Any hardcore mixed martial arts (MMA) fan boys (or girls) out there remember the ill-fated reality show, "Ultimate Women Challenge?"
Julie Kedzie does (and not fondly).
It was a little less than three years ago when Kedzie tried out for the show, which promised the all-female cast a $50,000 grand prize, as well as a dose of valuable exposure on NBC.
Only to crash and burn before airing a single episode.
The women’s MMA landscape has changed dramatically since then, thanks mainly to Dana White’s public co-sign and the grassroots efforts of promotions like Invicta FC. Female fighters not only have more opportunities to showcase their talents inside the cage, but in less than one month’s time, a select group of bantamweight fighters will have the backing of the reality show brand that once arguably saved Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) from extinction.
While the idea of an all-female MMA reality show failed to do anything for Kedzie -- who now doubles as an analyst for Invicta FC, she foresees a different outcome (via Sherdog) for those involved in ZUFFA's upcoming co-ed offering in September.
"I think it’s gonna be worth it for them. The women that made it onto the show, whether they made the finals or not, the experience is going to be worth it to them for the exposure they’re going to get, the potential branding and sponsorships that they’re gonna be able to have."
Recent editions of the combat sports reality show had a lack of formidable standouts, who often struggle to advance beyond preliminary-card status due to an explosion of the sport and a dwindling male talent pool. This will not be the case with the female portion of edition number 18.
Kedzie also believes that more than a few fighters from the final 16 could earn a UFC contract, based on previous merit alone.
Quite frankly, none of the men have anywhere close to the pedigree that some of the women on this show can claim. The obvious plus for all the participants -- as she points out -- is the potential rewards, having a ton of cameras intruding on the fighter's day-to-day activities.
"The women who are going to be signed to the UFC from that show, I think will probably get double the amount of sponsors that I could ever have just coming straight into the UFC. The exposure they’re gonna have is incredible. I hope they were all saying that to themselves as they were going through hell."
While many will tune in on Sept. 4, 2013, to see the dynamic between the two head coaches, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, another portion of viewers will be interested in observing the interactions between the male and female participants.
Regardless, seeing the two sexes in their downtime makes for some intriguing moments. Could it lead to a War Machine dynamic?
Kedzie spoke on the possibilities:
"As long as [the cast members] don’t sleep together -- but who knows -- you could meet the love of your life in that kind of experience, [but] I think that’s unlikely. The thing about reality shows is that your emotion … it’s a very high intensity situation where everything is heightened to a craziness where you feel things for people that you might have had a mild feeling for, and all of a sudden it’s [more intense]."
While the current bantamweight champion, Rousey, receives most of the credit for bringing women to the UFC, the newcomers face a different type of pressure, as pioneers for breaking ground on another previously male-dominated landscape.
If Rousey’s movie offers keep pouring in, the bantamweight champ won’t be around forever, meaning that new stars are always welcome, especially when harvested from "TUF," a UFC property which holds a considerable track record in that area (until last season).
"Basically, they’re pioneers in the sense that Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar were. My hat’s off to them for going through it. Regardless of the outcome of any of the fights, they’re gonna go down in history, and they’re gonna be remembered. It’s a scary thing to do."
All the makings are in place for one of the strongest TUF seasons to date. Tune in, form your own opinions, and become a well rounded female MMA fan.
Keep up with everything TUF 18 here.