him from a charisma standpoint, and I mean that in a Nate Quarry kind of way as opposed to a Chris Leben kind of way. And who has gotten bigger pops from the crowds in their UFC fights, Quarry or Leben? The answer is Quarry, by far. Gurgel seemed like a total class act and a great representative of the sport, which is exactly what a TUF contestant should be. It’s possible to have classy people on the show representing MMA, while still having entertaining television.