Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why You Should Watch Ultimate Fighter

The Ultimate Fighter is a reality show on Spike TV (is it officially Spike!? I refuse to type that) sponsored by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the first and leading mixed martial arts organization in America. For anyone that's dumb, mixed martial arts (MMA) is a competitive sport like boxing in which two contestants fight it out in The Octagon (tm), an octagonal (hey-o) fenced-in ring. Fights usually consist of three five-minute rounds, and you can win by a knockout, tapout, ref stoppage, or decision. The rules were initially very loose (such as fish hooking being "frowned upon"), but after almost being shut down by Congress they cleaned up their act. The best fighters are good at both striking and grappling (usually jiu-jitsu based), but almost always specialize in one area.

So in the show, whose eighth season started Sept. 17, sixteen guys live in a house together and over the course of several weeks, through challenges and fights, all are eliminated but two, who will fight in a live event to determine the champion. That winner receives a contract to fight professionally in the UFC, but much like American Idol the best fighters usually end up fighting as well.

The show is awesome, and I'll tell you why. Most reality competitions are filled with people hoping to get their face-time in front of America and later launch a movie career and auxiliary perfume line. These guys are fighters, and they're trying to fight. Mostly blue-collar, they've been fighting in gyms, basements, bars and backyards for food and experience. They've come to the show to get coached by two of the best fighters in the organization, and to prove themselves to the president, Dana White, who has taken over hosting duties. There's very little bullshit involved, and the fact that White offers $5000 to the winner of a fight that does not go to decision keeps everyone on the ball.

You watch guys train, get beat up, cut 20 pounds in less than a day for a weigh-in, and inevitably wreak havoc on the house they all share. It's a typical reality house in that there are approximately 38 bedrooms and a steady supply of booze, which few of the cast are stranger to. With that many alpha males things are bound to get hairy (HA), but more often than not it's just entertaining. You'd be surprised at the amount of humor these guys have. But it wouldn't be a reality show without that one guy that spouts a steady stream of smack talk, or picks on guys to alleviate his boredom, or generally tries to take over the show. And this is where the beauty of the setup comes into play: you spend eight weeks hating the guy, then you get to see someone hand him his ass in the ring. How much better would The Apprentice have been if you could have seen someone throw some body blows to Omarosa, then turn her lights out with a good cross to the jaw? I'm certainly not condoning violence towards woman, because she is clearly some sort of mutant horse-human-Satan hybrid.

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