Saturday, May 31, 2008

EliteXC: A Colossal Failure

The title says it all. For all of the CBS promotional bluster, for all of the hype and buildup surrounding CBS's experiment in televising mixed-martial arts on network television, what I witnessed Saturday night was a complete joke. While you may remember that I encouraged CBS last week to throw MMA into primetime, I now take that back and hope that CBS never takes the plunge again.

To clarify, I'm no expert in MMA. I am what you would call a casual fan of MMA. I am a fan of all sports, however, and what I watched on CBS was not quality "sports" at all.

The first two bouts featured "knockouts" that essentially ended on punches that seemingly would have had trouble breaking through paper mache. I found myself thinking, over and over, that any fighter from UFC's stable would absolutely mop the floor with any of the first four fighters.

The only comparison I can think of is that CBS decided to jump in head first in televising MMA with what would be the equivalent of Double A baseball or the NBA's D league. They either didn't do their research, or, more likely, didn't want to spend that much and EliteXC was in their price range. (Plus, UFC has its own deal with Spike.) It just wasn't up to par, and it certainly wasn't worth the ridiculous amount of self-promotion that CBS bathed itself in.

I mean, come on...a guy with five previous "professional" fights being introduced by a rapping Busta Rhymes? Another guy with a 10-9 record coming in wearing a glittering robe and sunglasses while accompanied by fireworks? The "dancers" in between fights? One had to have had the feeling that the boys over at UFC were unable to focus on what was on the screen because they had to be doubled over, laughing themselves silly. Not only that, Burger King and Miller Lite executives had to be scratching their heads, wondering what kind of oceanfront property in Arizona they had been sold.

In my opinion, you don't need fireworks and silly minustrations to introduce yourself to an MMA fight; you're either a badass, or you're not, and clearly most of these guys at EliteXC just aren't badasses. They're an affront to badasses everywhere, actually.

At first, I felt a tad bit sorry for Gus Johnson, thinking that maybe he was just the odd man out, the one guy picked from the CBS announcer stable to call the diaster. But as the night went on, it became apparent that Gus wasn't trying to be excited; he actually was excited. Maybe that's the mark of a true professional: throw yourself into what you're covering and make the best of it, like that guy that's been calling those cheerleading competitions all these years.

It just wasn't CBS's night. They actually get a decent fight between Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith (the best of the night), and as it is progressing nicely, Smith gets poked in the eye. Time is called, he says he's ok, and some lady non-badass doctor calls the fight.

I'm sorry, but come actually made me laugh out loud. Baddest men on the planet? Ultimate fighting, this was not. Clearly, someone at the New Jersey "We Sanction MMA Fights" Commission was covering their ass on a grand scale. The boos and cries for refunds after the decision was announced was probably the worst moment of the night for CBS.

Then, we finally got to the feature bout of the night: Kimbo Slice vs. The Colossus. My first impression of James Thompson was the only thing colossus about him was his giant, grotesque cauliflowered left ear. That thing was gross. He was rumored to have a glass jaw, but he took several direct shots from the massive Slice and didn't go down. The fight itself can be summed up in one word: amateurish. (See video below)

Look, I've got nothing against Kimbo; he has a sad story and it's nice to see someone who was homeless months ago make something of himself. But he's no elite-level MMA fighter. I wouldn't find it outside the realm of possibility that he would be unable to make a UFC undercard, much less a televised bout. He's a one-trick pony: he can punch hard with his right hand. That's it. The journeyman Thompson has obviously been trained in MMA as he was pretty much able to take Kimbo down at will. Once on the ground, the only thing that saved Kimbo from one of a dozen submission holds was his strength. That's it. If he had been fighting anyone of any caliber, he probably would've been beaten in the first round.

Ultimately, this has to be viewed as a failure for EliteXC and CBS, and to some degree, a failure for the sport of MMA. It's good that UFC has such a huge following on Spike (and through its pay-per-view shows), because if the casual sports fan tuned in to see "what this MMA is all about," they would've changed the channel on Saturday night.

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