The more interviews with Elite XC’s Gary Shaw I read, the more I wonder if he’s fully in control of the things he says to reporters. He does know they’re writing this stuff down, right? If so, he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or doesn’t have much of a commitment to the truth. Maybe it’s both. But this interview with AOL Sports is just, well, baffling.
For instance, when asked where Shaw would rank Kimbo Slice in MMA’s heavyweight picture, he had this to say:
“I don’t know. He’s still in the learning process. He needs to work on his cardio a lot more. In his stand-up game, he is probably number one. I don’t think on the ground he’s in the top 10. As a striker, he’s probably number one.”
You read that right, the best heavyweight striker in all of MMA. Number one. I was about to list off a bunch of other heavyweights who are probably better pure strikers than Kimbo, but within a few seconds that list became unmanageable and I was forced to abandon the idea. The point is, this is not a true statement. If Gary Shaw believes it to be true, that simply means that he doesn’t know much about the sport. If he doesn’t believe it but is saying it anyway, is he helping or hurting Kimbo Slice?
I ask this because, objectively, I want to get behind Kimbo. He seems like a good guy with a lot of potential. But it’s difficult to support him when Shaw calls him everything but the son of God. It sets the bar unreasonably high, and when level-headed people like Bas Rutten try to remind us that Kimbo has only had a handful of fights it’s hard to balance that perspective with Shaw’s ridiculous claims.
I don’t have either fighter, so I doubt it. Randy is in a legal battle with UFC. That fight doesn’t personally excite me because Fedor hasn’t fought anybody of any quality in quite some time.
Now, we’ve all heard (and sometimes made) the argument that Fedor’s status has slipped because of his inactivity in the past year and a half. But it’s one thing to make that argument in the big picture of MMA’s heavyweight class, and it’s another thing to make it right after you’ve promoted a main event between Kimbo Slice and James Thompson.
Here’s a fun thought experiment: imagine that Elite XC did have Fedor under contract. Imagine that somehow he had successfully dealt with the “crazy Russians” and signed him to a deal. What would Shaw say then? Would he still denigrate Fedor’s accomplishments, or would he have a much different perspective?
Because if we’re looking at quality of opponents, Fedor undoubtedly has the edge over Kimbo, who has fought only one opponent with a winning record in his brief career. And yet, if someone criticizes Kimbo we get reminded that he’s still fairly new to the sport. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t hold Kimbo to one standard because of his inexperience while holding everyone else to another one. You can’t ask us not to expect too much out of Kimbo while simultaneously claiming that he’s the best striker in the heavyweight division.
The best striker in the heavyweight division would have taken out James Thompson in the first round. How do I know? Because that’s what several people who are decidedly not the best strikers in MMA (Aleks Emelianenko, Brett Rogers, Butterbean, etc.) have done.
The irony is that Shaw’s strategy of building up Kimbo by making untenable claims about his ability only hurts him in the long run. It drives up expectations and increases skepticism. It may allow Shaw to pocket more money in the short term, but it ultimately makes Kimbo’s job (and Bas Rutten’s) harder.
Of course, there is always that other possibility, that Shaw just doesn’t know enough about MMA to realize how nonsensical he sounds. Oddly, that position is also supported by the same interview, where he refuses to compare Elite XC with UFC 84 (he didn’t watch it) and admits that he doesn’t know who’s fighting on UFC 85 (how about Matt Hughes? that guy who was with Robbie Lawler at your show? ring any bells?) He also says he’s interested in signing any fighters not under contract, as long as they are “action fighters”, because he doesn’t want any fighters “who want to sit on the mat and have a love fest.”
Is it just me, or is Gary Shaw sounding more and more like the guy you dread sitting next to at a live MMA show? You know, the guy who thinks Kimbo is the best striker in the world, doesn’t really know who Matt Hughes is, and thinks fighting on the ground is either boring or gay, maybe both?
While Elite XC’s ratings success on CBS was indeed encouraging for MMA fans, some of these recent comments from the engineer behind it all are decidedly less so.