The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 debuts on Spike TV next week (Sept. 21, 2011), with coaches Michael Bisping and Jason Miller leading two separate teams that comprise a mix of featherweight (145 pounds) and bantamweight (135 pound) prospects.
Both coaches participated in a recent conference call to promote the show, as well as bicker back-and-forth about how much heat was built up between them during production.
"Jason is one of those guys: Either you love him or you hate him," said Bisping. "I definitely hate him. I think most people who are around him find him very annoying. I know people on The Ultimate Fighter did, and I was no different. Before the show I hated him, during the show I hated him and after the show I hated him."
The animosity, which is expected to begin forming, and building, before our very eyes each week on television, is expected to help reel in viewers. There is just one problem: the feud between Bisping and eleventh-hour coaching selection Miller, who boasts just one fight under the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) banner, a unanimous decision loss to Georges St. Pierre back in 2005, appears to be very fabricated.
Former number one 185-pound contender and sound byte machine, Chael Sonnen, was the promotion's original pick, but his legal troubles, as well as a Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) fiasco with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC), forced the network to move swiftly in a different, much less meaningful, direction.
Miller is a talented, but not elite fighter. He can be amusing at times, but more often than not comes off as over-the-top. He certainly doesn't have the instant star power and/or cache to win over the hearts and minds of a UFC audience that generally has no idea that he even exists.
And he arguably won't emerge from the show an instant star or top-ranked division contender even if he defeats Bisping in sensational fashion at TUF 14 Finale on Dec. 3, 2011. In all likelihood neither will Bisping, despite his comments to the contrary.
This season of TUF doesn't have much going for it heading into the show's debut in terms of coaching prowess. It's almost an afterthought as the promotion plans to switch gears and profoundly retool the show for its new home on FX in 2012. Nonetheless, the fights will hopefully be fun throughout the season, and perhaps a new star (or two) will be born. It's been said by every party involved this season's fights are the best to date.
Maybe even Miller will tell a funny or two that make us laugh ... or cringe.
"I definitely got under his skin as you'll see as the season plays out," Miller said. "Aside from all the excellent and the very talented group of guys who came into the show, me and Mike definitely, just our personality clash, put a damn good show on. There is no way around it. I credit the UFC for making the decision to put us opposite each other because we both have strong personalities and they are bound to clash."
If more were on the line -- like a legitimate title shot eliminator for the right to challenge UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva -- this season would be much more noteworthy. Spike TV would even go out with a bang. But that prospect was diminshed the moment Sonnen's suspension wasn't lifted earlier this year.
We're now left with Bisping and Miller, trying to sell us on a fight that has few if any significant division implications and force feeding us a made-for-TV rivalry.
"He's just idiotic," Bisping said about Miller. "He tried to wind me up a few times on the show as you'll see, but they were all very, very feeble attempts. His mouth is definitely bigger than his brain. He tried a few things, but as you'll see, they were all very childish and easy to overcome and get one up on him.... As the show progressed, that's when he showed his true colors and really started to piss me off. He loses his cool, he crosses the line, and you'll see why he's not on my Christmas card list. "
Maybe, but don't expect too many eyeballs to witness the idiocy. TUF 14 likely won't break any ratings records. There is little buzz because no one is invested (yet). That also seems true for the UFC, which appears ready to fast forward to FX.
Aren't we all.