6.11.2008

Those weren't cheerleaders, were they?

Yes. Or maybe they were a "dance team." I don't know. Either way, they had no place in an MMA live televised event.

Apparently, 3 of 4 MMA fans thought that the May 31st Elite XC Primetime event on CBS was bad for the sport. Don't get me wrong, the event was a complete disaster, almost top to bottom. That being said, the show was bad for Gary Shaw (Elite XC's president) and Elite XC, but it was a landmark day for the sport.

Let me start by mentioning a few of the terrible things about the event (apart from the fact that there were cheerleaders between fights).

The first fight delivered a big KO, but the fight was devoid of skill. Fireworks? Check. Actual martial arts? Sadly, no. In fact, other than the Carano/Young fight, there was not much skill shown in any fight. The Smith/Lawler fight was fun to watch, but those guys are bangers, plain and simple. This is why they are in Elite XC and no longer in the UFC. I suppose the point here is that there is such a disparity in skill level between Elite XC and even the WEC (which essentially is the UFC minor leagues, except for the lighter weight divisions). The following night, the WEC had a live event on Versus, and the skill of the fighters was light years ahead of that found in the Elite XC show. In fact, Mr. Shaw should have been embarrassed to march out that card filled with has-beens and never-weres. (Note: I don't blame the fighters for this.)

Next, while Ms. Carano holds a special place in my heart (and my pants)...

...she didn't make weight for the fight. Luckily her opponent agreed to fight her at a catch weight, or else the fight would have been scratched. So the Carano/Young fight, which was touted as the 2nd biggest fight on the card, was in jeopardy because one of the fighters couldn't make weight. I get that Gina's on Gladiators and that she took the fight on relatively short notice. But she still had plenty of time to get down to fighting weight. Here's the rub... this show made it seem like no big deal. In reality, to people who are involved with or follow MMA, it's a HUGE deal. Weight classes are MMA. Without them, MMA wouldn't be sanctioned anywhere in this country. It is unacceptable that one of the organization's premier fighters failed to make weight. In the UFC, Travis Lutter was given a short leash when he failed to make weight for his title fight with Anderson Silva. Lutter is no longer in the UFC. Joe Riggs failed to make weight for his title fight with Matt Hughes. Riggs is no longer in the UFC. I'm not saying that failing to make weight is the only reason they are no longer in the UFC, but the fastest way to getting cut is by not respecting the sport and its fighters. Failing to make weight for a fight is one of the greatest signs of disrespect to the sport. Gina, you get one pass. You owe your fans, though.

Moving on... let's talk about James Thompson's ear during his fight with Kimbo. He had a burst blood vessel in his ear that was the size of hail the size of a golf ball. One shot, the thing explodes, and there's blood everywhere. Blood sells, right? Well, yeah, it does. But not when it's done on purpose. It's dangerous. And it's phony. One thing that separates MMA from WWE is that it is real. The general public needs to know that. In the UFC or any other respectable MMA organization, a physician drains the ear for the safety of the fighters. Not for Gary Shaw, though... let's play up the blood for live TV!!! Inexcusable, in my opinion.

Finally, the obviously Canadian announcer that had something to say about everything was, well, terrible. Almost everything he said was useless. Two people make a good MMA broadcasting team, with one play-by-play and one color guy. A third guy (usually a fighter) can drop by for valuable perspective (see Randy Couture), but this flappy-headed, beady-eyed assbag made me turn down the volume half-way through. Poor decision by Elite XC to bring him into the mix, no matter how enthusiastic he is about the sport. If I had never seen one MMA fight in my life, this guy may have turned me off to watching the sport altogether.

These and a number of other things made the first show on broadcast television an embarrassment. But again, not to the sport... just to Gary Shaw. I don't blame the fighters at all - they were just doing what they were asked to do. It didn't look like anyone laid down (although some could argue the fix was in for Kimbo). Everyone seemed to fight hard. That's all anyone asks of a fighter, truly. But in spite of the fact that the first show was a complete disappointment, the show absolutely was a positive thing for the fast-growing sport of MMA.

6.5 million people tuned in to watch the event. While not American Idol numbers, they are respectable for a Saturday night. Frank Shamrock, while a douchebag in a number of respects, was pretty good in explaining the basics for the casual or new fan. GuJo was GuJo, and he's good for any sport.

But the thing that stands out the most was not actually part of the show. It was the fact that there was a show at all. All major sports news outlets talked about it all day afterwards. My cousins who had never seen an MMA fight sat down with me to watch it, simply because I explained to them that this was an historic night. The door has been opened for society to see MMA as a sport instead of as "human cockfighting" - a long and arduous fight up to the present. Despite its flaws, Elite XC laid the groundwork for other organizations to build on. And yet, more shows like this one will spell the certain demise of the sport in the mainstream. But you better believe that that's not how it has to go.

And for that, I am hopeful.

~Puddin'

No comments: