Everyone remembers how The Ultimate Fighter Finale in 2005 put UFC on the map when Forrest Griffin beat Stephan Bonnar. Now, Bellator hopes to achieve similar success with their reality TV show, Fight Master. The show begins with a tournament where the winners get to proceed, just as TUF does, but the main difference in Bellator’s show is that the fighters pick their own coaches instead of the other way around. The show began with 32 welterweight fighters, which will be narrowed down to 16 and divided up between four coaches: Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock, Joe Warren, and Randy Coture. All of these coaches are well qualified and have much to offer the fighters.
Greg Jackson has trained fighters like champions Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre, as well as Andrei Arlovski, Shane Carwin, Brian Stann, Gina Carano, Clay Guida, Karo Parisyan, Rashad Evans, Diego Sanchez, and Frank Mir. He is known as one of the best coaches on the planet, even though he has never competed in MMA himself. Frank Shamrock was one of the first UFC champions, and has fought in the King of Pancrese Tournament and Strikeforce. He has been a part of notable teams such as the Lion’s Den and the Alliance, and holds the record for fastest UFC Title Fight Victory by Submission in 16 seconds over Kevin Jackson. Joe Warren is a Greco Roman style MMA fighter who fights in Bellator, and has won the 2006 Pan American and World Champsionship. He was the former Bellator featherweight champion, and an extremely decorated wrestler. The last of the four coaches, Randy Coture, became a famous household name after a successful career in the UFC. He was a three-time Heavyweight champion and two-time Light heavyweight champion. He is a member of the UFC hall of fame, and the only person over 40 years old to have won a UFC championship. He is well versed in wrestling and submission fighting, and was an Olympic alternate. All of these coaches have the skills to turn great fighters into champion fighters, and with all of their skills (and egos) in the mix, it will make for a very interesting show.
One of the most interesting parts of Fight Master is the head games the coaches play with each other and with the fighters. Since the fighters get to pick their coach, the coaches will try and either push a fighter they don’t want on one of the other trainers, or entice a fighter they want to pick them over the others. For example, in episode one, each of the coaches was hoping that onetime Bellator fighter, Eric Scallen, wouldn’t pick them. When Scallen chose Joe Warren, the coach thanked him for his selection before saying “damn” as he walked away. In a confessional, Shamrock celebrated the fact that Scallan didn’t pick him. Shamrock seems to be the best at navigating the selection process, and understands how to manipulate fighters to either pick him or another coach. In episode three, both Shamrock and Jackson attempt to undermine one another in an attempt to snag Mike Dubois for their team, which Shamrock succeeded with.
Aside from the different style of team selection, Bellator’s Fight Master seems to have attracted a higher caliber of fighter. The Ultimate Fighter has a mix of extremely talented future champions amalgamated with a few subpar combatants, whereas Fight Master seems to have match after match of well-groomed and decorated fighters. Unfortunately, this hasn’t caught on with the audience yet, as ratings are still suffering for the past few episodes. Hopefully with the change in the shows dynamic that will take place when the training starts, more viewers will catch on.