USA versus the world.
These words make us cringe when used to refer to international politics, but the same cannot be said for sporting contests. In fact, it seems we can’t get enough of the idea.
Case in point is this season of The Ultimate Fighter where fighters from “Team USA” compete against fighters from “Team United Kingdom”. The hope must be that MMA plus national pride equals ratings success (think Ryder Cup in the Octagon).
As always, much of the show focuses on the training and bonding of the fighters in their respective teams, both inside and outside the cage. We’re treated to the banter that goes on between fighters including conversations that warrant the 10 pm television time slot. The fight match ups are handpicked by the coaches, winning teams are thrilled, and losing teams are temporarily destroyed.
So what’s different about this year?
The answer is not much. There is a noticeable increase in fighters who require subtitles to be understood (oddly enough, from both teams) and the concept of Team USA is proving to be completely dysfunctional. Otherwise, the show is largely unchanged and fans of The Ultimate Fighter will be glad that no one messed with their show.
In the first of two bouts from last night’s episode, American Santino Defranco took on Andre Winner from Team UK. We learn that Defranco is fighting again after living through two brain aneurysms. His courage noted we watch him lose by TKO to the aptly named Winner in Round 1 after putting himself on the ground with the UK fighter and taking too many blows to the head.
In the second fight, American Demarques Johnson took on Dean Amasinger of Team UK. Amasinger, looking like a happy Mr. T, was overmatched and lost early in Round 1 when he got caught in a triangle choke by Johnson. After the fight, we see Amasinger sobbing while his teammates try to console the wounded fighter. For reasons not yet explained Team UK’s coach, Michael Bisping, was absent from the fight. There is no doubt this drama will be exploited in future episodes.
Although Team USA was shown to be a team whose greatest strength was its ability to bicker with each other, winning has a way of pulling teams together. It will be interesting to watch if Johnson’s win (the first for Team USA) will change the team dynamic next week. So too will we wonder if the tight knit Team UK will be impacted by their first loss.
While neither team can claim global supremacy just yet, they are contributing to an entertaining show and I’ll be sure to tune in again next week.