As the ultimate fighter reality TV series slowly died and faded off into the obscurity of TV heaven. A new challenger approached.
Yes, in July of 2017 the Dana White Tuesday night contender series was born! The premise of the show was as so: fight and impress our supreme leader White and maybe, just maybe in a few months you’ll find yourself fighting at the bottom of some random UFC card earning pennies for the life damaging changing, destructive brain damage.
It was no surprise at all that the fans totally loved it! I mean MMA fans fucking love watching shit MMA cards, just last year 220,000 schmos paid out $65 for Cyborg VS Kunitskya. If it’s got the UFC logo on it, people will invest in it both emotionally and financially. If you care to dismiss these bad cards because you have a functioning brain; you’ll be branded as a casual or hatter.
Thing is though, the contender series kinda sucks
The fighters who win contracts aren’t exactly ‘contenders’. The UFC rooster is absolutely stacked with talent in each division and to become a true contender like Colby Covington, Leon Edwards or Kelvin Gastelum, it takes years and years of hardwork and sacrifices just to get into contendership.
Almost everyone who will win a contract on the show will go on to fight on the prelims for years and years before actually making it into the bigtime or becoming a main-stream star. Though there has been success stories like Greg Hardy & Sean O’Malley these weren’t as a result of the series as O’Malley can’t really be quanitified as a ‘contender’ yet as he hasn’t beaten anyone in the top 15. Hardy too isn’t a contender and has only gotten this far based on the atrocious state of heavyweight MMA and the UFCs urge to make a quick buck by using his past domestic abuse incidents as marketing material.
The contender series in essence is futile at creating ‘contenders’ as the UFC rooster has far too many fighters on it, anyone on the show who does well will not perform well enough to warrant jumping the 50 fighter queue to the title. It’s more of the ‘Win this fight and join the back of the line’ series.
Overcrowding of MMA content destroys the magic of the show too, we live in a new era where you can watch MMA every single night of the week. There’s Bellator, PFL, Rizin, Combate, Cage Warriors, ONE Championship, LFA & many many more out there. Just check out the Grabaka Hitman site which shows all the upcoming MMA action. There’s hundreds and hundreds of fights being broadcast online every day, slapping on a UFC logo to the contender series doesn’t make the quality any better compared to the other promotions out there. The UFC need to find a way to create better original programming as showing live-fights isn’t the magic secret for success.
Another key thing about the contender series is that heading to join the UFC is no longer the main avenue for aspiring fighters. Being a ‘UFC level talent’ isn’t really a thing anymore. Sage Northcutt learnt this the hard way. Though the UFC are the biggest promotion, fighters can still earn a pretty good living and get famous from outside organisations. To make money in MMA promotions like KSW & Bellator pay just as much and at times more for talent than the UFC does. So the narrative that the only way to ‘make it’ as a ‘contender’ is through the show is stupid as there’s so many avenues and promotions for aspiring fighters than going on the show.