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.
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.