Still working on my book, and I’m to the point of comparing different tournament formats that have been used over the years in The Ultimate Fighter. The show has a few issues:
1. Overkill. With one weight class and the fights to get in the house, fighters can have five fights — more, if they use the “wild card” format of the past.
2. Good fighters out in first episode. The “fights to get in the house” are exciting TV, but they sometimes lose good fighters like Che Mills and Ryan Jimmo before they set foot in the house.
3. Bad fighters advance ahead of good. Depending on the way the coaches draw up the matchups, two top draft picks can face off in the first episode of the show while two so-so fighters fight for a space in the semifinals.
1. Two weight classes. Never go back to having just one. With seven weight classes in play (eight, if they ever do flyweight), they can keep a steady rotation. Problem solved: Fighters won’t have as many elimination rounds.
2. Wild card after elimination fights, not first round. The “wild card” concept was introduced to give a first-round loser another shot. But by that time, we had really seen enough of the fighters to see whether they were UFC caliber. We really weren’t losing good fighters in the first round (Court McGee was an exception, but he should’ve already earned a shot in the UFC).
Instead, bring in 12 fighters per weight class. Six fighters will win their way into the house. Then use two wild cards so you’re not tossing out good fighters after a quick one-round audition, particularly if the matchmakers underestimated their opponents. Problem solved: Fewer good fighters knocked out before the show really starts, and you’re still weeding out the posers. (Really, you’re only likely to have a couple of posers make it that far in the audition process in the first place. Why bring in 32 fighters and then assume exactly half of them are unworthy of the show?)
3. NCAA-style brackets. The draft will have eight fighters per weight class. Instead of letting the coaches figure out the best matchups for their team, seed the brackets. If you’re picked first, congratulations — you’re the top seed, and you’ll face the guy picked eighth. Problem solved: Greater likelihood of seeing top guys in the final. The viewer’s needs are placed ahead of the coach’s.
We’ll need to change the coin flip, too. The winner gets a choice between first pick and first matchup. Instead, give the winner a choice between the two weight classes. Let’s say you have welterweights and heavyweights. Coach A wins the flip and opts to pick first among the welterweights. Then Coach B gets first pick among the heavyweights.
So that’s one geeky guy’s take on the format. Surely some people will tell me they’ve trained in jiu-jitsu and taekwondo; therefore, I’m full of it and should shut up. But I’d be curious to hear other thoughts.