TUF 14: Team Mayhem vs. Team 209 — Why It Has to Happen
By CagePotato contributor Jason Moles
Fans have been clamoring for the UFC to announce the coaches for The Ultimate Fighter 14 since the featherweight/bantamweight season was announced earlier this month. Many would argue that after Urijah Faber’s dominant performance over Eddie Wineland in his UFC debut, it’s a foregone conclusion that he will face off against arch-rival and current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. Others have suggested recently that it would be a missed opportunity if Zuffa drafts anyone other than newly crowned UFC light-heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones and “Suga” Rashad Evans. Those are both excellent choices, but that’s not what we really want to see, now is it?
The best matchup is one in which the built-in marketing would compel the most casual of fans to tune in to Spike on Wednesday nights. Ever since Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller uttered the fateful words “Where’s my rematch, buddy?” to Cesar Gracie fighter Jake Shields on live television (as Gus Johnson so infamously reminded us), you can’t mention him and not automatically think of Nick Diaz. The Stockton native repping the 209 essentially jumped the Bully Beatdown host in what many consider the largest black mark on our sport. It didn’t stop there either.
Countless interviews and appearances over the past year have prompted the same question: “When are you two going to settle this in the cage and fight?” Add in a few YouTube videos on top of an epic custom t-shirt and you have yourself a nice little beef. Wait, there’s more! I would be remiss if I forgot to remind you of the time Diaz hurled a water bottle at Miller’s head backstage at a Strikeforce event. The aforementioned is all prelude that demands a culmination in the cage.
An organic dislike for one another makes Miller and Diaz the perfect couple to share the screen. Fireworks will go off every time these two are in the same building, let alone the same gym, which brings me to my next point. Ratings.
The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights aired during the reality show’s tenth season. The ratings jumped off the charts compared to the first nine seasons for one reason and one reason alone: Kimbo Slice. When it was all said and done, the success was attributed to the YouTube sensation with a beard longer than his MMA record. Fans tuned in week after week in anticipation that they’d catch a glimpse of Kimbo fighting, whether in the Octagon or in the backyard. Kimbo had a certain X-factor, a mystique if you will, that drew in fans.
Fast forward a couple seasons later and TUF ratings have fallen back to Earth. Spike execs can’t be thrilled to have retained so few season 10 fans. They need to somehow re-create the magic, hype, and fan interest that appears to have gone by the wayside for the UFC’s Trojan Horse into mainstream acceptance. They need a little ‘Mayhem’ to bolster the ratings and inject life into an otherwise stale show that is showing the early signs of terminal illness. Miller’s experience hosting a show on MTV makes him a natural on the camera, his black belt in BJJ makes him a natural on the ground.
Diaz is a loose cannon that has not let love of horticulture hold him back. With the Strikeforce welterweight strap in tow, middle fingers in the air, and perpetual mean mug, fans are sure to be entertained if only by the weird $&#@ that comes out of his mouth. The guy who’s responsible for bleeping words should demand a raise in advance.
Above all, the reason Dana needs to choose Jason Miler and Nick Diaz as the next coaches for The Ultimate Fighter is because it’s what the fans want. You show me a guy who says otherwise and I’ll show you a guy who thinks an Americana is a drink at Starbucks. Sure, the fans who think they’re hardcore because they were around for the WEC PPV or remember when Rashad Evans and Jon Jones trained together at Jackson’s might disagree. Don’t pay attention to them. They’re still waiting for mommy to give them their allowance so they can go buy the newest Gatorade even though it tastes like crap — but GSP is on the commercial so it must be good.
I can hear the trolls now whining about Strikeforce fighters staying put and TUF being a UFC product. I’m of the opinion that ‘business as usual’ doesn’t have to mean that you continue to let Strikeforce suck balls. If we must get all ticky-tacky on the details, then make a reality show on Showtime. Miller and Diaz can coach all of the guys on the Challenger cards. Winner gets to be on an event people actually care about — Bellator. I kid, but in all seriousness, I think I speak on behalf of all MMA fans when I say I don’t care how in the Hell they get these two guys in the cage as long as they do.