TUF Article

I suspect the author of the article below , Neil Davidson of the Canadian Press, is a big fan of MMA given how frequently he's written about it.


UFC's Ultimate Fighter reality show dips into the past for Season 4


(CP) - After three seasons of assembling casts of unknown fighters for its reality TV show, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has dipped into its own past for Season 4.

The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback, which debuts 10 p.m. ET Thursday on Spike TV, features 16 mixed martial arts fighters whose UFC career went off the tracks for one reason or another.

"We had three great seasons in a row and I think we needed to change it up a little bit," UFC president Dana White said in an interview. "This season, we definitely do."

Eight middleweights, including Quebec City's Patrick (The Predator) Cote, and eight welterweights were sent to live in a showy Las Vegas home in mid-May. For six weeks, they were isolated from the outside world other than to leave the house to train or fight.

Divided into two teams, they trained under the tutelage of such trainers as UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture and Canadian welterweight contender Georges St. Pierre.

The prize? The last fighter standing in each weight class wins $100,000 US and a title shot.

The comeback fighters range in age from 23 to 34 with nine of them 30 or older. And judging from the first episode, the experience of the fighters will make for better bouts this season.

Certainly they arrived at the house with big-league nicknames: Chainsaw, The Scorpion, No Love, The Terror, Gladiator, The Terror, Eastside Assassin, Lights Out, The Secret Weapon, Hands of Steel, El Conquistador and Babyface.

The new season features a couple of other tweaks. Unlike the previous seasons, where each team had its own coach, all the fighters work with the same trainers. The rationale is the this season's cast members already have ring savvy so they don't need the kind of nurturing the unknowns do.

And fighters stay in the house, even when they are eliminated. In the past, fighters that lost moved into a so-called "losers' house," where they stayed for the duration of the show in case a fighter got injured.

The fighters' history in the UFC adds an interesting backdrop to the new season, with footage of big wins or ugly losses in the Octagon. Plus some of the cast members fought each other in the past, adding spice to the show.

Pete (The Secret Weapon) Spratt, for example beat Rich (No Love) Clementi but lost to Chris (Lights Out) Lytle. Matt (The Terror) Serra was beaten by Shonie (Mr. International) Carter and Din (Dinyero) Thomas.

Serra, who looks to be one of the show's more influential characters, was actually awarded the win over Thomas, only to find out in the locker-room that a judge had screwed up and he had lost the bout.

Some have common opponents.

Three of the middleweights have been beaten by Season 1 alumnus Chris Leben. Montreal's David (The Crow) Loiseau defeated two Season 4 cast members but lost to Jorge (El Conquistador) Rivera.

All have stories, although not all are backed up by fact. Cote, for example, was never a nationally ranked badminton player in Canada, as Spike's press notes claim.

According to the network, Jeremy (The Scorpion) Jackson has a son Nicholas, a name chosen by an embittered ex-wife after Jackson was beaten by Nick Diaz immediately before the child was born. Jackson got some revenge when he was a last-minute replacement for Diaz on the reality show.

Rivera works in construction when not training and is a member of the Laborers' Local 609 union. Pete (Drago) Sell is a bouncer. Scott (Hands of Steel) Smith is a member of Local 118 of the Ironworkers' Union. Lytle is a firefighter. Spratt had unsuccessful tryouts with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.

The show's first instalment Thursday acquaints viewers with Carter, a veteran fighter who manages to combine elements of Huggy Bear and Conrad Black in his over-the-top taste in clothing and elaborate style of speech.

The 34-year-old Carter arrives in a pimped-out outfit that includes walking stick and goblet.

"None of that's for television. That's really him," said White.

At his first training session, Carter appears in a tiny pair of briefs.

"That's the only shorts you've got?" asks Couture. "Good lord."

Some viewers might hope that the cast members' age and experience might mean less of the mindless drunken antics and pranks that featured in previous shows.

But White says having the fighters cooped up together adds to the drama.

"I actually think that's kind of what makes reality shows popular. What does happen to these people when you lock them up in a house for a certain amount of time with no contact with the outside world? But yes, I think this season is going to be definitely more grown up.

"But stuff happens," he adds. "I'm telling you, it doesn't matter who these guys are when you out them in a house. When these guys are around each other all the time, especially professional fighters, there's going to be some drama."

It's proved to be a winning formula for the 18-to-34 audience that has been drawn to the show.

The first three seasons of the show averaged 2.1 million, 1.9 million and 2.2 million viewers. In the 18-to-34 group, the show has outdrawn cable baseball, basketball, hockey and poker broadcasts.

"I'm sure it will be the best season ever," Cote said in an interview. "Because we are all veterans and everybody knew that it was a second chance, maybe the last chance for somebody to go back into the big show."