Things and circumstances start moving quickly lately, sounding like the Bel to the next round. New ladies, but also former UFC contestants who experienced previous Ultimate Fitness Challenge editions are checking if they could sign up again. Somehow the UFC fire lights up within them, craving for those life time memories. And knowing there’s no maximum age to join enlightens them. If they have a chance against the new younger ladies, we’ll wait and see, that’s the Challenge.
We had the UFC plans ready in 1998, looking for the right moment and location’… we gave the GO AHEAD in 1999. Sometimes you have to jump and build your wings on the way down. We found enough enthusiast ladies to join quite easy, as it was a ladies only event’ without the testosterone type of guys. This time the ladies had the majority and were in the spotlights.
The event ran unexpectedly smooth and easy without any difficulties and 10 hours later we were at the finals with the power girls on stage. The tiny bikini’s felt a bit uncomfortable to the ladies Infront of female judges’ but the euphoria of a great day and competition overruled everything, this was a success. Winner of the first Ultimate Fitness Challenge was Miss Saskia Villanueva as she found herself being a proud champion. At first, she couldn’t believe she won, but she truly did.
Without any TV plans for this new event, shortly after we sat at the head office of SBS6 Broadcasting discussing a new TV series, WTF….? By coincidence we found a great partner in Malta who invited UFC for the next series in 2000. Having Malta as a great décor and nature scene gave the UFC program that extra ‘Umpf’, skyrocketing UFC to a successful first TV series on National TV on SBS6. Now knowing there is no such thing as a coincidence, back then we were quite amazed about the way we found our “stairway to heaven”.
The next UFC 2000 at Malta went just as smooth and easy as the year before and after 4 days of various exhausting outdoor sports competitions again Miss Saskia Villanueva won the second Ultimate Fitness Challenge showing herself a hard to beat, great looking all-round athlete. In this second edition we educated quickly by changing the tiny bikini show in to a fashion show which made the ladies feel much more comfortable showing themselves on the catwalk as a respected women, they actually liked it much more.
Ultimate Fitness challenge 2001 was at our doorstep and Malta again with the beautiful décor for this next series. This edition had its flaws with the wrong people at the wheel, but never the less a next step on the ladder going up. In 2001 Miss Germaine Haimé won this second UFC Malta edition and with flair and grace. We also noticed the contestants became of a higher level and more specialized in outdoor disciplines. That’s the point we made the decision all disciplines will be kept secret till one hour prior to each discipline, just to make sure nobody can prepare in advance.
To make specific necessary choices and changes, having a clean sweep and putting our UFC back on track again 2002 was skipped. No more adventurers on board and it felt much more comfortable being back to base. To select the already subscribed contestants, a ¼ selection was set in the Belgium Ardennes. The total group was downsized to 50 in a long weekend. In 2003 we made the first step in going global and were advised to visit Curacao Island in the Caribbean. Not only for the great climate but also for the Dutch Marines being present on these islands with all facilities to back up the Ultimate Fitness Challenge in specific disciplines. The role of the Marines became more leading in 5 of the 10 disciplines, raising the bar for the contestants. Having a brand-new car Renault Clio as first price for the winner raised the bar too, so all outdoor disciplines to a higher level was required.
In 2004 all 50 ¼ final contestants were selected out of 250+ subscribers and ready for the Hell Weekend during 4 days at the Dutch Marines base. Beside training in skills and expertise for safety, the Marines had the mission to select the 20 best power girls, and that wasn’t easy. Also, the Marines noticed these girls have made progress so the bar was raised, we’ve seen various women crying and encounter themselves in amazing exhausting disciplines but they didn’t give up. Beside a few severe injured women who had to quit for their own health the majority stayed on board till the end and the Marines presented the 20 best power women, ready for the semi-finals at Curacao Island. That was the moment to bring a professional EMDR psychologist Rene Veraar to assist various women with acrophobia and other mental issues which interfered with their performance, a wise and appreciated decision we noticed.
UFC 2004, Shortly after the Hell Weekend at the Marines, the full crew, 20 contestants and TV production traveled to Curacao, and what a ride it was, bringing UFC to the next level. During 6 days ( 3 + 3) of competition the cut was made. After the first 3 days only the 10 bests would move on to the real finals. Even the Marines were impressed by the performance of these power women’ pushing through heights, depths, heavy weights and distance for days selecting only the best for the top 3 Of course the 4 fashion shows were for the fine tuning of the real winners, performing great and looking outstanding on the catwalk. In 2004 the true winner was Miss Sylvia Koenis-Muda and a real champion she was, motivating countless women for a next Ultimate Fitness Challenge.
UFC 2005 and the bar was raised again. 400+ subscribers and knowing we’re on the right path. UFC was invited at RTL, the leading commercial broadcasting company to discuss broadcasting possibilities. Quite quickly we agreed for 7 episodes of 45 minutes which created more high-level sponsors. Renault skipped the Clio and offered the Megane and more sponsors entered the Ultimate Fitness Challenge, it became more serious each week. Curacao Island appeared being a great location and agreed for two more years in a row.
Again, de best 50 women were selected out 400+ in an audition and training and the best 50 were lined up for the next Hell Weekend at the Dutch Marines. Knowing these women were no pussies the Marines set up a more heavy and exhausting Hell Weekend, it became more serious along the way. Again, these women showed perseverance, team spirit, stamina and “balls” in surviving this exhausting 4 days weekend. Even the Marines wanted to be sure who to select as a top 20 semi-finalist, no more happy faces. Some women were that smart to find themselves a real Marine as a personal trainer as preparation, now that’s thinking ahead.
Shortly after the whole crew, contestants and TV production traveled to Curacao Island again and 7 days (4 + 3) of competition followed to select the best 10 for the finals. Quickly clear were the Marines, having some surprises on their sleeves, a 10K discipline at Table Mountain would do the trick, and it did, this edition was the first’ the power women really were knocked out. And if that wasn’t enough, the notorious Jerrycan steep hill run expanded to two jerrycans with 15 liter each, that was the final killer to separate the women from the girls. But how proud we were to these power women, showing so much energy, perseverance and balls to reach the finals. In 2005 the true winner was Miss Ilham Barkia showing herself being the absolute best. Great to have such great performers giving an example to all future women.
With UFC 2006 already in sight we were looking for a new way of selecting the major group in an honest way so everybody had a real chance to select in the top 50 and didn’t drop out in a few hours. The pre-selection took place in the Velodrome and during 2 days the large group were downsized to the top 50 for Hell Weekend at the Marines. With a 50 pax group we were able to set up more training and former UFC contestant Monique Eemsing created real military training in Weert on a military base. This was a great occasion for the women to try a real assault course which was always in the finals too. Thanks Monique. These new UFC series required professional photographers and as we already had professional Marines photograph Cees Baardman, by coincidence we found Esther Hereijgers at Curacao being an outstanding photographer at the right moment, things got more professional each edition.
The next Hell Weekend at the Marines was as epic as always. More exhausting disciplines at height, the Dock in Willemshaven and Texel with lots of water training, the best selected 20 were clear to move on to Curacao Island for the semi-finals and finals. The UFC 2006 edition was at our doorstep and this became our most successful UFC edition ever. Already we had great viewers ratings at RTL but now we gathered up to 1 million viewers per episode which was enormous and unexpected, even by RTL, a true bullseye moment. All ingredients lined up at that point. The location, the contestants, the crew, the production and the winner Helga Gernaat who was struggling the two editions before ending second place twice. Helga showed herself being a strong, great looking, pinnacle and mental winner in the UFC 2006 edition.
With these amazing viewer ratings RTL Broadcasting proposed UFC to switch from RTL7 to RTL4 which was the number 1 national broadcaster, expecting UFC would be launched globally. UFC 2007 was lined up, numerous subscribers and a great Hell Weekend at the Dutch Marines to select the top 20. And that’s where it’s ended in a dead stop. Just as many other great events the global financial crisis forced UFC to stop, avoiding a total bankruptcy. In the following years it appeared to be very difficult to start again and a long-stretched pause couldn’t be avoided.
Now 2021, Still having a great UFC crew like Fred, Michel, Eric, Jeroen, Patrick, Rene and Esther who never give up… and having all these fantastic memories -and lots of great UFC power girls asking for a next UFC motivated us going for a new Ultimate Fitness Challenge 2022 closer to home in the Belgium Ardennes. Who will be the next winner in 2022? We’re looking forward to it.
Because we love what we do