While normally a headline-maker for its stellar roster of athletes and the high-profile fights headlining monthly pay-per-view events, the UFC was in the spotlight earlier this year for the sale of the company to WME-IMG and others for billions of dollars. And now it's back, though in a less positive light, due to corporate downsizing, which has already resulted in layoffs. Apparently not even TV shows are safe from this set of cutbacks, as it's been rumored the UFC's competition series The Ultimate Fighter could be coming to an end after its current season.
Now, it is of course entirely possible that The Ultimate Fighter will live on as a cable bash-em-up reality show for years to come, but that's not how it was laid out to MMA journalist Jeremy Botter, who took to Twitter with his grapevine finding.
Jeremy Botter does have insider knowledge and his social media feed is filled with knowledgeable insights, so this news could be right on the money. The Ultimate Fighter has been kicking (and Superman-punching and elbowing) since its 2005 debut on Spike, and that first season ended in a bout between future champ Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar that is widely considered one of the best and most important fights in the still-growing sport. But while the main attraction has only gotten more popular, the TV show has seen declining ratings as its two-seasons-a-year approach possibly offers more supply than the demand calls for. And when mega-names like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor can't drum those ratings up higher, then there's no shame in tapping out.
We won't start mourning The Ultimate Fighter until something more official comes out. Of course, UFC President Dana White could come out right now and say that this is all bullshit, and then tomorrow an official announcement would come out saying Ultimate Fighter is indeed cancelled. That's just the nature of this sport, which is often driven by split-second changes and switcheroos. And even if it gets cancelled after the currently airing The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions - which has been quite a solid season thus far - there's no saying it won't get brought back in two years for a new network.
WME-IMG announced that it planned on reducing the UFC's workforce by no more than 15%, and that the cuts would come in all areas, including public relations, licensing, etc. Some higher-up executives were put on the chopping block this week, including several in international positions, but none of these layoffs were supposed to affect the promotion's events. Except for, I guess, any that would come from future The Ultimate Fighter finales.
The Ultimate Fighter: Tournament of Champions (or Season 24 if you're into that whole brevity thing) airs Wednesday nights on Fox Sports 1. To see when the rest of the year's premieres will put you in an armbar, check out our fall TV schedule.