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Petruzelli’s improbable victory raises many unanswered questions

Sunrise, Fla. — You could say it’s never happened in MMA but it did earlier this decade just prior to a UFC pay-per-view event in Atlantic City when Kevin Randleman tripped on a pipe just moments before having been scheduled to fight.

Yet Ken Shamrock’s removal from a headline fight just hours before show time is still somewhat unprecedented considering the exposure involved with televising an event on primetime network television.

What happened to EliteXC and CBS on Saturday afternoon was the equivalent to playing black jack at a casino and being dealt a 16 and then opting to hit and drawing an ace, leaving you at 17. Sure, you didn’t bust but your chances of beating the house aren’t especially strong.

Only a handful of people were oblivious to the fact that Kimbo Slice was going to lose sooner rather than later, but not in our wildest dreams did we imagine it would be Seth “The Silverback” Petruzelli. And when Slice would lose, I think the scenario most of us had envisioned would be via submission as opposed to knockout.

Slice deserves credit for stepping up and agreeing to fight a more dangerous opponent on virtually no notice. But did he have much of a choice? Had the show gone on without a main event, offering refunds to Slice’s devoted followers that had purchased tickets to the Bank Atlantic Center might have been the least of everyone’s concerns. And considering he’s chanted a mantra countless times that he was willing to fight anyone, anywhere, declining to save the day and take a fight vs. a 0-2 UFC fighter might not have played well with the media.

What happens next to Slice, Petruzelli, EliteXC, and CBS remains to be seen. During the show’s post-fight press conference, nobody had any immediate answers. And why should they? Was there any possible way to see this coming? Granted, there are risks whenever you entrust half of your main event to a 44-year old Ken Shamrock, but it’s one thing to break down in the midst of a grueling training camp and another to suffer a cut the day of what could be a fighter’s final major payday.

How and why Shamrock sustained a laceration is yet another question that this article will fail to provide a definitive answer to. Of particular interest is why Shamrock elected to go to the emergency room to have the laceration treated.

Once he stepped into that hospital, there shouldn’t have been any doubt about the repercussions. Speaking with several veteran fighters on Saturday, I was told that they would have handled the situation differently and that it is not uncommon to glue a cut shut and then apply makeup just prior to a pre-fight checkup with the commission.

Theories that Shamrock cut himself intentionally while looking for an easy way out have understandably spread through the Internet like wildfire. But Shamrock is a fighter with many financial burdens and he was in no position to sacrifice a six-figure payday. After all, if he was truly scared, he could have pulled another Buzz Berry and gone down at the first sign of contact.

However, if you find the whole nature of events that took place yesterday to be highly irregular and bizarre, you’re not alone. I can’t help but be reminded of the countless times a professional athlete claimed a freak accident caused a serious injury during the offseason only to learn months later that they really hurt themselves partaking in an activity prohibited by their employer.

The whole thing makes little sense: from Shamrock weighing in at 206.5 pounds to him sustaining a serious cut just hours before airtime.

While EliteXC Head of Fight Operations Jeremy Lappen refused to rule out the possibility of working with Shamrock again in the future, I can’t envision a scenario in which a major promotion will ever work with him again. If Shamrock wants to be involved with MMA from a grassroots level and fight for regional promotions, I’m sure he’ll have some options. But I’ve got to believe his days in the “Big Leagues” are over.

Slice took the loss like a man and appeared at the post-fight press conference. He thanked his family and supporters and also thanked Petruzelli for stepping up. Following Slice’s comments, the two embraced in a brief hug and a handshake and the former Internet street fighting sensation went on his way.

Lappen and EliteXC Vice President Jared Shaw both stated during the post-fight press conference that they still consider Slice a star and that he’ll be back. While he’s unlikely to retire, last night’s event could be the final time we see Slice headline a show. An enormous amount of weight has been lifted off his shoulders. However, finding good matchups for Slice was already a difficult task that has now become even harder. Realistically, where does a fighter go following a loss to an unproven such as Petruzelli?

Petruzelli has become a real-life Rocky Balboa but I’m uncertain whether a new star was born last night or if Petruzelli’s 15 minutes of fame have already begun counting down? Do you try and build him up further, or do you immediately try to transfer whatever momentum he has to a more viable entity?

While Petruzelli is a great story, he’s still viewed by many as nothing more as an 0-2 UFC washout with little upside. Do you rush him back for a Nov. 8 show against Rafael Feijao in a bout for the vacant EliteXC light heavyweight title, or do you try and showcase him several months from now against a lesser opponent?

In an ideal world, Slice’s first loss would have come to a more visible fighter such as Brett Rogers, but CBS and EliteXC had few options thanks to Mr. Shamrock’s questionable judgment. It was either go with Slice vs. Petruzelli as the main event or continue with a show sans Slice.

How this loss affects EliteXC and CBS is also uncertain. Rumors of a potential sale continue to circulate; as do rumors that CBS’ vision for Saturday Night Fights will be altered going forward. Instead of putting eggs in only a few baskets, it is believed that an anticipated deal with Tito Ortiz and a possible long-term partnership with Affliction could bring legitimate star power to the fledgling franchise.

Even if Kimbo had won, his days as the primary focus of the promotion were likely over. The promotion also has a Shamrock in its stable that never fails to deliver in Frank Shamrock. And despite being a fixture on the first three CBS telecasts, we’ve yet to see him compete on primetime network television. The SNF franchise isn’t exactly dead if you’re able to feature fighters such as Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, FedorEmelianenko , and Andrei Arlovski.

There are so many questions with so little answers. But this is the sport of MMA, where the only thing you can expect is the unexpected.

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