Jack Encarnacao spoke with Spike TV President Kevin Kay and asked him about the poor ratings of the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter -- the lowest rated in the six year run -- and Kay named one of the big causes: former UFC and WWE heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar.
"Look, the Brock Lesnar season just wasn't that good. Let's be honest. It wasn't the Brock that the audience expected. The audience wanted Brock the bad guy, and Brock was more of a good guy, and I don't think it was that great a season," Kay said.
Other than the vicious rash of injuries, failed drug tests and bad luck that ravaged pay-per-view main events throughout 2010-2011, the biggest disappointment for the UFC in recent years has to be the massive flop of their biggest star on the reality show.
And make no mistake, Lesnar remains the biggest pay-per-view draw the organization's ever had. If you don't believe me, this is MMA Payout, the only site dedicated to the business of MMA, on Lesnar: "Looking at the numbers, Brock Lesnar is the king of PPV buy rates for the UFC."
When Brock Lesnar agreed to coach the show opposite Junior dos Santos, UFC executives, fans and pundits thought Dana White had scored another of his famous "unbelievable" coups. No one who knew anything about reclusive millionaire Brock Lesnar thought he would ever be willing to spend six weeks being taped for hours every day in Las Vegas.
Lesnar could barely make it through one of his highly rated pre-fight UFC Primetime specials without smashing something and visibly making the camera crew fear for their lives. His post fight rants were as extraordinary and frightening as his in-cage performances. Lesnar smashed things. He cursed everyone, even sponsors. Most importantly, Lesnar the fighter smashed faces.
The idea of Brock Lesnar reality television must have had Spike TV execs thinking they had bottled lightning. Just a couple of seasons after YouTube fighter Kimbo Slice had put on the highest rated-ever season of TUF, Zuffa and Spike must have been counting their money like it was being laid on the table.
Alas, the "old" Brock Lesnar didn't show up. There were no WWE-style-except-actually-real-and-scary tirades. Lesnar didn't get obnoxious with his politics. He didn't bully his fighters or start a lot of crap with dos Santos, his opposite coach.
That's the thing about a reality show that asks a proud professional athlete to do his best coaching a team of athletes who aspire to his achievement. You can't ask for anything more than the truth. Brock Lesnar may be pretty wound up and unbearable before and after his fights, but as a coach on a reality show, he's a fairly low key guy.
And it has to be remembered that bad health and bad luck played a big part in the show's bad ratings -- half way through the series fans found out that Lesnar's diverticulitis had returned and he wouldn't be able to fight dos Santos at the end of the season.
Kevin Kay isn't trashing Lesnar, he's just explaining why the season fell so far short of the big expectations. It's a lot like the old cliche record company executive who signed Prince and got 'The Artist Formerly Known As..." instead.