NBC’s Ultimate Women Challenge

July 26, 2010

The website for Ultimate Women Challenge is claiming that the proposed reality television series that will pit 16 women against one another in a mixed martial arts tournament will air to over 60 million homes on NBC this September.

Payout Perspective:

This isn’t a done deal just yet; there’s been no official press release or confirmation on the part of NBC that Ultimate Women Challenge will indeed be part of its Fall lineup. Plus, the UWC website only vaguely refers to a September 2010 debut in which the show would air in 60 million homes (a far cry from the 114 million that NBC regularly reaches).

Nonetheless, the idea of a women’s MMA reality series makes for an interesting discussion. It also brings us back to the debate over the true commercial potential and related viability of women’s MMA as a whole.

This is not a debate concerning gender equality. All rationale people recognize that women deserve fair pay, fair opportunity, and fair treatment – they should be able to do everything men can do (and vice-versa). Rather,┬áthis debate is about whether or not women’s MMA is something that people want to watch, will pay for and under what circumstances.

I tend to think it’s not something that a healthy number of people want to watch or are willing to pay for. The participants lack the speed, strength and damage threshold that make the sport so dynamic, exciting and aesthetically appealing. Women’s MMA would also seem offend the cultural paradigm with which this society views most everything – more so than MMA in general – in the sense that women are not to be harmed.

Perhaps the only circumstance in which any of this changes is when a sexual element is added into the mix a la Gina Carano, but I even question the longevity of that sort of business model.

Therefore, I question the idea that NBC would jump into MMA (itself a risk) by using a women’s reality television series, knowing that women are an even bigger risk from a backlash standpoint and they’ve yet to prove any material commercial potential.

If any network is looking to jump into MMA, the first and only real choice is the UFC. It comes with an established brand, over 30 million people in the United States that are at least casually interested in its product, and a near turn key operation from on the production end. This, of course, ignores the cost implications of the UFC, but MMA has never been a cash grab. You’ve got to have patience and you’ve got to invest for the long term in order to reap any sort of material reward from this business.

Is women’s MMA destined to linger on smaller or mid-level shows forever? It’s impossible to commit to that; a lot can change within a sport and society but a lot would have to change for women’s MMA to become viable at the highest levels of the sport.

13 Responses to “NBC’s Ultimate Women Challenge”

  1. MarQ on July 26th, 2010 6:30 PM

    After the events of this past Friday, I think women’s mma just got another boost from Strikeforce’s 135 title match.

    There are two women’s televised mma tournament next month which will bolster the sport on the women’s end.

    As for the UWC show – I know from four of the participants that there hasn’t been a shooting schedule sent to them. Two of the participants (Jessica Aguilar and Angela Magana) are in the Bellator tournament next month, plus Alexis Davis is defending her title at Raging Wolf.

    If it happens, it will be spring.

  2. Machiel Van on July 27th, 2010 8:21 AM

    This is really bizarre. While I am personally a fan of women’s MMA, I agree with Kelsey in that it just hasn’t been a proven draw outside of Gina Carano, and to a much lesser extent Cris “Cyborg” Santos. It seems odd that a network like NBC would commit to something like this, though I’ll admit there aren’t many details provided so far. Will the show be affiliated with any MMA organization(s)? If not, will the fights be exhibition matches in a closed gym? What is the end game (what does the winner of the tournament receive)? Seems like Strikeforce would be off the table due to their affiliation with CBS/Showtime, while Bellator may be a possibility (I think Comcast (CSN/FSN) plans to rebrand Versus into an NBC Sports property, so they might be in play).

    This show really has the potential to be pretty awful in my opinion. The fights could be terrible, and the production team will likely have no experience with the creation of an MMA reality show. It could be a decent show, but it will depend mostly on the contestants. If 11 seasons of the Ultimate Fighter have taught us anything, it’s that a group of MMA fighters forced into a structured competition certainly doesn’t bring out the best in people, in terms of both fighting ability and overall personality. Women’s MMA could come off looking pretty bad if this is not handled with extreme care.

  3. Diego on July 27th, 2010 1:39 PM

    Where’s Brain Smasher when we need him? This is the type of garbage that usually sets him off – and in this case I will preemptively agree with him. It reeks of an EliteXC, “I’ve heard of this thing called ‘Ultimate Fighting’ and I want in on it”. I’m all for giving the sport as much exposure as possible, but I’m drawing the line here. I’m already fed up with TUF antics, and this is going to be the same but in pink (not trying to be sexist, but you just know that’s how this is going to be positioned). The fights have the potential to be very mediocre, if not downright bad. Overall, I smell embarrassment in the wind.

    Long story short, this is a promoter teaming up with a reality show producer to give birth to a freakshow. I’ll pass, and I pray NBC will too. I like my freakshows as much as the next man, but let’s keep it in the form of Gracie v. Akebono matches.

  4. MMAINPA on July 28th, 2010 10:10 AM

    Is this the same show that never happened in 08 and 09? http://prommanow.com/index.php/2009/07/29/preview-ultimate-women-challenge-on-nbc/ ?? or a new one?

  5. Nikki on July 28th, 2010 9:28 PM

    I highly disagree with most of you. I think you are all very sexist, this show sounds and seems like its gonna be great. I think its about time women get recognized for what they can do. I can’t wait to watch it. All you doubters and negative people lets see What you can do.

  6. Nikki on July 28th, 2010 9:31 PM

    Oh and by the way the press release as I have heard has not been released yet so anything you hear about this show is pre mature. Nothing has been officialy released yet.

  7. Machiel Van on July 30th, 2010 8:35 AM

    We are not sexist, and recognize the athleticism of these women and the hard work they put into honing their craft. I support women’s MMA and am simply nervous that this show will be handled poorly by the production staff (which may include men). If this show is not handled with care, female MMA could look really bad. Saying that is not sexist either, as the the portrayal of the UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter” often makes the fighters involved look like jokes, and they are all men. The REALITY is that women’s MMA is not as accepted and is not as popular, so if it is going to be beamed into people’s homes on network TV there needs to be a lot of time and care put into the production and editing of the show. It’s just odd that a network like NBC is willing to back something that is not a proven draw, which women’s MMA simply hasn’t proven to be, and it makes me nervous. It may turn out great, and I hope it does. However, you cannot call people sexist for merely making observations about the business track record for females participating in this sport.

  8. Jeff McIntosh on August 19th, 2010 7:29 PM

    Hi everybody, I’m a sponsor of the show and yes, it’s been a really long road but the show is finally rolling. I’m not at liberty to say too much and I’m not speaking for the people behind the show. Here’s what I can tell you.

    The producer and his team realize that women’s MMA needs to be handled carefully. I think they’ll do a fine job. There are challenges and some charity work built in so it’s not just a slug fest.

    The fighters have all been contacted at this point and if not already on location, will be in the next few days.

    NBC doesn’t own the show, the producer does. In other words it’s syndicated. So it is not an in house project of NBC.

    Another thing I’ve learned over the past year is that Hollywood works in mysterious ways. i am by no means an expert on the inner workings of the TV biz but it’s definitely a roller coaster ride.

    The producer has kept a lid on everything on purpose. They’re just now beginning to let info trickle out. I’ve also seen the preview trailer not available to the public and it’s really good.

    It’s very supportive and positive towards women and women’s MMA. I think based on that preview, there will be a lot of women across the USA interested in watching. It’s pretty powerful emotionally too so there probably won’t be a dry eye in the house.

    I hope everybody will give it a chance. That’s all I can say for now. If you’re on Facebook, look me up and find out more.


    Jeff McIntosh

  9. Tina on September 2nd, 2010 4:29 PM

    I agree that society has a standard in place that women should not be harmed, even if they are harming each other consentually. However, I disagree on your stance that women don’t have the speed, strength and damage threshold to excell in the sport commercially. It can’t be disregarded that the female fighters may not be as strong or as fast as most of their male counterparts, but it doesn’t mean that they are completely lacking the ability to put on a good fight that people will want to watch. I also think that the notion that women don’t have the same ability to tolerate and function while in pain, which is what I assume you meant by “damage threshold”, is completely misguided. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that women are in any way more fragile than men, unless you account for their smaller size which is curbed by weight class division.
    I find that women’s fights have a lot to offer in terms of the validating the sport. For instance, the ground portion of women’s fights tend to be more interesting, in my opinion, because women are generally more flexible and the holds change more frequently.

  10. Paul on September 16th, 2010 11:47 PM

    I have tried to get any information about when this show will air and there is absolutely nothing. I believe this is the biggest joke on the planet!

  11. nick nine on September 25th, 2010 9:53 PM

    Hey Paul! Fuck you dude your the joke I work on this show and it is a great fucking show the producer handled it very delicately and it is gonna be great. And the reason you haven’t heard of it Fuck mook is because the producer owns it not NBC. It has a tight lid around it for a reason. This show is gonna be great I have been here since day one and seen everything it will blow peoples minds. Before you talk watch and wait.

  12. Ultimate Insider on February 14th, 2011 5:34 AM

    I worked on this show since day one. It is shady as hell and will never air on NBC. If it airs, it will only air on individual NBC affiliates like an infomercial. My uncle is a president at NBC. I know how NBC works. If it airs through NBC, it will be listed on NBC/Universal site, they will release their own press, it must use NBC graphics and colors and it will air to every home that NBC airs in. Only info-mercials list how many homes they air in. According to iMDB the show already aired. Go see for yourself. It’s all lies. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1415250/episodes
    Everyone who is a part of this show, is low quality, trailer trash. I mean, look at how they portray themselves on chat boards wherever arguments on the net arise. No professional attitude whatsoever. Cussing at people, using the F word. I mean, really? What credible executive of a successful show, do you ever see on chat boards cussing people out, for their doubts about their project? These guys are a bunch of couch surfer, Hollywood losers and wannabe’s, making a show with no budget, not feeding their cast and crew, etc etc etc

    imdb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1415250/episodes

  13. The Catfight Report – The Ultimate Woman Challenge – Is it still going to happen? on May 11th, 2013 11:59 AM

    […] did find a posting in the comments section of a website called MMA Payout where one of the sponsors of the show spoke up and said the […]

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