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Why Nelson vs. Arlovski Could Be the Best or Worst Thing For Elite XC on Saturday Night

(You ready for this, America?)

I almost couldn’t believe it when I first heard the news: Elite XC had added a legitimately interesting big time bout to their next CBS show. No disrespect to “Ninja” Rua and Benji Radach or Jake Shields and Paul Daley. Those are fights worth tuning in for, even if Elite XC seems content to treat them as background scenery.

And Gina Carano fighting an opponent who’s coming off two straight losses while the opponent who really makes sense for her fights someone else on the same card? Sure, that’s cool too. And of course there’s the obligatory ‘Kimbo Slice beats up handpicked opponent’ fight that we’ve come to expect.

But Andrei Arlovski-Roy Nelson? Now that’s intriguing, Elite XC. I have to admit, I’m impressed. I wonder, however, if you’ve thought through all the potential ramifications.

On one hand, it’s brilliant. Elite XC links up with another struggling organization to see if they can’t form like Voltron and make something happen. This fight adds hardcore credibility to a card severely lacking in it. The fact that Elite had to go outside their own stable of fighters to find that credibility is something we’ll ignore for the moment. Fact is, they showed the “willingness to work with other organizations” that we always hear about but seldom see put to such good use. Bravo.

But here’s what I’m wondering: what happens if Arlovski/Nelson turns out to be a solid, technical, exciting MMA bout, as we all know it very well could be?

What happens when all the casual fans who tuned in because they heard some mention of Kimbo Slice during a football game see that fight, and then see it followed by what will no doubt be a much less technical and not quite so competitive bout between Kimbo Slice and Ken Shamrock? Won’t it be a little like watching Gallagher follow Chris Rock? Might it only serve to highlight the difference between top-level fighters and passing curiosities?

Nothing against Kimbo or Shamrock, here. Kimbo could very well turn out to be a high-level fighter in his own right someday, and Ken Shamrock certainly used to be one. But their heavyweight clash is billed as the main event despite the fact that either one of them would stand no chance against either one of the Affliction fighters in the undercard heavyweight bout.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not how main events typically work. Ideally, the two fighters in the main event should be at least on the same level as, if not superior to, two fighters in the same weight class who are further down on the card. Except, of course, in Elite XC’s alternate universe.

The question is, will the average person who tunes into CBS on Saturday night be able to spot the obvious disparity in talent between the two heavyweight bouts? Maybe. It’s possible that some of those who are watching to see that big, crazy black guy beat up the pro wrestler will also have their imaginations captured by the big, scary Belarussian guy or the fat, good ole boy. Maybe.

If that happens, Elite XC will have used their network TV soapbox to demonstrate just how much better other organizations’ fighters are. Then they’ll watch as those fighters go back to their own organization with the hype they got from riding Elite XC’s coattails.

But more likely, a good fight between Arlovski and Nelson still probably helps Elite XC with the casual fans. Most of them won’t catch the nuance of co-promotion here and won’t realize that in order to see these two again they’ll have to buy an Affliction pay-per-view.

They’ll be far more likely to connect them to Elite XC and CBS and remember only that they saw a hell of a fight the last time they stayed home on Saturday night to watch. In that sense, it’s still a brilliant move for Elite XC.

At this point, it’s a gamble Elite XC has to take. They’re still bringing us a legitimate bout to off-set the illegitimate ones, so we can’t complain too much. They just need to hope that they don’t unwittingly draw a contrast that doesn’t favor them in the long run.

(-Ben Fowlkes)

Cagepotato Comments

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E- September 30, 2008 at 4:01 pm
@ Dmonicideals: "Negative. I believe that Lesnar/Herring was up there in the top 3, and A. Silva has drawn record numbers to Spike when he fights."

I'm sorry, but you're wrong. The ratings in Japan absolutely dwarf anything that has ever been done in the US; here are the top 10 in Japan:

1. Akebono vs. Sapp (K-1 2003): 42.5 rating, 54 million viewers
2. Masato vs. Kid Yamamoto (K-1 2004): 31.5 rating
3. Lebanner vs. Sapp (K-1 2004): 28.6 rating
4. Ologun vs. Abidi (K-1 2004): 28.1 rating
5. Kaneko vs. Bennett (PRIDE 2005): 27.7 rating
6. Rulon Gardner vs. Yoshida (K-1 2004): 25.9 rating
7. Ologun vs. Akebono (K-1 2005): 25.8 rating
8. Yoshida vs. Ogawa (PRIDE 2005): 25.5 rating
9. Sakuraba vs. Akiyama (K-1 2006): 25.0 rating
10. Kid Yamamoto vs. Majoros (K-1 2006): 25.0 rating

If you look at this list, you'll see that 8 of those fights are essentially "freak-show" type of fights (with the exceptions being the 2 Kid Yamamoto fights on the list).

Also, to put some things into perspective, this past years Super Bowl (one of the most watched events on US television, and the highest rated sporting event year in and year out) drew a 43.1 rating. That means a similar proportion of the population in each respective country watched the Pats v. Giants Super Bowl and Akebono v. Sapp freakshow. Furthermore, the last Kimbo fight on network television drew a 1.9 rating (4.3 million viewers), which was the highest rated MMA program in US history (yes, higher than all of the stuff on Spike--because cable never does the numbers network television does, and the numbers the UFC releases about those are just for one age demographic for males, which have ratings around that high but doesn't translate into the same number of total viewers).
Kel- September 30, 2008 at 10:32 am
Add Hong Man Choi, Fujita, Emanuel Yarborough, and Mark Hunt and you have the Kumite...
Derekrva- September 29, 2008 at 8:40 pm
I think Elite XC needs to do everything they can to make this card as successful as their first or better (not including time constraints). The AA v. Nelson fight helped people stay tuned in. I'm guessing the line up is the Rua fight, Gina vs. the other fighter with chest dangles, Jake Shields vs Daley, AA vs. Nelson and then Ken Shamrock's heavy handed intervention to step out of MMA.

For Elite XC the rewards outweigh the risk on this one as long as they can get in the advertising. They bring in hardcore fans and casual fans and should get the ratings they need to stay alive into 2009. After that though is anyone's guess.
whiteplainz- September 29, 2008 at 6:26 pm
haha okay good point.

anyway you know what i mean with everything up to that.
@whiteplainz- September 29, 2008 at 6:10 pm
Yet you felt the need to share your opinion about other people sharing their opinions? maybe you need to stop reading opinion articles
whiteplainz- September 29, 2008 at 6:10 pm
either way people will complain. EXC can do no right, with the AA fight it will expose them as talentless, with it they are not putting together big enough cards.

just stfu and enjoy the fights and don't over think everything.

the good ol' opinions are like assholes scenario.
Yayyyser- September 29, 2008 at 5:59 pm
Could be a good fight, I hope we don't see 15 minutes of roy laying his fat ass on top of arlovski, thats my only worry
jager- September 29, 2008 at 5:56 pm
you can't call a fight based on mutual opponents i've thought it a hundred times and been proved wrong, could give ya plenty examples, and knowing the outcome of a fight doesn't make it less exciting i knew fedor would kill silvia and i loved all 60 seconds of it. and your casual fan doesn't give a shit about a good technical fight they just want to see some stand up and someone get ktfo, the reason kimbos the headliner is cuz hes more well known thats part of what makes a fight exciting is when you know the fighters, kimbo, love him or hate him your gonna be pulling for someone (and EXC will probabally get there KO). theres not really many arlovski or country fans its more of a hmmmmm whos gonna win this one fight, should be good.
Geriatric Peon- September 29, 2008 at 5:54 pm
Roy Nelson is a more legit heavyweight than?
A: Kimbo -look at my internet cred- Slice
B: Ken -where's my hat, who are you, where am I- Shamrock
C: My Penis
or D: Both A and B

Roy Nelson is not the best but he has atleast won a couple of recent legit fights and at least he took Big Ben to the cards.
Scott Whitt- September 29, 2008 at 5:47 pm
While I am ecstatic about seeing the Pitbull on free TV, the fact that Roy Nelson is his opponent is bad. He comes across as an out of shape Toughman contestant. While he may have ruled the roost in IFL, the perception that people will have of seeing this fat one-dimensional fighter is not good. At least it will be short, hopefully we can see another flying knee.
MMA n00b- September 29, 2008 at 5:38 pm
Is StrikeForce also working with EXC? Why does it say EliteXC all over the cage in StrikeForce matches?
Imbecile- September 29, 2008 at 5:31 pm
Why does everyone keep calling this Arlovski vs. Nelson fight an "interesting fight?"

While I always enjoy seeing Arlovski perform, this fight is no different than every other fight on the EliteXC card - meaning that there is very little question in the outcome.

Rothwell was severely out of his league against Arlovski, and Rothwell is better than Nelson. Everyone needs to realize that simply because these WAMMA hacks decide to put these IFL "stars" on their top ten lists, it doesn't mean they actually have any business competing with true top ten fighters. Arlovski will demolish Nelson, and the outcome is no more uncertain than any other fight on this card. This fight is only "interesting" in that we should see a good KO as Nelson's fat ass falls unconscious on the canvas.
Markus- September 29, 2008 at 5:27 pm
Somewhere in the world, someone is going "cool, a beard fighting a huge belly."
Dmonicideals- September 29, 2008 at 5:20 pm
E-"I believe something like 8 or 9 of them (most watched fights) feature “freak-show” type of match-ups as their headliner."

Negative. I believe that Lesnar/Herring was up there in the top 3, and A. Silva has drawn record numbers to Spike when he fights.

I am so glad there is going to be a real fight on CBS this weekend. And with my new DVR, I will be able to record every bit of MMA this weekend. Woot me!
DROP DEAD JACK- September 29, 2008 at 5:19 pm
^^^^ exactly what i was going to say. I'd hate to see America tune in on the Arlovski that pussy footed his way through his last UFC fights.
Sodak- September 29, 2008 at 5:17 pm
how the hell are they gonna fit all those fights into a two hour spot with hype and commercials? anyone know if they're gonna be showing the rest of the fights on showtime?
Bdizzle- September 29, 2008 at 5:10 pm
Beside the article which makes sense, what doesn't make sense to my is this Roy Nelson guy and how close this fight might be.

Ben - I want to make a wager that this fight is over in the first round with Arlovski being the winner. Wager: You give me a Fab Five Tshirt if I win, If I lose I buy a Fab Five Tshirt.

Seem like fair odds?
E- September 29, 2008 at 5:10 pm
"Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not how main events typically work. Ideally, the two fighters in the main event should be at least on the same level as, if not superior to, two fighters in the same weight class who are further down on the card. Except, of course, in Elite XC’s alternate universe."

If we're talking about some of the most watched MMA events of all-time (read: in Japan), then yes you're wrong. If you look up the top 10 most watched MMA events of all time, I believe something like 8 or 9 of them feature "freak-show" type of match-ups as their headliner.

The key difference is that in Japan they fully acknowledge that it's basically a freak-show main event (in so much as they don't try to bill the participants as the toughest guys in said weight class). I think most of the "hardcore" fans (whatever in the fuck that really means) wouldn't mind a Kimbo headlining event if EXC treated it more like a shameless ratings grab than a fight between two powerhouses in the heavyweight division. They don't have to call it a freak-show, or a shameless ratings ploy, just not hype Kimbo as an unstoppable fighting machine that would destroy every other human being on the planet and that his opponents are also frightening within their own right.

However this type of promotion would require intelligence, subtlety, and nuance. Unfortunately, EXC doesn't have any of those at their disposal (though if it required a shitload of saturated fats and track suits, then they could bring Gary Shaw back and soon they'd be ROLLING in dough).
mma n00b- September 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm
Is Strike Force also working with EXC? Why does it say Elite XC all over the cage on Strike Force matches?
Geriatric Peon- September 29, 2008 at 4:47 pm
I am just glad to get the chance to see if AA's destruction of Big Ben was a one of type performance or if he has really rediscovered his desire to be the best.