New York - The underwhelming ratings are in for the premiere week of season 13 of "The Ultimate Fighter," the criticisms are duly lodged and the boss' obligatory defense published on an internet chat room. The question now is what, if anything, does it all mean?
It was considered a significant coup a few months ago when UFC President Dana White convinced the notoriously reclusive Lesnar to relocate from Minnesota to Las Vegas to film the company's popular reality show. We can only assume a hefty paycheck was involved, but with Lesnar rolling into the season as MMA's top pay-per-view draw and perhaps the most powerful man on the active UFC roster in terms of commanding attention from the mainstream, we also assumed Lesnar was worth it.
Maybe that's why it felt weird that the UFC's public relations arm didn't appear to put as much elbow grease into promoting this season as some seasons past. Lesnar made an appearance on NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and there were the prerequisite commercial spots, but somehow Lesnar's inclusion on "TUF 13" didn't generate the buzz of, say, the high ratings mark set by Kimbo Slice's showing on season 10.
After a season premiere that saw little in the way of drama from either Lesnar or opposing coach Junior dos Santos (and indeed didn't promise much for future episodes), it wasn't shocking late last week when the ratings came back somewhat less than expected. The first episode of season 13 pulled in about 1.5 million viewers, not bad for a cable reality show (and the highest rated in its timeslot in the UFC's key demographic) but that number fell just short even of the debut of the previous season, when Georges St. Pierre feuded with Josh Koscheck.
The internet, naturally, was all over it. Could the sluggish rating signify a drop in Lesnar's drawing power after his loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121? Could it be blamed on questions about his long-term commitment to the sport that dogged him in the wake of that defeat? Or the extended time off? Or maybe a season of reality television isn't quite the right venue to promote Lesnar? His personality certainly isn't as charismatic as his physique and at times it seems like the former WWE wrestler is best seen and not heard.
Theories abound, but nobody really knows for sure why "TUF 13" didn't do anything extraordinary during its first week, except that maybe the UFC somehow didn't make it feel like much of an event.
As for what it means for the future of the show or even the future of Brock Lesnar, I'm tempted to say not much. I have a feeling Lesnar will still be as bankable as ever when he and dos Santos get their scrap on at UFC 131. At least until we see how his stand-up looks this time around. Questioning Lesnar because the show isn't doing a special rating feels like much ado about nothing.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
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