The UFC has done a better job than any other sport of combining reality television with the highest levels of the sport. The Ultimate Fighter isn’t just a fighting contest to entertain television viewers between UFC events – it’s a very prolific source of serious fighters for the sport. Three different title-holders have come from the show and many fighters have gone on to strong main card success. Rarely does a main card go without at least one alumni of the program fighting. Because the former TV star fighters are so common, handicappers need to be very aware of them in their handicapping. Here are six questions for MMM bettors to consider when handicapping The Ultimate Fighter alumni – especially early in their post-show career before they have become an established star outside of the show.
Was it a popular season? – The show has a base level of support from season to season but there are some seasons that get far more attention from viewers than others. There are a number of factors that can play a part in this. The coaches are the most important factor – if the public cares about fighters and wants to watch and see them compete then they will tune in more regularly. Beyond that, factors such as when the season is happening, what size of fighters are involved, how aggressively the season is promoted and so on will impact the attention. The more popular the season, the more likely it is that the fighter will have appeal to the public.
How far did he go? – Some would think that only the winners of the show would continue on in the UFC, and that was likely how the show was originally conceived. We’ve seen several situations in which a fighter who didn’t dominate on the show goes on to a solid UFC career. If a fighter went out reasonably early, then he wouldn’t have received the public attention that fighters who lasted longer did. Also, his short appearance on the show wouldn’t have had a big public impact. Of course, if he went down early and in embarrassing fashion then his appearance could be negative for the public, and could force them to overreact.
Was he a prominent character? – The show is supposed to be reality, but by now we know how much impact the editing of a show can have on how characters are portrayed and perceived. A show isn’t very interesting to watch if it doesn’t have heroes and villains, good guys and bad guys. Some fighters will be regularly featured on the show – whether positively or negatively – while others are almost invisible. The more prominent the fighter was on the show, the more handicappers need to be concerned about what impact his time on the show will have on the betting public, and what this means for the search for value.
How long ago was he on the show? – It’s hard to keep track of all the fighters throughout the seasons of the show. If a guy was on several seasons ago, then it is quite likely that the public has largely forgotten him unless he was a particularly prominent character or has had a strong career since then.
What has he done since? – The public may remember the fighter as a TUF alumnus for his first couple of fights, but soon after he will be judged far more on what he has accomplished since. The appearance on the show may have gained him an initial reputation, but a few wins or losses will have form a far more significant reputation in the eyes of bettors. As a general rule, if the fighter has been in action more than twice since his time on the show, then it would only be in an exceptional circumstance the show will have a significant impact on the way the lines are set and how they move.
Who is he fighting? – More than anything else MMA is about matchups – how the fighters match up against their opponent both in the Octagon and in the eyes of the betting public. An appearance on the show is a classic example of something that can seem to have a far bigger impact on the way to correctly bet the fight then it really does. Before you get too carried away, focus on the matchup first and then look at the impact of the show.