These days, it's easy to be critical of
What was once the vehicle that helped elevate mixed martial arts alongside prominent sports in the U.S., the Spike TV reality show has since been ridiculed for becoming just another formulaic reality show.
But, perhaps more concerning to the longevity of the show is that a growing number of its participants have - fairly or not -- been labeled mediocre, as well.
As the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Spike TV try to balance entertainment, promotion and, most importantly, quality talent, results can be less than stellar, as recent seasons have shown. Those of us hoping the next
For the men who
"I came on the show because my No. 1 goal is to be in the UFC, and this is a great catalyst for that,"
Beyond the marketing advantages T.U.F. delivers to fighters, the intense nature of the show provides unique learning opportunities. Call it "Fight Camp," complete with bunk beds and full-time counselors.
This season, the head counselors include UFC interim heavyweight champion
"When you have some of the best coaches in the world, some of the best fighters in the world, you get something new everyday," said 30-year-old light heavyweight
The day-to-day training with peers under the tutelage of men that have made it to the top cannot be understated. It has jumpstarted the careers of a number of fighters who might not have otherwise succeeded.
Plus, the show has lasting effect. While The Ultimate Fighter's original concept allowed for just one winner per weight division, guys like
"It was a good experience because of the people I met and the training I got," Morgan said. "It was a bad experience because when you're up on stage everybody gets to see your flaws -- not so much who you are, but judge you by whatever clips they show."
The label of a "T.U.F. contender" has helped make Morgan more marketable to promoters outside the UFC. Bouts against the likes of
"It was a good résumé builder," Morgan said. "People know who they're dealing with when they call me up to fight."
In the end,
Knowing what's at stake - the UFC contract, of course, stardom, money, perhaps a championship -- fighters sign up with the understanding that they really have nothing to lose. Earning the T.U.F. badge seems to only help a fighter's career. And that's one aspect critics often fail to recognize.