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.

8.7

Pros
  • Old school dramatic opener
  • Dana White dropping F bombs right away
  • Tattoos! Bandanas! Beards! Daring hairstyles!
  • The little octagon necklaces!
  • Throwback camera angles and general aesthetic 
  • That warm fuzzy feeling of being transported to familiar, simpler times
  • Kemran Lachinov’s attitude toward being picked last
  • Ortega’s training pizza analogy
  • Volkanovski’s whole vibe, frankly
  • “Honestly, I miss getting punched, man” (LACHINOV, Kemran)
  • Vincent Murdock’s wholesome observations on male bonding
  • Andre Petroski: boyfriend, dad, shirtless chopper of trees
  • 1 (one) “stand and bang” mention
  • 1 (one) “be or be killed mentality” mention
  • Aaron Phillips’ chill energy 
  • Aaron Phillips’ gold watch
  • That one guy wearing sandals and socks 
  • Guillotine choke!
  • Clips from the rest of the season indicate at least a mild amount of future drama
  • Competitors so far seem like responsible adults
Cons
  • I just think we could have put a little more effort into those team jerseys
  • Maybe they could have considered changing a thing? Like, literally a single thing?
  • Dana White, likely unaware of all the things these people have done in their lives, saying TUF is the hardest thing they will do in their lives
  • The art at the house is… A choice
  • The gym is well-equipped but could look a little more lively (/less like something out of that 15 Million Credits episode of Black Mirror)
  • Not enough team-picking drama
  • Not enough weigh-in drama
  • Not a single object thrown
  • Not a single door broken
  • Not a single shove and/or screaming match
  • Competitors so far seem like responsible adults
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