Why are Dana White’s Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter important to the sport of MMA? Well, the answer is quite complicated and simple at the same time. The UFC was struggling at certain points of the organization’s early history. First off it wasn’t in the mainstream, and due to the PPV model wasn’t free. The Ultimate Fighter started as a gamble and that gamble paid off. It literally launched the UFC into the stratosphere by putting fights on to peoples TV every week in an easily digestible format called, reality TV.
During the Ultimate Fighter, fighters would live together in a house, and fights would happen every week. People were already enjoying the show, but no one really knew how much the gamble would pay off until the live finale of season one. The finale between Forrest Griffin and Stephen Bonnar is said to be one of the most influential fights in the young organization’s history. UFC president Dana White, signed a deal to renew The Ultimate Fighter series in an alley behind the Las Vegas arena where the fight took place, as it was such a landmark moment in the organization’s history with ratings off the chart.
Along with the fun coaches challenges and other games played. The audience got to really see how these fighters were actually world class athletes and not just brawlers. One of the main ways the show did this was by showing the fighters training and the coaches working with the fighters of each season. In a time before Instagram and instagram stories where you can watch your favorite MMA fighters train in the gym at your leisure. It solidified to the viewer the athletic prowess of the UFC fighter.
Since then we’ve seen so many careers launched off of the series including future champions Michael Bisping, Rose Namajunas, and Kamaru Usman. Stockton’s own Nate Diaz also got his start on the show. Most Recently we saw Bryan Battle and Ricky Turcios win the show in its latest installment in their respective divisions.
Dana White’s Contender series being the younger of the two show’s came at a different time in the sport’s history. The show which premiered as Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series on UFC Fight Pass in July 2017 features multiple weekly fights where fresh faced MMA fighters face each other in three round bouts in hopes to win a contract from Dana White and the UFC. The show which is in its fifth season and now on ESPN+ started on Tuesday August 31st and it is off to a good start with multiple contracts handed out.
Most notably the contender series launched the career of Bantamweight Sean O’Malley who has been launched into super stardom in the fight world after his season one appearance on the show.
These two shows let MMA fans that there’s always a fresh crop of young fighters ready to come up much like how minor league baseball or college football work. Giving the MMA fan a preview of tomorrow’s stars, and watching these young men and women’s dreams and aspirations come to life .
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