The ratings for the first edition of Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter: The Heavyweights," doubled the popular reality fighting series' usual numbers, Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White said Tuesday.
There were 4.1 million viewers for the show's debut, and another million watched the replay. The major draw of the show is Kimbo Slice, the former YouTube street-fighting sensation who had a brief run in the short-lived Elite Xtreme Combat fighting organization that aired fights on CBS.
Although filming for "The Ultimate Fighter" is complete -- except for the finale to be aired live in December, with the winner earning a six-figure contract and membership in the UFC -- White told The Times that whether Slice wins or loses during the competition, he'll be in the UFC.
"Are you going to see Kimbo Slice fight again in the UFC? Yes," White said.
Asked if that was a decision based on the first episode's ratings, White said: "No, never. The ratings do not influence our decision. The guy can either fight or not."
White said one of the strongest endorsements he received about Slice's skill in the octagon came from former light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who's a coach in the show and told White he wants to continue working with Slice at his elite MMA training compound directed by respected trainer Greg Jackson in New Mexico.
"We've been very impressed with Kimbo's performance," added UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta.
While I'm skeptical that Slice will make it past Big Country, he must turn at least a few heads to be getting this kind of praise. Some can say that Dana and Lorenzo are going to say all kinds of good things, in that Kimbo is proving to be a ratings draw, but to merit mention from Rashad, as well as a potential invite to train down in New Mexico with Greg Jackson and his camp? It tells me that we might be in store for a surprise next Wednesday. Perhaps not a win, but an impressive performance.
I like Kimbo. I like his attitude, his heart, and his desire to simply get in there and fight. And while I have my doubts that he will ever be able to hang with the UFC HW elite, he could well become a guardsman if he trains with the right people. I think he's going to be the big winner of TUF in one sense, in that a lot of people (trainers, coaches, and the like) are going to want to work with him, purely because he clearly wants
to learn. Just an interesting article I thought I'd share.