The UFC and Fox broke the ice of their reality TV efforts with The Ultimate Fighter Live, but the live twist to the series is one and done. Season 16 is currently in production and set to premiere on Sept. 14 on FX, minus the live fights of season 15.
The logistics of editing a week of recorded footage in with the live fights didn’t garner larger ratings on FX than the series had drawn in the past on Spike TV, and it left little time to develop the story lines that typically draw viewers deeper into a reality series.
TUF Live averaged slightly more than 1 million viewers per episode, which is below what the series had done in the past. That left a sour taste in UFC president Dana White’s mouth, as he is constantly looking for growth. But considering the Friday night time slot, which was new to the series, it was to be expected.
The TV ratings for TUF Live were still considered a success by Fox officials because it represented an uptick in its Friday night time slot compared to past programming. It’s not that Fox doesn’t want to continue an upswing for TUF on FX, but it measured the success of the show by a different set of standards than White.
That said, the live format has been jettisoned in a return to the prerecorded format, the recording of which that takes place well before the series hits the television screen. Of course, there will likely be a few new twists and turns, as there always are, plus the marketing has already undergone changes and kicked into gear with the premiere less than two weeks away.
Instead of accepting Friday nights as a downtime for viewers, FX is now playing it up with the slogan “The Ultimate Fighter Fridays… Welcome to the End of the Weak.”
The marketing has also put the emphasis much more on the fighters, introducing many of them via TV commercials that give you a glimpse of a specific fighters story, already trying to get you hooked on wanting to know more.
Only time will tell if the new approach to the old format will pay off when the numbers roll in, but the wait won’t be much longer.
Check out the full roster of 32 fighters each trying to make his way onto Shane Carwin or Roy Nelson’s team, the two UFC heavyweight charged with coaching this season’s teams:
Bristol Marunde, 30, Las Vegas, Nev.
Cameron Diffley, 27, Las Vegas, Nev.
Colton Smith, 25, Fort Hood, Texas via Ankeny, Iowa
Cortez Coleman, 30, Hugo, Okla.
David Michaud, 23, Pine Ridge, S.D.
Diego Bautista, 26, Lakewood, Calif.
Dom Waters, 23, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Eddy Ellis, 29, Olympia, Wash.,
Frank Camacho, 23, Camp Springs, Md.,
George Lockhart, 29, Atlanta, Ga.
Igor Araujo, 31, Albuquerque, N.M. via Patos De Minas, Brazil
James Chaney, 25, Klamath Falls, Ore.
Jason South, 34, West Jordan, Utah
Jerel Clark, 23, Reno, Nev.
Jesse Barrett, 26, Tempe, Ariz.
Joey Rivera, 32, Tucson, Ariz.
Jon Manley, 26, Ludlow, Mass.
Julian Lane, 25, Mansfield, Ohio
Kevin Nowaczyk, 23, Chicago, Ill.
Leo Kuntz, 28, Bismarck, N.D.
Lev Magen, 25, Las Vegas, Nev.
Matt Secor, 25, South Glens Falls, N.Y.
Max Griffin, 26, Sacramento, Calif.
Michael Hill, 25, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
Mike Ricci, 26, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Neil Magny, 24, Chicago, Ill.
Nic Herron-Webb, 22, Anchorage, Alaska
Ricky Legere Jr., 26, Corona, Calif.
Saad Awad, 23, San Bernardino, Calif.
Sam Alvey, 26, Murrieta, Calif.
Tim Ruberg, 30, Harrison, Ohio
Zane Kamaka, 23, Klaianae, Hawaii