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Elite XC Has The Lights, WEC Has The Fights

(Combat Lifestyle captures the excitement before the bell.)

As a study in contrasts, you couldn’t have scripted it any better. On Saturday night Elite XC delivered the dancing girls, the smoke machines, the big-time hype to go along with their network TV debut. Then on Sunday night the WEC delivered the fights. It’s a statement on the yin and yang of the MMA world, and it’s almost too perfect.

What the WEC delivered was an epic battle between two fighters who most sports fans wouldn’t recognize if they passed them on the street. Elite XC gave us a sloppy, mismanaged affair on a show ironically titled “Primetime”, featuring two fighters who were anything but.

It’s just a shame that the one show this weekend which best represented what MMA is all about was stuck in the cable hinterlands of the Versus network, while the all-show, no-go Elite XC main event ended up introducing millions of new viewers on CBS to everything that MMA has been trying to prove that it isn’t.

It’s not that the Elite XC show was horrible. Certainly, it was disappointing. The odd conclusion to the Kimbo Slice-James Thompson bout had some hastily crying ‘fix’ without any proof to support it, while others merely felt cheated out of a real finish. But what really hurt Elite XC was that what we saw on Saturday night felt so far from what we – the hardcore, pay-per-view buying fans – have come to expect.

Like many of you, I tried to keep my expectations for the CBS debut realistic. I felt about it the way you feel about introducing your new girlfriend to your parents: nobody has to do anything extraordinary, just as long as nobody embarrasses me. But when Kimbo Slice and James Thompson threw tired haymakers at one another and rolled around like two novice grapplers on the mat before the inauspicious ending to the sloppy display in the third round, embarrassed is exactly how I felt.

Embarrassed for Elite XC, for MMA, and more than a little sad for the guys on Sunday night’s WEC card who put on a thoroughly professional display that most CBS viewers will never even hear about.

The accusations of corruption and fight fixing are baseless, at least until someone can offer some proof. If Elite XC wanted to fix the Slice-Thompson bout they would have had Thompson jump into a guillotine choke to prove Slice’s submissions bona fides (which we know now he doesn’t possess). But what lends credence to those knee-jerk accusations is the fact that, at the end of the night, the fighters who Elite XC wanted to see win were all victorious.

It’s trouble for an organization whenever we can go down the list of match-ups and pick out their preferred winner. It makes them seem like a PR firm for a few select fighters, rather than a legitimate sporting organization.

Compare it to the WEC main event featuring Urijah Faber and Jens Pulver. The WEC has clearly benefitted from being able to market Faber and put on shows in his hometown, but one doesn’t get the sense that they would have thought it a catastrophe for Jens Pulver to beat him on Sunday night.

The same can’t be said of Elite XC. Had Thompson won, had Dan Miragliotta stepped in during the spree of unanswered elbows in the second round, Gary Shaw would have buried his head in his hands and wept.

There was no doubt who Shaw wanted to see win. None at all. He needed Kimbo to win, and that’s no way to run a fight promotion. That is not the kind of mentality that leads you to match your golden boy up against top competition. It’s the mentality that leads you to protect him, and in this business you can’t be protected and challenged at the same time.

Compare Elite XC’s philosophy to that of Zuffa, who has undoubtedly set the gold standard for MMA event production. When the UFC had a big name fighter in Brock Lesnar, they didn’t look to protect him and build on his broad appeal. They challenged him right away, matching up against a former champion. It’s the exact opposite of what Elite XC has done with Kimbo Slice.

What’s most disappointing about this weekend’s MMA activity is that the Slice-Thompson fight only confirmed the worst stereotypes about MMA. It was sloppy, it was bloody, and it didn’t do anything to support the assertion that MMA fighters are world-class athletes competing with dignity and dedication. What’s worse, it happened in front of a huge audience. Meanwhile Faber and Pulver put on a clinic, Torres and Maeda poured their hearts out in a display that was both gritty and technically sound (see, you can have both), and it amounted to little more than preaching to the choir.

In a way, it’s fitting. Real MMA will always be more appreciated by the aficionados than the masses. Maybe that’s the way it should be. But if Elite XC is going to represent our sport on national television, there’s a lot they can learn from Zuffa and the WEC. If only they seemed more interested in learning it.

(-Ben Fowlkes)


Cagepotato Comments

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Anonymous- June 2, 2008 at 10:02 pm
rofl...kimbo vs chuck....double rofl
Kevin Ferguson- June 2, 2008 at 5:17 am
I didn't tap I beat his ass to get my bread. I train hard and work with Bas and my next fight I want Chuck. I hope you can read this Chuck cuz your ass is next!
willhenry- June 2, 2008 at 2:33 am
Well written and well said.
Kimbo is just what he says he is, an out of shape brawler who could be beaten by at least 10 current heavy weights in the first round. Rock on Ben.
alan- June 1, 2008 at 11:53 pm
very good article could not have said it better, man am i glad that the ufc is the #1 in this sport =P
Kevin B- June 1, 2008 at 10:56 pm
I could swear I saw Kimbo Tap out in the first round as well. Then it kept going so I thought maybe I was wong.
chunk- June 1, 2008 at 8:50 pm
i dont know about all of you but i did not watch the elite xc crap and from the sounds of it im glad. i did watch the wec event and was overly happy with the performance. and after watching faber handle pulver fairly easily i think we should all pull for penn to drop down to 145 and fight him. now that would be a fight.
Vrax- June 1, 2008 at 8:43 pm
Wouldn't it be hilarious if they did pay Thompson to take a fall, and once in the spotlight he thought he'd try for stardom instead of a quick payday?

Noticing that the guillotine might be on "too tight" Miragliotta asks if Kimbo is ok - thumbs up. "Thompson I'm gonna stand you up if you don't ahem 'work' wink//wink" - awkward side control stand up.

Next day "Ok boss (to Shaw) I lost, so pay me that Win bonus we discussed!"
Shaw: "My god you fucktard, Fine, fine just shut the hell up about it. never happened!"
"But boss, you said... oh! oh right , yeah never happened wink//wink"

To press "Kimbo didn't tap" (ok boss, money nao? Can has?)

Sorry for the idiocy of this post, I actually attained a strange zen-like stupidity while watching these fights. ElightenmentXC, we'll call it.
Apexified- June 1, 2008 at 8:07 pm
Kimbo only wants the money, let Shaw go broke paying him while we all keep watching real MMA elsewhere.
Spacealias- June 1, 2008 at 7:54 pm
Ben Fowlkes, your writing has lifted this site to another level beyond other MMA blogs and I find it very entertaining and objective. Keep up the good work.

One thing that I always have thought about the Brock Lesnar debut fight, was that it was the opposite mentality, but not because the UFC is so fair and unbiased. It was specifically set up for Brock to fail. I think to prove that no WWE wrestler could just come into the premier MMA League and dominate. Brock's fight was definitely set up with his weaknesses in mind to prove the superiority of MMA vs. any one style. I actually think Dana White did want Brock to lose that fight to make a case for MMA in general.

Finally, Smackdaddiest1, your NBA comparison doesn't work as well since it was just discovered to be 'fixed' this year (You know the whole Donaghy thing, oh you don't, well nevermind then).
Blackleg- June 1, 2008 at 6:19 pm
I still don't understand the end product from EXC/CBS. The typical EXC shows on Showtime are nothing like that goat-rope they put out there on Sat. Why they couldn't just run it like ever other EXC event is freakin' beyond me. Think of how differently the take would have been if the Shamrock/Le event was the one put out there instead.
Zackary Adams- June 1, 2008 at 5:59 pm
I had bad feelings about this card and display as soon as it was announced. Being a 20+ year skateboarder, I am used to seeing a glaring difference between reality (most skate videos, contests like the Tampa Pro) and what most average people think is reality (The X Games, Life of Ryan, Bam Margera).

Perception is reality, and EliteXC just set MMA back 5 years.

MMA, like skateboarding, is a lifestyle that will only be known by the few true fans, and looked onto as criminal by the average joe.
tony@rbd- June 1, 2008 at 5:38 pm
@Ben F.

Thanks for the great summation of this historic weekend of MMA. Especial kudos for taking the time to drop knowledge on "fixing". WORD.
Smackdaddiest1- June 1, 2008 at 5:34 pm
I agree completely, that's why I said, if anything it wasn't stopped prematurely by any means. If I am the official, I stop the fight due to Kimbo "not being able to intelligently defend himself". Those rules are pretty cut and dry, but hey, I wasn't in Dan's shoes, nor would I want to be if he had stopped the fight for that.

I think you can argue both sides really....but I would have stopped it.
Jim B- June 1, 2008 at 5:32 pm
Excellent article - summed up my feelings entirely. A main event which looked like two BJJ blue belts dry bumming each other for 10 minutes is no way to represent the sport.
Tertio- June 1, 2008 at 5:24 pm
If you watch the fight again (as painfull as this may be) pay attention to what the ref says the second time the fight goes to the ground: He warns the fighter to start working or they will stand them up. He says that as Thompson is trapping Kimbos right arm under his legs. Thats not even mentionning that the ref stood them up before while Thompson was in side mount.

How about letting Kimbo eat 22 (?) elbows without even being able to cover up with one hand w/o stopping the fight ?

If the ref was concerned about Thompsons monstruous mass of flesh standing in place of an ear why not time out the fight and let the doc look at it instead of stopping it and giving the victory to Slice ?

Do you think a competent ref would make these kinds of calls ?

No there is no proof of him being bought. But in my oppinion there is enough evidence warranting to at least investigate what the fuck happened in that abbortion of a fight.
Smackdaddiest1- June 1, 2008 at 5:22 pm
Well written and read Ben. The problem I have with the "fix" accusation is that it basically happens in every sport, not just MMA. Did Kimbo receive favorable treatment from the referee? Hell yes, he did. Without trying to draw any Gary Shaw-esque comparisons between the two, did Michael Jordan receive favorable treatment from the officials in the prime of his career when he was winning NBA championships? Hell yes, he did without question.Does that mean that the NBA was fixed? No it doesn't.

Kimbo Slice is the face of EliteXc, love him or hate him, he puts asses in seats, as evidenced by the crowd in Newark saturday night. Do I love the guy? No, I don't. Do I think the guy has a "future" in MMA? Sure he does, he's really rough around the edges folks, this is his 3rd MMA fight. James "Colossus" Thompson showed up with his gameface on and with a gameplan. The fight wasn't stopped prematurely, if anything, it was stopped later than it should have been. Shoud Dan Mirigliotta have stopped the fight in the 2nd round? Maybe so. But if he should have stopped that fight, then Steve Mazzagatti should have stopped the fight between Lesnar and Mir when Lesnar was raining down on Frank while Frank did nothing to stop him.....

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Tertio- June 1, 2008 at 5:03 pm
Thats why you are my favorite blogger Ben.

Even when i dont agree with you i end up agreeing with you.

I feel so strong about what i saw on saturday that i wanted the blogs to voice my concerns...i guess.

I still think the ref is either crooked or the most influenceable ref in the buisness. As influenceable as a slightly overweight teenage girl wanting to fit in.
Bunk- June 1, 2008 at 5:00 pm
MMA woke up with a black eye today...Thanks EliteXC for setting a sport that was on the rise back 5 years. There next event should be fought under a tent with clowns inplace of ring girls.
Boneman- June 1, 2008 at 4:50 pm

If James Thompson wants to fight again in the Elite XC, he better say what Gary Shaw scripts for him...That's the name of the game...unfortunately :(

@ Ben

I would say the fight was fixed as soon as Elite pitted Thompson against Kimbo. Look at who has already pummeled him...Rogers, Butterbean etc....
There is no way Shaw thought Thompson could stand more than one round with Kimbo. Kimbo is a disgrace to the complete MMA fighter....I would suggets that he tries K-1 or some other fight organization that doesn't allow grappling.....

Maybe Kimbo can skate..??..Is there still a roller-derby league..?
Barry-B- June 1, 2008 at 4:49 pm
First thing I would like to say is it was a well written article.

Secondly, I have been an active MMA viewer for the last 8 years. Some of my friends are just now starting to get into it, but they all know who Kimbo Slice is. I had told them that Kimbo had a very good chance at losing this fight and it seemed as if they thought I was suddenly mentally ill. Kimbo is a very average fighter who exposes tons of weaknesses. Thompson did a good job of getting to those spots and if he wouldn't have gassed so early could have ran through Kimbo. I don't necessarily think Kimbo has fought the greatest competition. Author had a great point with Lesnar. They put him up against a bad-ass in Frank Mir who is very well versed in stand up and submissions. If Kimbo is as bad as everyone (all the non-true MMA fans) thinks he is, then put him up against some championship caliber competition and see where he ends up.

And finally, I would like to bring to attention what a great fight Torres/Maeda was. Both guys were exchanging blows and taking turns rolling on the ground for position. That is what MMA is all about. I hope to see a rematch of that fight as well because I feel Maeda put on a good enough show to earn himself one and it was due to medical stoppage as well. As far as the Pulver/Faber bout goes, I thought it was a decent fight, but obviously dominated by Faber. Pulver seemed timid just as he did in the fight with BJ Penn. I think Pulver is a good guy and all, but it is time to put his words into action. He just didn't want to exchange as much as Faber did or was just looking to counter too much. Overall though, great sportsmanship was displayed in the WEC and Elite XC just made it look like one of those gay sweet 16 parties they have on MTV for all the spoiled kids. It definitely seemed more like a party than an actual sporting event. Please Elite XC, for the sake of the real MMA fans get it right next time!
bfowlkes- June 1, 2008 at 4:48 pm
Tertio, I'm not saying it couldn't have been fixed. I'm saying that there's not enough there to make that harmful assertion right now. I'm also saying that if you want to fix a fight, you don't pay the referee. He can't help you in the case of a knockout or submission, so it would be wasted money.

As for the "voice of the majority", I guess the question is what do you want from MMA blogs? Do you want them to just make broad claims that they can't prove and don't bother to really argue? Or do you want them to think stuff through and give you a reasoned perspective?

If your goal is to carry the voice of the majority, I'm not sure that's a worthwhile goal. Forums carry the voice of the majority to some extent, and look how that tends to work out. A writer should be responsible for voicing their own opinions, not those of others. If the opinion over at Bloody Elbow is that the fight was fixed, that's fine. But I don't share that perspective based on the evidence (or lack thereof) that we've seen so far.
ekc- June 1, 2008 at 4:42 pm
and no love for lawler/smith and Carano/Young and a great performance from Joey Villasenor??
ekc- June 1, 2008 at 4:40 pm
James Thompson himself said Kimbo did not tap.
Tertio- June 1, 2008 at 4:36 pm
Just between me and you. Part of you think it could have been fixed or are you truelly ruling that possibilty out ?
Tertio- June 1, 2008 at 4:31 pm
So you, Caplan, Sloan are being carefull where Thomas and Nate are being a bit reckless ?

I understand you cant throw accusations like that around without proofs. I just found it a bit disapointing to read all the blogs this morning and only Bloodyelbow seems to carry the voice of the majority.