Fight Master: Bellator MMA premieres tonight on SpikeTV (10 pm Eastern) following Bellator 96. It’s Bellator’s first foray into reality TV. Sound familiar? Yeah, they’re going to get that from time to time. The good news, is Fight Master is a fresh take on the TUF format you probably gave up on a while ago. I know I did.
In addition to talking to Randy Couture, I watched the first episode of Fight Master. It was a nice change from the stale formula that the UFC can’t seem to shake on The Ultimate Fighter. Unfortunately for the UFC, the fresh take comes from another organization that has taken their spot on SpikeTV. It was so simple: Four coaches. Four camps. Instead of two coaches who are supposed to fight at the end of the season, there are four coaches who compete with 4-man teams. (Only one coach – Joe Warren – is an active fighter.) That takes out the annoying banter between two guys trying to sell a fight that probably will never happen.
Instead, you get four guys breaking down the action from comfortable cage-side chairs. There is real insight. I’m not sure if that will continue once the fighters move into the house and start fighting every week, but for now it’s a good listen. These are actual coaches and not just fighters pulling stupid pranks on each other.
I may have watched episodes of The Ultimate Fighter since TUF 10’s heavyweight season featuring Kimbo Slice, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub, but I don’t remember them. Fight Master is as different as possible and at least this season should be memorable for fans.
This is a show about fighters living in a house and fighting for a chance to get into a major promotion. In the end, no matter how great the production is, the show will only be as good as the fights. In the past, that hasn’t been a problem for Bellator. Since their debut, Bellator has had a knack for producing highlights – and putting them online. (Look back through the Bellator tag. There is a lot of good stuff.) I’m looking forward to seeing the behind the scenes stuff from some of MMA’s best coaching staffs. I’m guessing Greg Jackson has his fighters better prepared on a weekly basis than Rampage Jackson.
Speaking of Greg Jackson, before the first episode, I just assumed everyone would want Jackson as their coach. I mean, this is the guy who trains champions. After that, I figured Couture’s camp would fill up. Instead, all the fighters have different motivations and are looking for different things from their time on the show. It says a lot about mixed martial artists in general. It will be interesting to see how the show unfolds. Will fighters regret going to the camp they chose?
Hopefully Bellator and Spike figure out a way to keep the show fresh. (Not doing 5 seasons a year would be a good start.) I’m not sure what the weekly format will include, but the early episodes with all four coaches commenting on fights is solid. I am looking forward to watching. For now, Bellator has saved MMA reality shows.
Bellator 96 takes place live right before Fight Master at 8pm Eastern.
Muhammed Lawal vs. Seth Petruzelli
Jacob Noe vs. Renato Sobral
Rich Hale vs. Ryan Martinez
Vitaly Minakov vs. Ron Sparks