The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 premiered Tuesday night and delivered solid ratings. FX officials reported Tuesday’s episode took in a whopping 1.51 million viewers, significantly up from the 947,000 who tuned in to last season’s premier.
In the months leading up to Tuesday’s premiere, Dana White promised the many disgruntled TUF fans that the show’s stale format would be heavily revamped. Besides White mentioning the show’s new time slot on Tuesday night, TUF fans were provided no information on what changes they could expect from the show.
During the early minutes of last night’s premier, White explained to viewers that he flew the fighters’ wives, girlfriends, and family members to Las Vegas and seated them cageside during the fights. The fighters were then shown interacting with their loved ones during tense pre-fight moments in hotel rooms. This produced excellent drama, which allowed viewers to connect with the fighters and select early favorites to root for. In previous seasons, the focus was mainly on the celebrity coaches and the audience learned little about the fighters and their backgrounds.
As the show went on, It was apparent that major changes had also been made to filming the fights. The footage appeared more like a “UFC Primetime” feature instead of in the traditional TUF format. The ultra-slow motion action and the close-up interviews were of exceptional quality.
The cast of fighters appears to be another key feature of this revamped season of TUF. MMA fans have been vocal about their displeasure of the lighter weight classes featured on the previous few seasons of TUF. During the premier, fans were rewarded with some giant middleweights who exhibited serious power in their elimination fights. Clint Hester, Uriah Hall, and Josh Samman appeared to be absolute beasts in the octagon. Even Dylan Andrews, the last fighter selected by either coach, landed a crushing right hand to drop his opponent early in his fight.
One interesting thing to point out is that no footage of the fighters’ house was shown in the end-of-show preview for next week’s episode. I would not be surprised to see significant change to the “life in the house” piece for this season. After all, it would be right on par with the other major improvements this show has already undergone in the first episode.