'Ultimate Fighter' returns to old format as Carwin, Nelson serve as coaches
After giving live TV a one-time shot, "The Ultimate Fighter" returns to a taped format for Season 16 which debuts Friday on FX Canada.
The live version made for some stop-and-start viewing, with plenty of pauses and some dull interviews. So it's back to the tried and true for "The Ultimate Fighter Fridays" while remaining in the Friday night time slot.
This season's coaches are heavyweights Shane Carwin and Roy (Big Country) Nelson, who will face off in the cage at the end of the 13-week series.
There is supposed to be bad blood between the two — "It's no secret that Roy and I hate each other," Carwin says in a publicity handout — but you would never know it from the opening two-hour episode.
But the unorthodox Nelson wastes little time annoying UFC president Dana White.
Friction between the coaches always helps the show. And at first blush, it seems like the Carwin-Nelson matchup needs some extra spice.
The injury-plagued Carwin has not fought since June 2011 and is coming off two losses. Nelson (18-7) beat Dave (Peewee) Herman last time out in May.
The opening drama is left to the 32 welterweights who hope to fight their way into the final 16-man cast that will live together in a Las Vegas mansion for six weeks without contract with the outside world other than to train and fight.
The initial 32 includes 26-year-old Mike Ricci of Montreal and 25-year-old Michael Hill of Kelowna, B.C.
"He looks like he just got out of math class," UFC president Dana White says of the fresh-faced Ricci.
"Those are the ones that end up being tough," replied Carwin, a mechanical engineer when he is not cage-fighting.
The initial cast is a wild and woolly collection of fighters.
There's a serial smiler, a father of four with a "soon-to-be wife," a fighter with a red Mohawk and another with a pink Mohawk.
There's the golfer-turned-fighter from Saipan, the Israeli who wants to campaign for his country, and the veteran with a 17-15-1 record who says he's the world's best fighter.
And the fighter who just likes to inflict pain.
"I fight because I like to hit people without going to jail," says Dom Waters of Santa Rosa, Calif. "Simple as that."
There is also a fighter who gets criticized for a disrespectful move at the beginning of his bout. But even that is muted.
What you do get are some nasty submissions, a few good KOs and some dreck condensed into highlights.
As usual, the season starts with White's impassioned plea for the fighters to understand the opportunity that awaits them. He throws in five F-bombs for effect.
"Do not leave the future of your life in the hands of the judges," White says. "Finish it."
The winning fighter gets a six-figure contract with the UFC and, along with his coach, a custom Harley-Davidson.
As one might expect after the first week, the verdict is out on Season 16. It can only go up, judging from the opening episode.