Monday, October 06, 2008

I Think "Elite" May Be a Misnomer .. .

I spent most of Saturday night splitting my time between trying to follow the OSU/A&M game online -- a necessity since out of the six Big 12 games being played that day, that was the only one not televised -- and watching CBS's broadcast of EliteXC: Heat.*

As much as I love watching MMA bouts in the UFC and WEC, I always feel a little sullied after sitting through any EliteXC programming. The quality of the fighters is, on the whole, inferior to those you'll find in the other organizations; the presence of scantily clad female dancers surrounded by pyrotechnics smacks more of WWE pandering than anything else; the refs tend to stop the fights the first time a fighter is even slightly dazed instead of giving them a chance to recover; and the announcers, oh my word, the horrible, horrible announcers, who seem determined to make sure that you know without a doubt that the fight you are watching is, indeed, one of the greatest fights in the history of all mankind, and, in fact, all of the world will soon be talking about the astounding things that have just happened in the octagon, for never in all of space and time has there been a battle such as this, and so on and so forth. Heck, even the refs get pulled into the hype game, not just doing the usual "I've explained the rules, obey my directions at all times, touch gloves and begin" spiel but padding it out with an additional "Okay, now let's go out there and show all of CBS's viewers just what the world of MMA is all about and let them see what a gosh-darn awesome sport this is" bit of patter thrown into the mix.


Honestly, the only things keeping me watching EliteXC events are (a) unlike UFC and WEC they have women fighters, most notably Gina "Conviction" Carano, better known to most people as Crush on American Gladiators** and (b) the Kimbo Slice/morbid curiosity factor.

For those who don't know, Kimbo Slice became a huge Internet phenomenon with YouTube videos of his backyard brawls, as he traveled around the country to fight anyone anywhere; now, he's made the move to MMA, and has brought his built-in audience with him, a built-in audience that EliteXC has been feverishly marketing to. However, being able to kick butt in a backyard slugfest and being able to kick butt in MMA are totally different things, and despite all of the hype that's been built up around him, from his first couple of fights it became pretty obvious that anyone with a good chin and even a decent ground game could take him out of a fight pretty easily. And yet, even with some pretty lackluster and sloppy fights under his belt, the Kimbo/EliteXC press machine continued to build him up as some sort of instant superstar, and I've been watching mainly to see how long before it all came crashing down around him.

I thought Saturday night might be the night, since Kimbo was going up against veteran MMA figure Ken Shamrock; sure, at 44 years old Shamrock isn't exactly in the prime of his career, and following a pretty definitive beat-down by Tito Ortiz in 2006 that marked the end of his tenure in the UFC he's only had one fight, which ended in him getting knocked out in the first round, but as a man who once held and successfully defended the UFC Superfight Championship belt, there was a even chance that Shamrock's experience in the octagon might turn the tide. However, Shamrock had to have stitches for a cut on his head -- supposedly obtained from a head-butt during warm-ups a few hours before the fight, although the Internet conspiracy theories are legion already -- and the EliteXC folks scrambled to figure out what to do now that there was a possibility their most recognizable cash cow might not be able to perform. They quickly got one of the under-card fighters -- Seth Petruzelli, a cast member of Ultimate Fighter second season -- lined up as a replacement and, after a bit of negotiating, got Kimbo to agree to the fight . . . a fight that lasted a total of 14 seconds and, according to the announcers, was one of the most shocking and unbelievable upsets in the history of all athletics, a moment which would catapult Petruzelli to super-stardom and make him a household name.


Now, for me, the surprising thing wasn't that Slice lost; like I said, I've been expecting him to collapse under the weight of his own hype at any time. No, the surprising thing was that he lost not by submission or ground-and-pound, but from a TKO.

Of course, the EliteXC folks are already doing damage control; their VP Jared Shaw has made comments suggesting that Kimbo was only dazed because of an illegal blow to the back of the head and that he was not given an appropriate amount of time to recover before the ref stopped the fight, although he's also quick to say that he doesn't want to second-guess the ref . . . even as he's, y'know, second-guessing him . . .

Sadly, despite many articles and posts having been written about the fight over the last couple of days, most of them are focusing on whether Kimbo made the right move accepting the fight and whether Shamrock's injury was shady or not, but don't seem to mention what was, for me, the most interesting moment of the evening; a dazed Kimbo apparently mistakes the ref for his opponent, shoots on him and drives him into the cage. We barely catch a glimpse of it, as all the cameras are busy following the giddy Petruzelli making his victory lap around the octagon, but I think if anything argues for supporting the ref's judgment that Kimbo wasn't quite all there at the moment, that might be it.

Or maybe he was just ticked, that instead of losing to an over-the-hill UFC washout, he lost to a relatively young UFC washout . . .

Cap'n Peanut was disgusted that he even wasted time watching the fight, but I tried to look on the bright-side: at least we didn't have to pay to see it.

*This was originally going to be part of tomorrow's TV Tuesday post, but it kinda took on a life of its own . . .
**And known to The Lovable PigPen as "My Baby" -- as in "My Baby kicked butt in last night's fight!"