While the big news in mixed martial arts over the past two days has obviously been the resignation of Randy Couture from the UFC and the aftershock of his statements towards UFC management, EliteXC has been quietly making some big moves to sign marquee talent.
Over the past two days they have signed ex-UFC fighter Nick Diaz to a long term contract as well as everyone’s favorite YouTube fighter, Kimbo Slice.
Diaz had a pretty big fan following in the UFC and now has an even larger one due to his decisive and stunning submission victory over Takanori Gomi at PRIDE 33. Diaz is charismatic, not afraid to say what he feels, and is a very marketable guy. He trains hard, he fights hard (that’s an understatement), and he brings a very good skill set to the cage. His boxing is good, his jiu jitsu is fantastic, and he is spectacular at winning scrambles.
Although I don’t like the idea of creating a weight class specifically for Nick Diaz, I feel 160 lbs. is the best possible weight for him. 155 is too tough to get down to and he is too small for 170. So while I don’t like the idea of creating new weight classes and muddying up the rankings, I do feel this is the best possible weight for Nick to fight at. Since I have no control over the weight classes, I guess I’ll just enjoy it.
Either way, signing a fighter the caliber of Nick Diaz is big for EliteXC. They are coming to a point where they need to start creating marquee stars and Diaz is one of those guys that can give EliteXC a face. Kimbo, however, can be the real steal of the past couple of days.
While the signing of Slice may be a somewhat controversial one, the fact of the matter is that he’s marketable as hell. He’s already got the fanbase from his internet videos plus a growing MMA fanbase who see that he is taking the sport seriously and training with world class guys. He’s a promoter’s dream. A rags to riches story, a physically imposing character, a built in fanbase, and his name is Kimbo Slice for crying out loud. If you root for guys like Charles Bennett and Jorge Masvidal, your better be able to root for Kimbo, too.
While we have yet to see the full extent of what Kimbo can and cannot do inside the cage, we have seen him show, at the very least, that he is taking the sport seriously and that he should be taken seriously. What’s done is done, and what’s in the past is in the past. The here and now is that Kimbo Slice is signed to a legitimate mixed martial arts promotion, is training with Bas Rutten, Shawn Tompkins, and has plans to stick around for awhile.
The heavyweight division in EliteXC is something we haven’t seen a whole lot of. Most of the heavyweight fights have been buried on the undercards and they have yet to crown a heavyweight champion. Kimbo will be brought along slowly just like Gina Carano is being handled. If there’s a guy who knows how to handle this kind of situation, it’s Gary Shaw.
Here’s to hoping EliteXC sticks around for awhile and continues to do good things. I think the signing of Kimbo Slice and Nick Diaz to long term contracts are a step in the right direction.