We all know that boys will be boys. According to Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, we should also know that men will kick the shit out of each other.
We all know that boys will be boys. According to Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, we should also know that men will kick the shit out of each other. For Season Four, instead of building wannabe fighters out of humiliation, jump rope drills, and lat reps, UFC President Dana White and his crew of trainers are recruiting formerly failed pugilists for one more shot at the world title. Set in Vegas (could such it take place anywhere else?), the first episode introduced the 16 fighters. They range from the heavily tattooed Californian Rich Clementi (who claims, "Everyone on our team is a tough bastard, everyone likes to bang") to the Chicago street pimp Shonie Carter.
Still, with every participant well muscled and weighing in between 170 and 185 pounds, the show offers little diversity among the contestants. Divided into two teams, they have no set training regimen. The trainers help out, but don't "coach" per se. Ultimate fighters don't need to be told what to do: they just do it. The teams train separately for the upcoming fights, their workouts grueling. This point is driven home when the out of shape Carter throws up in a trashcan while his new sparring partners watch.
Immediately afterwards, however, the overblown, often forced machismo of the whole affair takes an abrupt u-turn. We hear Carter discussing how he's "never, ever" puked after working out. He appears embarrassed that his breakdown occurred on national television. For him, it's a big disappointment. For the rest of us, however, it makes him seem more familiar, like someone you might know.
Their camaraderie underlines their vulnerability and good humor. In a poignant moment, Team Mojo's alpha dog Matt Serra, who pushed, prodded, and punched his way to earn his teammates' respect during the first episode, shared a water bottle with an obviously exhausted Carter, despite the fact that Carter defeated him during a previous UFC battle. Real men, it appears, let bygones be bygones, even if their hard-won scars won't let them forget why they have bygones to begin with. They act like boys in a high school locker room after a hard practice, like they know it's only a matter time before they're similarly beaten down.
Carter sets a standard of sorts, being the oldest and most experienced fighter of the group. He certainly stands out. His outfits match in color and pattern, including a walking cane (presumably only for show), and he's partial to the smallest fighting shorts this side of Baywatch. When he said, "They can underestimate me all they want. I've danced with the devil at many a ball and I've still got my wings," his teammates questioned whether he wanted to fight or just be on TV (especially after he spray-paints the UFC logo red and yellow, to give it "a little Je ne sais quoi." However, he proved his mettle by defeating Clementi, demonstrating that it's okay to look odd outside the ring, as long as you win inside it.
Carter expressed himself in other ways as well, arriving at his pre-fight weigh-in with a large erection under his tiny boxer briefs. Curiously, although the producers went to great lengths to shield opponent Clementi's naked body from the camera, they made absolutely no effort to hide Carter's obvious boner, going so far as to film him from the side so it was impossible to miss. Okay, okay, we get it. Ultimate Fighter is about men. Really, you made your point. Please stop ramming it home.
What the hard-on had to do with the upcoming fight may be open to interpretation. But consider that the bout consists largely of two well-defined men groping and grasping, while they spend much of the time rolling on the ground, legs locked around each other. Were it not for the logos on the fighters' shirts, a viewer stumbling onto the show for the first time might very well mistake Ultimate Fighter for some gay porn show.
And so, for all its emphasis on men who are men, Spike's signature show not only regularly reveals their vulnerabilities, but also offers a bit of erotic display. Carter, Clementi, and the other 14 guys "bang" the crap out of each other all over the octagon, and at the end of the day, they return to the house, where they lounge around and share their water bottles. Surely, the fighters aren't "soft," but The Ultimate Fighter suggests there's more than punching, kicking, and yelling to being a "tough bastard."