Why Sylvester Stallone Left The Contender After Only One Season

Sylvester Stallone co-hosted the first season of the boxing-based reality show The Contender, but why didn't he return for follow-up seasons?

Why sylvester stallone left the contender after season 1
Sylvester Stallone co-hosted the first season of the boxing-based reality show The Contender but didn't return for season 2, leaving fans puzzled. While Stallone has never been a professional boxer in real life, his playing iconic character Rocky Balboa in all eight Rocky and Creed movies so far ensures that he'll forever be inextricably linked to the sport. Rocky is the quintessential boxing movie, and it's also arguably the greatest movie ever made centered around sports. While the sequels and spinoffs aren't quite on that level, most have their merits, and some are outright great.

Considering Stallone's ties to the world of boxing, it makes perfect sense that he'd be asked to co-host a boxing-themed reality competition program. The Contender premiered in 2005, produced four seasons, ended, then came back in 2018 for a fifth season. However, while Stallone's involvement was a huge part of The Contender's initial marketing campaign, he was nowhere to be seen for seasons 2-5. As quickly as he'd arrived, the Italian Stallion vanished.

The Contender had an odd life, changing networks four times over the course of its run. Before the belated The Contender season 5 was shown on pay cable channel Epix, season 1 aired on broadcast channel NBC, while seasons 2 and 3 moved to cable channel ESPN, season 4 aired on the more obscure cable station Versus. It was a rocky road for The Contender, especially since Rocky himself left so early on. Back in 2006, Stallone answered a fan question (via Ain't It Cool News) about his departure, shedding some light on how the show's shift in focus led to his exit.

While The Contender launched around the time reality competition shows were arguably at their peak in the U.S. and premiered with a big marketing push, it was never much of a needle-mover when it came to the all-important Nielsen TV ratings. When asked why he didn't return to co-host season 2 of The Contender, Stallone replied that he ended up disappointed with aspects of how the show was run. While his intent was to try and give real-life Rockys a chance to get noticed and rise up, the show itself often seemed more concerned with forcing the participants to do physical "challenges," which often had little to nothing to do with boxing, and served to showcase the products of The Contender's sponsors.

Stallone felt those were unnecessary and that they actually hurt the contestants' performance when it came to the actual fights, as the challenges left them exhausted and suffering from minor injuries. In addition to that, Stallone, who's been tricked into making movies a surprising number of times, was also busy during the production of The Contender season 2, as he was writing, directing, and starring in Rocky Balboa, the return of his trademark character after decades on the shelf. Interestingly, there was also a tragic incident that happened while season 1 was still airing, in which a contestant named Najai Turpin died by suicide. Stallone didn't cite that himself as a deciding factor, but it's certainly a bad memory
 associated with The Contender.