I don’t know why I was so discouraged to hear that Elite XC had decided to match Kimbo Slice against Ken Shamrock, with a Brett Rogers option reserved for some possible version of the future. I should have expected this. I guess I’m just too much of an optimist. I thought Elite XC might try for a competitive, somewhat meaningful fight instead. I’ll never learn.
It’s not that I don’t understand what Elite XC is thinking. If anything, that part is all too obvious. They want a name to put on the marquee next to Kimbo’s. Someone with drawing power, yes, but not someone who stands a good chance of winning. Preferably, they’d also like the next Kimbo victim to be susceptible to knockout. So they called on Shamrock, an over-the-hill legend who has been getting KO’d by a list of fighters that starts out fairly impressive and then gets less and less so as we near the present. He’s perfect, given their priorities, but that only tells us how screwed up their priorities are.
But it’s not just Shamrock-Slice. Look at another high profile Elite XC fighter, Gina Carano. Instead of matching her up against “Cyborg” Santos — a fight they were already hyping by the end of Santos’ victory at “Unfinished Business” — they’ve decided to put Carano up against Kelly Kobald, who’s coming off two straight losses. They’re not even bothering to try and come up with a compelling explanation for it, just ask Pro Elite CEO Chuck Champion:
“It’s giving both an opportunity to further develop their fan bases and develop further excitement around the potential of them coming together,” Chuck Champion, CEO of ProElite, which runs the EliteXC brand, told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “If Chris destroys another opponent, people are really going to be clamoring, especially if Gina gets in and clobbers hers. It’s just really about letting the fighters develop, letting them grow in their skills and their character development in order for them to eventually meet one another.”
In other words, they’d rather string us along with a few squash matches first. The fact that they aren’t even intended to be competitive, that doesn’t seem to bother Elite XC. And that’s what’s really disappointing.
This begs the question, what are we watching for? Is it to see a good fight, or just a good beating? Is it because we want to know who wins, or because we want to know how bad it can get?
The worst of it is that Elite XC is squandering a great opportunity. They think that people will tune in to CBS, see Kimbo beat down Shamrock and Carano demolish Kobald, and then we’ll all be foaming at the mouth to see a pay-per-view where they actually make legitimate fights for a change. But what they’re really doing is intentionally putting an inferior product on live network TV. Someone please tell me, how does that help them build a fan base?
Maybe it wouldn’t be so irritating if they weren’t so glib about it. Elite XC has got to be the only MMA promotion in the world where being a talented fighter can keep you out of the main event. The sole reason Brett Rogers isn’t getting his shot at Kimbo on CBS is because he might win. You can’t even argue that it has to do with his lack of name recognition among casual fans, not after they put Kimbo against James Thompson in their first CBS offering.
It’s not that Shamrock can’t win, either. Any guy who knows his way around a submission the way he does always has a chance. But we all know who Elite XC wants to see come out on top, and that’s not how a fight promotion is supposed to work. Not if it wants to be taken seriously, anyway.
They know what they’re doing with these purposely one-sided fights, and they know that we know. Either they think it’s what we want, or they don’t care. Neither option is very encouraging.