The Seth Petruzelli bribery story we discussed yesterday has taken a couple of left turns. First, FiveOuncesofPain contacted Petruzelli for a follow-up on his claim that EliteXC had paid him to keep his fight against Kimbo Slice standing, and Petruzelli backtracked, saying his words were being twisted:
“What was meant to be said was that I wanted to keep the fight standing for myself because I knew that was what the crowd, the promoters, and everyone wanted to see because that’s more exciting than just taking someone to the ground. That was my thing only. I wanted to keep it exciting so I decided to keep it standing. It had nothing to do with anybody else. That was all me.”
Keep it mind that this is a direct contradiction to what Petruzelli actually said during the interview, particularly the line “they gave me the money to stand and trade with him.” Yet when 5oz. asked him directly if EliteXC even hinted that he could receive a bonus by keeping the fight standing, Petruzelli flat-out denied it. (“I just wanted to keep it standing because I felt I could beat [Kimbo] at his own game.”)
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here. After Petruzelli’s radio interview started sweeping the ‘nets, many MMA pundits and fans cried “fix,” even calling for charges to be brought against EliteXC. (Bribery to affect the outcome of a sanctioned fight is a felony in this country.) Petruzelli clearly didn’t understand how serious his revelation was at the time, and now he’s trying to save the asses of his employer and himself. For their part, EliteXC also denies that money was offered to Petruzelli in exchange for going easy on the takedowns. As EliteXC Head of Fight Operations Jeremy Lappen told Sherdog yesterday:
“Obviously we didn’t pay [Petruzelli] to stand. Kimbo had trained for months to fight a guy who’s fighting on the ground. We don’t care if people stand or take people down or what. It doesn’t matter to us. All we want is an exciting fight.”
But was Ken Shamrock actually going to be fighting on the ground?
Figure Four Weekly has published a damning report suggesting that Shamrock would be getting the same “bonus” that Petruzelli did:
Seth Petruzelli said that he was paid to stand with Kimbo. Well, he said that and then he claimed he never said it. For what it’s worth, we heard in the days leading up to the fight that Ken Shamrock was being paid to stand with him as well. It’s a pretty shady way of doing business, and while it’s not outright working the fight it is attempting to give one man an advantage — or a perceived advantage, as did didn’t help Kimbo one goddamn bit — over another.
Before Saturday night, the general consensus was that Shamrock’s only hope of beating Kimbo was to get the fight to the ground. For EliteXC to even suggest to Shamrock that he’d be rewarded monetarily for not doing that against their marquee fighter is as close to fight-fixing as we’ve ever seen in MMA. (If the report is true, of course.) Though it would hurt MMA’s credibility in the short-term, a criminal investigation of EliteXC would strengthen the sport in the long-term. With every unscrupulous promoter that is outed and punished, MMA moves further away from being publicly viewed as an unregulated free-for-all, and closer to being accepted as a legitimate sport.