Time, money, and opportunity may all be going to waste for the UFC. Earlier this year, the announcement that Brock Lesnar would coach The Ultimate Fighter season 13 against Junior dos Santos felt like a massive play by UFC brass. Now that the show has premiered though, I can safely say that the hype quickly died, and what we're left with is a dreadfully average season of what has become an equally average reality television show. Brock Lesnar is money, maybe not so much since he was crushed by Cain Velasquez at UFC 121, but undoubtedly the cash cow from South Dakota can be milked for more. That said, Zuffa may have went the wrong route in milking said 265lbs cow.
Bloody Elbow's Jonathan Snowden amplified a few of my thoughts and feelings earlier today:
If the old Brock Lesnar was a Baptist preacher, full of fire and brimstone, angry about the strange world he found outside his Minnesota hunting cabin, the new and supposedly improved Lesnar is your garden variety Presbyterian. He asks about "Mama and them' and sits quietly through church. His voice rarely switches volume or octave. He's your typical respectful and grounded mixed martial arts warrior. And I hate him for it.
Like it or not, you could always count on the old Brock Lesnar. He was a tremendous breath of fresh air, bursting onto the scene like a bull in a sea of red. Lesnar entered a world of respectful martial artists, men who always thanked their sponsors and said the right things. Lesnar took one look at the culture and immediately put his stamp on it.
What we got last night was not the Lesnar that fans typically arrived in droves to see. He was the Bud Light to his preferred Coors Light, watered down and nothing like the polarizing figure we remember. Yes yes, Lesnar has been tame before now, he's handled himself professionally in the past...but when the cameras were rolling, he knew how to play a character. I also understand that this isn't professional wrestling, but it IS reality television, and due to forgettable nature of last night's TUF premiere, the UFC may have wasted a great deal of resources by convincing Lesnar to coach this season.
Was it truly a wise decision to have Lesnar coach against a fighter who's not only respectful, but who's first language isn't English? There's nothing wrong with Dos Santos getting this chance to coach, but his limited English will leave any sort of back and forth between coaches out of the equation. We'll see no Rashad Evans/Quinton Jackson rivalry brew here. We'll not find out if Lesnar spews wild smack talk ala Ken Shamrock when confronted in person. Nothing of the sort. Did Spike TV lose Frank Mir's phone number? I could only imagine the things we'd see if Lesnar and Mir coached opposite of one another, alas, that's a whole new jar of worms that I'll save for another time.
If this season of TUF does even slightly above average ratings, I'm not sure Zuffa will get the pay off they were looking for. No doubt, Lesnar came with a price. Now it seems we'll get a mild lead in for a fight that may very well be another devastating loss for Lesnar. The last thing UFC or Lesnar needs is another terrible loss because he can't take a punch from a big man, but one would imagine the intention here is for Lesnar to either win big, or cash in big with an Ultimate Fighter coaching gig and main event. If that's the case, and the season is nothing more than typical, I don't see it being worthwhile at all.
There were a few options going into TUF 13 in regards to coaches. Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva had their names tossed in the hat, which would no doubt have been comedy gold...until Sonnen got busted for money laundering (still comedy gold if you ask me). Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard were rumored, but let's face it, those two in a room together are more boring than stale bread. A far more interesting rumor was Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz, which would lead to Faber challenging Cruz for the UFC bantamweight title. Featuring the newly obtained WEC weight class is a solid reason alone, but these two also have quite a bit of animosity towards one another. The two fighters have marketing potential, with Cruz being such a solid fighter, and Faber being the WEC's former poster boy with a cult following, a decent season of TUF would garner quite a bit of attention for the UFC's first bantamweight title fight. It wasn't meant to be, not yet at least, as the two are now slated to face one another at UFC 132, and are in the running to coach the next season of TUF.
Whether or not Brock Lesnar's coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter will be a complete bust remains to be seen, but with the season started, and relatively mild enthusiasm following along with it, I'm leaning towards this ordeal being more trouble than it was worth. Of course, things could turn around. Maybe the show will heat up as the season carries on, but the first impression was ultimately botched. Even Spike TV couldn't manipulate what they captured on camera to be moderately compelling, and judging from seasons past, that's not a good sign. Not a good sign at all.