Revamped ‘Ultimate Fighter’ debuts tonight

The reality television show that helped boost the UFC into the billion-dollar fight business it has become, gets a facelift tonight.

The 15th installment of the The Ultimate Fighter will feature a new network and format—but same basic principle as up-and-coming fighters will try to earn their way into MMA’s elite organization and the accompanying six-figure contract for winning the season, which concludes with a June 1 finale at the Palms.

“I think the drama is going to be a lot different this season. You don’t realize how mentally tough you have to be to be on this show for six weeks. This is 13 weeks with no contact with the outside world, your family, your girlfriend, your kids. All the things that go along with being locked up and away from people,” said UFC president Dana White, of TUF Live which debuts tonight with a 16-fight, two-hour episode at 9 p.m. PT on FX.

“I’m excited. It’s gonna be more like your fighting on a fight night or a pay per view.”

The series has moved after seven years on Spike TV to FX as part of the UFC’s television deal with the FOX family, and will air live now at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Fridays instead of taped episodes every Wednesday. With 32 fighters battling their way into the house, the season will double to 13 weeks instead of its previous six-week format.

One theme that will hold true is there is no love lost between the show’s coaches as UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and former WEC featherweight title-holder Urijah Faber will try to out strategize one another on the show before fighting for the third time at UFC 148 on July 7 at the MGM Grand.

“I honestly have trouble having genuine enemies, I’m not a person who has a lot of enemies, but we’ve continued to keep that strong,” Faber said.

“It’s interesting that even though our relationship is not a good one, we’re still professional and we can be creative with it — and negative, positively, if that makes sense.”