This kind of piece has been seen before no doubt, but with the reveal that the coaches of the next season of The Ultimate Fighter are former foes Frankie Edgar and until now retired BJ Penn the argument must be made again – why? Well, because the promise of a third fight between Edgar and Penn, in which Edgar won both, is not exactly setting the MMA world on fire.
Initially, as it was announced and spread like wildfire on Twitter, it seemed like an awesome idea. BJ Penn, MMA and UFC legend, was coming out of retirement and take on the man who took his belt. Great, BJ moving away from those giants at welterweight and back where he dominated for so long. “He was robbed in the first fight anyway! So it’s basically one fight each!”. Except it’s not. Then came the frankly amazing revelation that this fight would take place at featherweight. That’s 145 lbs. That’s BJ Penn at 145 lbs. Who would ever have though it possible? It still might not be.
Regarding the potential of that season itself, we once again have a previous coach returning to do the job again. It makes sense for both fighters in fairness. For Frankie Edgar, he gets the opportunity to coach TUF for the first time and gets a chance to gain a whole new fan base on FOX Sports 1, whereas otherwise he’d be swallowed up in terms of exposure by many other fighters on a regular PPV or UFC Fight Night. For BJ Penn, it’s pretty straightforward. Let’s be honest, we all knew he’d eventually come out of his retirement, again. The question was just whether he would remain too stubborn to drop down a division. But the news that he’s not only dropping one division, but TWO divisions, suggests that “The Prodigy” truly does have the fire back in his belly and will no doubt use the platform of TUF to prove to the thousands tuning that he’s back and he means business.
That’s all good for Frankie and Baby Jay, but when does the longest-running reality tv show in history realize when it’s time to hang up its ratings once and for all? When does The Ultimate Fighter finally and definitively become a vehicle for career revival rather than career beginnings?
Now this could all be a bit rash of course, and although the current Rousey/Tate-coached season of TUF drew poor ratings in its debut last Wednesday, time can only tell whether the combustible dynamic of MMA’s leading ladies can draw the numbers that FOX and the UFC will come to expect. And if they can’t, can we realistically expect Edgar and Penn to pick up the pieces and run with the current format? It’s very possible, but Rousey/Tate aside, when was the last time you truly got excited about pending TUF coaches?
Personally, one would have to go back to TUF 10 when “Rampage” Jackson and Rashad Evans went head to head. Are we being too pessimistic? Hopefully, and when you think about it, so often has it been the case that those same coaches we weren’t excited to see oppose each other turned out to be some of more exciting in the season’s history. Jon Jones, Chael Sonnen, Georges St-Pierre and Josh Koscheck come to mind off the bat.
But why even bother venting these thoughts and frustrations? Maybe it’s for the best we just leave well alone. As Dana White has said so often in the past, “nobody’s forcing you to watch it!”. If two seasons a year are too much (not including TUF Brazils and international TUFs etc.) then don’t watch two, stick with one, after all, the Fall television schedule is pretty damn hectic usually.
So the moral of the story is this: there is none. Just pipe down and enjoy the shows. Or don’t. It’s pretty much up to you what you watch.