The Ultimate Fighter 29, Episode 1: A Review

The UFC's reality show is back and it's pretty much like you remembered.

The Ultimate Fighter is back, and I’ve got some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that the show, which had been on hiatus since 2018, looks and feels exactly like you remembered. The bad news is that the show looks and feels exactly like you remembered. 

While “TUF" has experimented with its format in the past, this 29th season is pretty much the one we’ve come to collectively associate with it. Bantamweights and middleweights were split into two teams, coached by featherweight champion Alex Volkanovski and title contender Brian Ortega. We got our dramatic narrator opening, our Dana White monologue™ and our fighters speaking to a camera against a dark background with the ring light reflected on their irises. We got our introduction to the gym and to the house. We got to find out more about the humans behind the fighters — particularly the two competing on this episode, Andre Petroski and Aaron Phillips — and their stories and why it is that they do what they do. We got to hear about Petroski’s wrestling background and see his disturbingly beautiful family. We got to hear Phillips gush about his girlfriend and discuss the YouTube education that led to his professional MMA career.

Then we got weigh-ins and a fight.

Judging by some post-filming interviews, the clashing energies emanating from the coaches and the foreshadowing "on this season" clip, there's bound to be at least *some* drama (also a literal snake???) in the future. So far, though, we're off to a pretty tame, familiar start. And whether that makes you nostalgic, bored, or a little bit of both, there’s really no denying the straightforwardness of it all. This is a season of TUF,  plain and simple, and you can take it or leave it.