As great as the ratings were for CBS/EliteXC’s first “Saturday Night Fights” broadcast in May, it was one the most criticized MMA events in the sport’s history. Both hardcore MMA fans and first-time viewers had bones to pick with everything from the choice of main event fighters, to the unsatisfying stoppages, to the slow pacing (which helped carry the bloated affair nearly an hour past its scheduled runtime), to the regrettable music-video vibe provided by the dancing girls and pyrotechnics. Without the mainstream draws of Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano on the card, CBS knows that they have to cater to the discerning MMA fan with “Unfinished Business,” which kicks off this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET/PT. As CBS senior executive vice president Kelly Kahl tells Yahoo! Sports’s Kevin Iole:
“To be perfectly honest, I think there was more of a wrestling element to that [first] show and I didn’t like it. I’d much rather present them as great athletes and warriors, which they are, but it got a bit clownish and that didn’t do us any favors.”
For tomorrow night’s event, Iole reports that all those cheesy elements (“such as when Phil Baroni ambled slowly to the cage and had women disrobe him”) will be 86′d. Also, cutting out downtime will be a top priority. Whereas “Primetime” featured just two minutes and 12 seconds of fighting in the first 71 minutes of the show, Kahl said that “Unfinished Business” is going to be “commercial, fight, commercial, fight.”
Still, even with the planned changes, CBS and EliteXC are aware that matching the ratings of their blockbuster debut — which peaked at 6.51 million viewers during the Kimbo Slice/James Thompson fight — is far from likely. Said ProElite executive chairman Doug DeLuca:
“We certainly are managing all of our expectations. It is summer. And we did have a number of good PR items going for us on the first event. It was the first event on primetime network television. That alone drummed up a huge amount of press for the event and a lot of people were interested in seeing (it). But, look, I’m confident in our fight card. I’m confident in mixed martial arts and I’m confident at what we can do at EliteXC in terms of producing events…We understand the numbers might not be as big as the first time, but (still) we’re all expecting to do some good numbers.”
Sure, we’re all still recovering from the MMA onslaught of last weekend, but the second chapter of the great MMA-on-network-television experiment should be a must-see for fans. Will you be watching?
(Props: MMA Junkie)