Just My Thoughts: UFCs TUF Finale Was Crucial
When it is all said and done, everybody involved within the sport
of mixed martial arts could very well be kissing the feet of
Forrest Griffin and
Stephan Bonnar for eternity. Those two mighty warriors displayed
everything a true fighter is all about: courage, determination,
heart, resilience, skill and passion.
Their fight for a UFC contract is being debated as the greatest
fight in MMA history, let alone just the UFC. And it couldn’t have
come at a more crucial time for the sport.
On Saturday night, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s reality TV
series, “The Ultimate Fighter,” made history by being the first MMA
event broadcast live on cable television. Up until then, the UFC
could only be viewed live via pay-per-view or through satellite
feed. While the exact viewership numbers have yet to be released,
could easily have been witnessed by millions upon millions of
viewers — numbers that could eclipse regular UFC PPV events
Hardcore fans were going to tune in and eventually scoop up the
succeeding UFC events regardless, but the key to TUF’s finale on
Spike TV this past weekend was to lure in new fans to our beloved
If the Diego Sanchez-
Kenny Florian fight
didn’t do much to satiate their thirst for some new form of fistic
or extreme — corporate America’s new favorite marketing buzz word —
action and if the Ken
Franklin fight appeared to be a little bogus (more on that
later), Griffin-Bonnar sealed the deal without question.
If new fans were to be turned on by whatever UFC product Zuffa was
luring them in with, then Lorenzo, Frank, Dana and Co. reeled in a
If Griffin-Bonnar didn’t perform the duty of creating new fans by
competing in a back-and-forth war, then MMA in America is doomed.
If that didn’t work, nothing will; it’s as simple as that.
As members of the MMA community we know what we saw on Saturday
night was arguably the greatest example of fistic bravery and drama
probably ever inside the Octagon — and hopefully those new fans
from the “free TV” world who tuned in were mesmerized by what they
saw. Hopefully they are transformed into lifelong UFC fans.
The tricky part is figuring about exactly how much of an impact
TUF’s finale made on the mainstream market. Selling out the MGM
Grand Garden Arena this coming Saturday for UFC 52 won’t be a
feasible gauge to see how well of a job Spike’s show did. It’ll
sellout regardless. If the PPV numbers for 52 are relatively the
same or even slightly better, then it just means that it will take
a few more cable shows like the TUF finale in order to get things
A few million viewers have tuned in to watch the reality show every
week. Current sales numbers for the latest series of UFC PPV events
are very low by comparison. The PPV telecasts have yet to come
close to eclipsing the million-purchase mark, so this Saturday will
be the initial telltale factor in how successful TUF was.
Put it this way, if UFC sells out the MGM, which is expected,
great. If the PPV telecast even comes close to selling to a million
households, than TUF was an even better catalyst than expected.
Nobody expects the UFC to become some overnight mainstream
sensation like American Idol, but after watching the televised
portion of the TUF finale, Zuffa can thank their lucky stars that
both Griffin and Bonnar were able to survive the many weeks of
filming the reality show.
If it was Griffin or Bonnar versus anybody else, it’s doubtful we
would have been treated to such a thrilling toe-to-toe affair. It’s
that sort of action that casual American fans want to see and they
couldn’t have asked for a better fight than that.
To Forrest Griffin and
Stephan Bonnar: I personally want to thank you for doing what you
did on Saturday night. While I thank every fighter for putting his
or her life on the line every time he or she climbs into the ring
or cage, specific thanks goes to those two 205-pound studs. The TUF
finale was crucial and had to be exciting for the casual fans. A
fight almost cannot be more exciting, more enthralling, more
exhilarating, more dramatic or more satisfying than
It’s almost impossible.
Looking ahead many years, I can guarantee to everybody who is a
part of MMA in some form or another that the war between Forrest Griffin and Stephan
Bonnar will be viewed as the most important fight in American MMA
It was as exciting as any battle in boxing history. Legendary bouts
like Hagler-Hearns, Barrera-Morales, Ali-Frazier, Tyson-Holyfield,
Robinson-LaMotta, Louis-Schmelling and countless others are revered
as memorable, important bouts. Griffin-Bonnar will be judged the
same. That bout alone will be what puts MMA on the map as far as
the American mainstream is concerned and it couldn’t have come at a
more critical point.
I don’t know who is solely responsible for the creation and
foundation of “The Ultimate Fighter,” but since Dana White is the
president of Zuffa and is regarded as the one guy who masterminds
everything UFC, he has to be the one to receive the most credit for
what just happened back on April 9.
White has been the brunt of criticism almost since Day One in terms
of Zuffa-era UFC. He has been accused of being a mobster wannabe, a
tough guy gangsta who cares about nothing but money and a downright
criminal who takes advantage of his fighters. He has been bombarded
with hateful jabs at how he is solely responsible for bringing down
MMA and chasing the almighty dollar instead of trying to force MMA
into the limelight. In essence, he is revered as the MMA Don King,
But sorry, I fail to concur.
While I am guilty of openly criticizing Mr. White and some of the
moves he has made throughout his tenure with Zuffa, props must be
given when they are due. Since Dana is the one to receive the flack
when anything goes awry, it is my duty to commend him for pulling
off such a memorable event such as TUF’s finale. If that show was
his brainchild, then he has a goldmine on his hands. There will be
at least a second season of TUF and even if the show isn’t on
Thursday nights right before ER, the TUF finale should have been
more than synergistic into creating the UFC into a mainstream
I was outright critical of the show from its inception (read any of
my old articles to find out) and was far too leery of how well it
would shed light on the sport of MMA. I figured it to be a cheesy
rip-off of the absolutely appalling “reality” series based on
boxing, last year’s critically ashamed “The Next Great Champion.”
That show was nothing more than a heaping pile of buffalo manure
and I expected TUF to follow suit.
No reality show is perfect. I follow The Contender religiously
because it is well done. (It would be perfect if they would
actually show the bloody fights instead of random clips. Just show
the f___ing fight already!) But out of all the reality shows,
especially ones based on sports like TNGC, The Contender, WWF’s
Tough Enough, etc., The Ultimate Fighter was as close to perfect as
one could get. And the finale was better than perfect, an event
that couldn’t have come at a better time.
To Dana White and the rest of my boys at Zuffa, I congratulate you
on a superb show from start to finish and awarding “loser” Stephan
Bonnar with a contract at the fight’s conclusion was admirable.
I know in my heart that MMA is the best sport on the face of the
earth and you guys are doing your best to make it mainstream. We
just have to have patience and a good attitude in order to make it
and we’ll be here to support you all the way. And if the TUF finale
is as popular as I hope it is, it’ll be no time before UFC
pay-per-view events easily start selling to at least 500,000
different homes (a million is such a large number for now … De La
Hoya- and Tyson-type numbers).
My opinions on the rest of the event will come in a separate
article. I just wanted to vent my appreciation of The Ultimate
Fighter before I started getting into how key of a fighter Diego Sanchez is and how Ken Shamrock is now the victim of
mass accusations. But stay tuned for my thoughts on those topics
and enjoy what was The Ultimate Fighter’s finale.
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