(“I’d like to say fuck you to all my fans, fuck you to everyone at Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu who helped me train for this fight, a huge fuck you to my brother, fuck you to my sponsors Chase Chevrolet and Stagr…” Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)
If CBS’s latest “Saturday Night Fights” card proved anything, it was that the EliteXC brand isn’t strong enough yet to pull in viewers without its marquee fighters. “Unfinished Business” drew 2.62 million sets of eyeballs according to f4wonline.com, and while that’s not a ratings disaster, it does represent almost a 50% drop from the “Primetime” show in May, which was headlined by Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano. Getting the ratings back on track will be priority #1 for EliteXC’s next show; during Saturday’s broadcast, it was announced that “Saturday Night Fights III” (actual title TBA) will go down October 4th at the BankAtlantic Center near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Carano have been booked to fight.
Now the question is, who will they be fighting? We previously mentioned that Kelly Kobald was being discussed as the next opponent for “Crush/Conviction,” but Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos had a star-making performance this weekend with her double-homicide of Shayna Baszler, and a Carano/Cyborg matchup would probably be the biggest fight in women’s MMA right now. As for Kimbo, who freakin’ knows. Brett Rogers is still the most obvious choice for Ferg’s next opponent, but EliteXC has been cagey about confirming it, leading some to wonder if Rogers is being saved for Antonio Silva‘s first heavyweight title defense. Regarding a Slice/Rogers match, EliteXC’s Head of Fight Operations Jeremy Lappen said “I’m not sure if that’s the fight fans want to see right now,” telling Sherdog that EliteXC is now looking at four or five potential candidates for Slice’s next opponent. He wouldn’t name names.
While a grudge-settling bout between Kimbo and the Grim seems like a no brainer to us, EliteXC’s future broadcasting strategy does make the equation a little more complicated. As BloodyElbow’s Michael Rome points out, EliteXC is planning a pay-per-view event for early next year to recoup some of the money they’re currently hemorrhaging, and some of their big-money fights need to be saved:
These competing needs are creating serious dilemmas for EliteXC going forward. In order to pull the numbers they need to stay on CBS, they need to book fights with big names that catch the public’s imagination. At the same time, they can’t just give it all away for free every couple months, or there is no reason to buy the PPV shows…Free television is always the most important tool for building up PPV shows, but if the channel owns the promotion, and gains nothing from strong buyrates, it’s hard to see them foregoing the big fights.
For these reasons, EliteXC’s October show on CBS is very much a do-or-die situation. Only the UFC has a roster deep enough to regularly hold solid cards on free TV and pay-per-view. For EliteXC, the CBS/PPV arrangement will quickly spread them too thin. Just like The Ultimate Fighter, “Saturday Night Fights” has to succeed as a Trojan Horse to hook fans into buying pay-per-views. If people don’t watch when the product is free, what would convince them to pay for it?