Love them or hate them, no one will deny we’ve had some great moments from martial arts-themed “Reality TV” through the years.
Everyone knows the UFC’s greatest turnaround moment came on the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, as Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar turned in a classic performance to the tune of record-breaking TV ratings. That show saw Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell cross over into mainstream stardom as well. It arguably saved the UFC — without it, you might not be even reading this article.
Not as many fans remember the Muay Thai reality show Fight Girls, which not only brought us MMA talent like Michelle Waterson, Miriam Nakamoto, and Felice Herrig, but cast an unusually personal focus on the athletes and allowed us to really get to know their ups and downs in life. Sadly, it was one-and-done, but for those of us who enjoyed it at the time, it was nothing if not memorable.
Fight Quest, featuring MMA fighter Jimmy Smith, and Human Weapon, featuring Smith’s one-time MMA opponent Jason Chambers, offered insight into martial arts training otherwise unavailable to us. The hosts traveled the world over for both instruction and competition in myriad of martial arts disciplines.
Sure all these had their, eh, theatrical flourishes — but they all ended up rewarding the viewer too. The thing is, there has been a lot of them. Would Bellator’s entry, Fight Master: Bellator MMA, get lost in the shuffle?
Well, I’m enjoying the hell out of Fight Master, which just aired its second episode — and which just so happens to feature Randy Couture as a coach, and Jimmy Smith as a host. (Things run in cycles, I guess…)
Here’s the top three reasons I’m enjoying it, and why I think you should give it a look:
1) The emphasis on coaching is a breath of fresh air. Instead of two coaches and their feud (often personal) as in the case of The Ultimate Fighter, we have four: along with Couture, Fight Master features Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock, and Joe Warren. The four have, essentially, no history — it’s just a pure competition, and not lead-up to their own fight. By focusing on the coaches and their interaction, we get a glimpse into the scouting and development of MMA talent in a way we really haven’t seen. A fighter like Tim Welch, featured in the first episode, showed great potential in winning a quick T/KO, but as the coaches offered their opinions on his potential, each perspective was unique. Jackson described his distancing as most impressive, Warren his “attitude.” In other bouts, you can learn where coaches can see whether an athlete are even a good fit for their style, something we don’t see much on The Ultimate Fighter.
2) As Smith says in the intro, “the fighters hold the power.” The “selection” shows feature the fighters selecting which coach, not the other way around. This is another spin that I’m enjoying. It’s not just novel, it’s more realistic. Once you get outside of “reality TV,” surprise — fighters chose where they train. Fight Master is the first time we’ve seen this reflected on a show.
3) It’s some good, solid MMA on free TV. Among the standouts were last night’s bout featuring Cristiano Souza, a capoerista who showed off his hard-striking style en route to a T/KO victory over Steve Montgomery.
Sure, like its predecessors, Fight Master also has its share of theatrics too, and some of the dialogue between coaches sounds forced.
But it’s showing some good potential. I’m glad I took the time to give Fight Master: Bellator MMA a fighting chance and I hope you do, too.