If there is a product more important to the UFC and MMA than Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter", you'd be hard pressed to pinpoint it. But if there is also a UFC product more in need of brand revitalization and reinvention, it's "The Ultimate Fighter". That's why yesterday's news from former WEC matchmaker and current UFC matchmaker, jr. Sean Shelby that the next set of weight classes to be used on the show will feature 145lbs and 135lbs fighters. To wit:
Next TUF tryouts will be 135 lbs and 145 lbs. in NJ. Marriott Newark Liberty International March 21. :)
This is by no means a cure all for the show, but it does change the trajectory of things and reintroduces a purpose to the show that's slowly eroded: grooming legitimate prospective talent.
The featherweight and bantamweight divisions are easily the two most overrated divisions even if the fights the top talent there produces are exciting. Neither division is bad, but both are in need of maturation. Both need to swell their ranks generally and recruit those who competing in inappropriate classes to make adjustments down or up. And as that happens, many more fights are needed to flesh out each division and create natural hierarchy. There is currently very little of that in either weight class. The show would go a long way towards pushing this process along.
And the UFC needs to introduce these weight classes to the fans. Relying solely on the speed and athleticism of the fighters to create interest among casual fans is hardly sufficient. Antonio Banuelos vs. Miguel Torres is a clear example of how that won't work. What they need is a good, old fashioned promotional shot in the arm and Spike TV is the best way to do that.
There are also reports that if WEC franchise quarterback Urijah Faber gets past Eddie Wineland at UFC 128, he'll face current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Of course, Faber already fought and defeated Cruz, but that was at featherweight and that was a different era for both fighters. A rematch is not only important for the division, but it's a natural promotional opportunity with the rematch storyline along with the popular appeal of Faber.
It's exciting news, not just for the show, but for the newsest divisions in MMA. The show needs these divisions and these divisions need the show. The opportunity is perfect. Let's see what these little guys can do.