“The Contender” reality series is being resurrected.
Premium cable network Epix will begin production in the spring on a 12-episode season of the boxing reality series set to begin airing in the fall, the network announced Monday.
The series initially ran from 2005 to 2008 with the first season on NBC, followed by two on ESPN and a fourth on the now-defunct Versus.
The series won’t be Epix’s first foray into boxing. It televised top-level world title fights from 2011 to 2013 but has had a renewed interest in the sport and was deciding whether to get back into top-level world boxing or relaunch “The Contender.”
Ultimately, it decided to go with “The Contender,” in large part because MGM owns Epix and is also part owner of “The Contender” co-creator and reality TV superstar producer Mark Burnett’s production studio. Burnett, the president of MGM Television and Digital, will produce the show with Paramount Television.
The new season of the series will have a similar format to the previous seasons. Sixteen fighters will participate in an elimination competition. The fighters will be divided into two teams to train, “each overseen by a renowned boxing coach who will act as mentor,” according to the announcement.
The trainers and fighters have not yet been announced, but Jeff Wald, the co-creator of the series and a co-executive producer, told ESPN that the middleweight division will be featured. He said the season will be filmed in the Los Angeles area and that production will begin in April.
During the season, the boxers will live together, train together and fight each other, with boxers being eliminated along the way until the last two meet for “The Contender” title and an undisclosed six-figure purse.
Unlike in past seasons, where each episode culminated with a heavily edited version of that week’s elimination fight, Wald told ESPN that the new season will show each scheduled five-round fight in its entirety without the editing many boxing fans were so critical of.
The Emmy Award-winning Burnett, known for his reality hits such as “The Voice,” “Survivor,” “Shark Tank” and “The Apprentice,” said he was happy to bring “The Contender” back.
“Boxing belongs on premium pay television, and there is no better home for ‘The Contender’ than Epix,” Burnett said. “We will tell stories of the fighters, the families and their difficult journeys in the emotionally compelling Contender style, so that viewers get to vicariously ‘walk a mile’ in the boxers’ shoes.”
The previous seasons of “The Contender” helped launch the careers of fighters such as first-season winner Sergio Mora and Cornelius “K9” Bundrage, who both went on to win world titles, as well as Alfonso Gomez, Peter Manfredo Jr., Sakio Bika and others.
“‘The Contender’ has launched the careers of many fighters, with some contenders taking world titles — but this new iteration of the series will also showcase the heart, spirit and dramatic personal stories of these fighters as they fight in and out of the ring to realize their dreams,” Epix president Michael Wright said.
“This is not only real boxing, but real, raw human storytelling from the best unscripted television production team in the world.”