KIMBO LOST! EliteXC is done and other random musings.

I awoke Sunday morning to find that a large number of MMA “fans” and journalists had a big plate of stupid for breakfast and ran to their keyboards to share. Many of them predicting the immediate demise of ProElite/EliteXC due to a :14 second loss by the company’s poster boy Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson.

Regardless of how you feel about Kimbo or EliteXC, you would have to either be blind or really uninformed to think this fight would spell the end of the company. EliteXC was on the brink of disaster well before Slice agreed to fight Seth Petruzelli, long before the CBS:”Saturday Night Fights” deal was ever in place. For the first 6 months of 2008, EliteXC posted losses of approximately 24 million dollars. Losses that clearly show the company was hemorrhaging money at a rate that just isn’t sustainable. Losses that were affecting the company on a much broader level than a hyped up fighter who couldn’t cut it.

Later today, the numbers for the October broadcast of CBS: “Saturday Night Fights” will be in. I think we all may be forgetting that the Kimbo Slice vs. Seth Petruzelli fight will likely be one of the most watched MMA fights in North American history. The talk surrounding the fallout of this fight was covered on ESPN during a live college football broadcast, good or not so good, media outlets that rarely if ever pay attention to mixed martial arts were talking about the sport. While we as the all knowing hardcore fans can sit back and scoff at the spectacle of it all, eyes and ears that would never watch the sport suddenly had an opinion, a vested interest in something 6 months ago they wouldn’t have dreamed of admitting they would watch. Regardless of how we may feel about it, Kimbo had/has value to any promotion.

I like many await EliteXC’s fate. Some speculate a buyout by CBS/Showtime , some the death of the organization. I am of the opinion we will witness EliteXC morph into something else, a company that under new ownership or management will stop the facade of “fighters first” and begin to take the familiar approach that has been successful for the world leader in mixed martial arts The Ultimate Fighting Championship “company first, no one fighter is bigger than the brand”.

That business model has allowed the UFC to flourish while others wilt and fall to the wayside.

Many people seem to enjoy discussing Affliction Entertainment, or the management of EliteXC saying their product is substandard in one breath and in the very next complain about fighter salaries. Any prudent person would realize these young upstart organizations would not have the polish or power to run the same business model that many consider the benchmark for the sport. They are trying to find their way, some through over paying of fighters, others through creating quasi celebrities. They are fumbling around like a 14year old boy trying to unclasp his first bra. I am no moral compass but they need to get it together and be quick about it.

I have no opinion of fighter compensation, each fighter makes a decision to fight for what they are paid. Nobody put a gun to Matt Hammill’s head and forced him to fight Rich Franklin for 10 grand while Franklin made 100.

Maybe the backlash is Kimbo’s fault. Maybe he should have taken a different path. “No please don’t put me on the cover of ESPN: The Magazine. I’m very new to this sport, and although it’s great promotion, It just doesn’t feel right” “ I can’t let you pay me a half million dollars to fight, it’s not fair to the others. I know I have a large family to take care of, and I’m in my 30’s with only a few fights left if things go well, but paying me an amount of money that will make a difference in my life is just too much.” “ Sure 5 million people tuned in to see me fight, and we did a decent gate at the arena, but until I’ve proven myself to the people who don’t pay my bills, I will have to insist you pay me 4000 to show and 4000 to win.”

EliteXC is suffering from the same problem as many upstart business’s that had good starting capital. I like to call it the “Playing Business” syndrome. EliteXC seems to be “playing” MMA organization and needs to start conducting itself as one. Just because you have great start up money and you come from a field that is distantly related to your new venture doesn’t mean you have to try to reinvent the wheel. If we have learned nothing from Zuffa, it is that fighters want to fight, and will do so for very little money.

The money just isn’t there in mixed martial arts yet. Let’s compare some numbers. Georges St. Pierre defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 79 is a champion and considered by many one of the best fighters in the world, he made $160,000 for his championship effort. Alex Rodriguez made $170,270 per game…regular season…….in 2000. I kinda had to chuckle today when I read the news that St. Pierre had signed with CAA Sports, a company that will be involved with all aspects of his career including his fight contracts. I suspect his representative will soon be “Corky” from the mail room after they have the pleasure of attempting to “negotiate” better compensation for their fighter and they get a clear view of the financial reality of the sport.

I have the privilege to speak with managers and fighters on a pretty regular basis. I hear the stories of fighters living at the gym in a back room, or in an old beat up RV in back of their coaches house chasing the dream. The one thing they all have in common is they would like a chance to fight, make money and be seen doing what they love. Stable organizations allow them to do this.

I also talk with newspaper editors, magazine publishers, and Phil down at the bar. The one thing most of them have in common is they are not warming up to the sport the way they could be. They bring up the legitimate concern that to follow the sport it will cost them/their readers 50 dollars a month. ( before you say, the UFC shows are sometimes free, go ahead and Tivo the Superbowl this year and watch it in June and tell me how much you enjoyed the game)

As a fan of the sport more MMA is better, MMA on network television is outstanding. I like many of you would like the best product possible. There is room for multiple organizations with different delivery models. I enjoy pay per view as much as the next fan and will continue my investment into the sport, however there is nothing wrong with additional entertainment. Those of us claiming to be fans of the sport only to turn around and wish ill on a free product that will allow more fighters to pursue a career really confuse me. Do they not realize maybe one day these fighters may compete for the company we prefer?

EliteXC and Affliction have a long way to go, they can get there by making smarter decisions. They can be national, they can have a large loyal audience. It’s time to grab a plate of crow, eat it, realize what works for others, and what will work for them, and run the business like a business. There are far more talented fighters than the 200 or so in Zuffa’s employ, and it won’t cost a half a million dollars per fighter per fight to obtain their services. Sign them , build them up and watch them grow as well as your company.

This isn’t a sport that deals in quick money, and when it tries to (see Kimbo) the results are usually a disaster.

18 COMMENTS
  • Robert says:

    I agree a fighters compensation no matter if you think it’s too much or too little is their business because they make the decision to step in the ring or cage and fight. As far as ESPN discussing the fights during a football game to be honest unless their going to hire some decent MMA analysts to educate some people at the network on the sport i could care less if they ever mention MMA again.There views of the sport are usually absurd anyway, and if EliteXC fired Jared and Gary Shaw and hired a MMA promoter with experience in the sport it would be a step in the right direction.

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  • ben says:

    One of the better MMA /finance related articles Ive ever read very well written, excellent points. Outstanding

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  • JollyDV says:

    Great article. Interesting points you make. I hope someone “up there” will read this and take heed.

    I like free TV MMA. There are many things I don’t like about EliteXC but with the bad comes some good. I like that they have female MMA fighters. I like that out of the 4-5 broadcast fights at least 2 of them will be “good” fights and the outcome is not already predetermined. I like that EliteXC with all it flaws is another outlet for MMA fighters and spectators.

    The UFC has pretty much been putting on a PPV event every month for the past few years. Depending on what day of the month it falls on, I sometimes have two of them on one satellite bill. If the only way to see MMA is through PPV that would be terrible. I would have to wait for it to come out on DVD and that amounts to what you said about watching the Superbowl in June. So I will continue to watch any free MMA on TV. I may gripe, but I will have the TV on.

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  • alkatraz says:

    man u hit it right on the head.i wish these so called hard core fans would understand this.but they harp on the negative and make me sick.this is by far the best article and so true.thank you someone with some sence.

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  • MMAEruption.com says:

    I can’t see EliteXC surviving for very long given the fact that they essentially tried to bribe Petruzelli in order to change his fight strategy. That was an act of pure desperation and I doubt CBS is happy with all the controversy. Plus, the standup in the Arlovski match was completely unjustified. I’m really hoping the athletic commissions take a closer look at the way EliteXC operates because it stinks to high heaven right now.

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  • David Andrest says:

    First let me say, I don’t know how things will turn out for EliteXC, but if the number is nice today, they will have a stay of execution, and you will see at least another show or two. With that said they have improved each time out IMO.

    I understand your concerns with the stand up, as I did with the stand up in NJ. This is not EliteXC’s doing , but it has become their problem. The state athletic commission is in charge of the officials, there have been many a bad call in the last 12 months in many org’s . Ask Brandon Vera just to name one. As much as we would like to pin those crappy calls on Elite, you can’t.

    And in regards to all this “bribe” talk. Perhaps just perhaps people should pay attention to the words coming out of the mouth of other promotions at the fighters meetings before a major event. It is often made very VERY clear that it is TOP priority to put on an exciting event, that the athletes are being paid to do so, and it is what is expected if they plan on continuing to make a living fighting for “the company”

    What happened in the Petruzelli situation I don’t know, I know what he said, I know what he said later. Bribes, paying off officials, fixing fights, these are all very strong accusations being made against a company that deals with a sport that many would like to see go away. There is so much more in some of these situations, and many times so much less.

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  • mike says:

    great read, i couldn’t agree more. as much as i may think EliteXC is a few steps down from the UFC, it’s free and it’s another outlet for fighters to do what they love to do, and on a national spotlight!!

    for all we know, some of EliteXC’s guys could move on to bigger and better things, and bring the crowd they gained from EliteXC to other better promotions.

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  • Joseph says:

    Bravo! Great article.

    Unlike people here that say the UFC is the best and EliteXC is the minor leagues, I don’t think that is true.

    UFC is Vanilla and EliteXC is chocolate. Different flavor for different likes.
    Why do we always have to compare, and not just enjoy different flavors of MMA.

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  • rob says:

    I share the sediments of every who said this was a great article. I (personally) am a fight fan, and I’m just looking for other outlets to watch great fights – I think the past ShoXC was great (how many watched?) EliteXC has put on some good cards – but who didn’t think so because they didn’t know the fighters names? (I know there’s more out there than meets the eye) I am of the opinion that if it’s not UFC than you should be cross-promoting with each other to build fighters (if they are new-comers and stars in teh making) build up the names’ (for those semi-known stars) and for the stars of each promotion – have them fight each other so we can (sort of) kill the argument of who is the best. I know when I compete (in BJJ) win/lose I wanna grapple the best – not just build up a record so I can say hey I’m this and this and I was this crappy tourney – I go for the best tourneys – just so I know how good I really am. As a fight fan – I believe this should be the same -even INCLUDING the UFC -which I know will never happen I can dream can;t I?

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  • fitnessKing says:

    Ok I have read all of the “Kimbo’s done” blogs, blurbs and articles out there. I did not however find ONE that was an accurate depiction of Kimbo and his career. So I had to write something real for everyone. And no I do not work for Affliction or Elite XC either.

    First off Kimbo “Kevin Ferguson” is an MMA rookie – a novice. The guy has less than 5 pro fights. Over the past 10 years the game has developed by leaps and bounds. The guys fighting now are professionals. Well rounded – MMA professionals. Even if it’s a professional “journey-man”. They are not street punks or someone just looking for a fight – like some of the Youtube goons. I have read where people wanted him to get into the ring with MMA veterans and champions to fight – now! You have to crawl before you walk – children even know that much. You practice, learn and fight your way up. Kimbo’s size, strength and tenacity show that he has “potential”. Some lack 2 of those 3 qualities – while other’s have none of the 3. This is why we all wanted to watch Kimbo fight. This potential is why he blew up on Youtube and why he’s already headlined cards. Not because we thought he was the best on the planet – right now. Let his pro fight game progress – don’t give up on him yet.

    Kimbo was in a no win fight Saturday night. If he beats Ken all of you “bandwagon” reporters, writers, bloggers, followers – say “he should have beat old-a** Ken Shamrock – he’s 44 and blah blah”. So Ken get’s hurt warming up – now Kimbo takes another fight on short notice. Listen if you’ve watched a fight in your life you know any man with an MMA glove on can hit someone and knock them out. You can’t “build” your temple muscle to keep from being knocked out. You can’t do chin workouts so you can take a hit better. If you get caught you go to sleep – especially if you are a heavy weight. Also we’ve seen a guy get stunned – recover – realize “hey I can’t screw around with this guy” and kick his butt. Being that this was the “headline” fight – give him a chance to get in his guard and recover. Most of you were watching to see Kimbo lose anyways. Mostly because he has made a name for himself, you are jealous and he could kick your couch potato butt any day. So for you true fight fans – don’t give up on him yet.

    Go back and look at the past champions from MMA or boxing – 99% of them have lost at least once. Why can’t Kimbo lose a fight without being written off? Why can’t Kimbo lose a fight without being written off? (No it’s not a typo – I meant to write it twice) Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, Royce Gracie, Andrei “the pit-bull”, Tim Sylvia, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, BJ Penn all MMA fighters – all with at least one loss. Should they have quit too when they lost their first fight? Some of those guys are legends, others champions – all losers at some point. You keep working on your game, learn from your mistakes and fight again. Ali, Foreman, Tyson, De la Hoya, Jones Jr., Hopkins, Mosley, Holyfield, Leonard, Lennox Lewis all great champions – all losers at some point. Should they have stopped putting on those gloves after they were defeated? Think about how many great fights we would have missed out on if these guys had quit after their first loss? So don’t give up on Kimbo yet.

    Seth Petruzelli did not land a lucky punch. He is a pro fighter. He meant to throw it where it landed. A pro fighter beat another pro fighter? Isn’t that what normally happens? Someone wins – someone loses. After the fight Kimbo showed that he was humble – even congratulating Seth in his victory. Kimbo is not a champion – never has been. Kimbo is new to the pro-fighting game. I named over 20 fighters – all with losses. All beat some good opponents during their career – after they were ready. Ali probably doesn’t beat Foreman if it’s his 2nd or 3rd pro fight that night in Africa. Instead Foreman probably pummels him and quickly too. The cageyness that brought on the “rope a dope” was learned from years and years of getting hit and getting hit hard. Some of those champions I named lost late in their careers after they were established too. Lennox Lewis gets knocked out by Hasim Rahman in 2001. Remember what happened later that year? Lewis knocked Rahman out and took his belt back. Lewis is still a great champion – one of the best ever. He lost to a journeyman, redeemed himself and we have since forgotten about it. Give Kimbo the same chance – don’t give up on him yet.

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Kimbo’s loss may be best for Elite. If it wants to succeed as an org., it needs to be bigger than Kimbo. If it’s perceived as nothing more than a showcase for him with fights by a few unknowns to fill up a time slot, I don’t see how it can flourish. Even dominant fighters lose eventually, so an org. needs more than one fighter or personality.

    Maybe Elite has lost a lot of money, but so did UFC before it exploded. Dana White has said in interviews that before the TUF-fueled success of UFC, he and the Fertitas were actively looking to sell the org. because they’d sunk about 30 million into it and feared it wouldn’t take off. Since then, MMA has hit the mainstream, and its demographic is extremely attractive to advertisers. I doubt CBS will pull the plug right away. They’ll tinker with the formula and continue to show fight cards until they conclude that the public has lost interest.

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  • Sam Bronx, NY says:

    Amen! Cannot blame a kimbo for taking the money, he sucks, but so what, if someone wants to pay me as an unproven but popular personality, I would be moronic not to take the money and do the best I can to justify it. If it does not work out, I won’t return it either, not until I see more CEOs from failing companies start rejecting their exit packages and returning part of their salaries.

    Elite XC is busch league for their treatment of the poor souls under contract to them who were not initially in their marketing plans (KJ Noons), but really can throw down. If I am a legit champ, do not insult me a second time, trying to make me fight a guy I already mopped the floor with for a quarter of what he is making!

    Even boxing does better than that! Maybe De La Hoya gets the Lion’s Share the first time, but if I beat him, you better believe he will be paying a bigger piece of the pie the second time for a rematch.

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  • RJA says:

    Great article david.Love the sarcasm in paragraph 7.I think most of the stuff said about elite going under,kimbo being bad for the sport and the numerous other negetive elite backlash is wishfull thinking rather then ignorence.I’ll admit i was one of the people that was aggravated with the way elite handled things.dancing sluts,stupid commentators and hyping up complete garbage.But i watch and will continue to watch.And regardless of what us hardcore fans think of elite and other promotions that challenge the UFC they are good for the sport and the fans.Thats why we all got to see silva/irvin free on spike.That probally wouldn’t of happend if fedor wasn’t fighting silvia the same night.

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  • Venom says:

    Great article, David! I agree with every word!

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  • darkmetal says:

    Fitnessking, I don’t disagree with all of what you are saying, as I blame EXC more than Kimbo for his packaging. However, simply saying that “anyone can be KO’d” is not exactly putting things in focus in relation to Kimbo. If he were fighting in the UFC, the odds are he would be losing almost all his fights and it would result in his being cut by now.

    The truth is that you can put glitter on a turd but it won’t be pretty, and if you put it in a gift box with a bow, those who recieve it will still think you are a jerk for sending it. This is how people feel about EXC pushing Kimbo Slice, a simple street fighter with limited MMA skills and putting him on as headliner.

    As fighter I don’t think Kimbo has the time to become good, he is too old. He can get the occasional KO, but he is simply a sideshow oddity in my humble opinion. He is not in the realm of the great MMA or boxing fighters that you are naming, so that point is not valid. This is what is so infuriating, and why people are “hating” (although I don’t hate Kimbo personally) on Kimbo.

    The last 14 seconds of fame have finally ticked off in the Kimbo era, and I have to say I am relieved. Bring on the new and hungry young fighters that will bring this sport to a level.

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  • Imbecile says:

    The problem with EliteXC is that they didn’t promote MMA, they promoted hyped up sideshow attractions. Sure they had real MMA on the fight cards, but they didn’t bother to hype that compared with what they did for Kimbo. That understandably upset fans of MMA that really wanted to see free MMA on network TV be successful.

    If Affliction had their first show on CBS, I doubt you would have heard nearly as many UFC-purists complaining, since Affliction actually had a solid MMA offering.

    As for fighters’ pay, I agree that we really shouldn’t have an opinion. That is between the promotion and the fighters. They agree to it, so they should stop complaining. But what I will say is that none of us actually knows what “fighter pay” consists of since most of the big companies are private and don’t report it.

    Joe Riggs recently said in an interview that he makes about half as much outside of the UFC as he did inside of it. He said that in 2005 he made nearly $300,000 in the UFC, and about $150,000 a year for the next couple years following his exit from the organization. Now that is back when the UFC was just starting to take off, and a mid-tier fighter like Riggs was pulling in $300K? That isn’t too bad for 3 fights a year, and UFC payouts have, in general, gone up since then. It is also MUCH higher than reported on the official commission reports that show things like RIggs making $20,000 to show and $20,000 to win.

    Also, if anyone truly believes that Fedor only made less than half as much as Sylvia for the Affliction show they are crazy! The commission reported income for Fedor for that fight was $300,000, yet before that he was asking for $2 million a fight. He got much closer to $2 million than $300K, we just don’t know about it.

    All I’m saying is that nobody honestly knows how much fighters are getting paid except the fighters, their managers, and the promotions. Some are probably underpaid, some are overpaid, but none of us really knows. James Irvin was rolling around in a Mercedes on the UFC Countdown, for godsakes! So how about everyone hold off on their outrage either way, because all parties agreed to what they are getting.

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  • HexRei says:

    imbecile, im sure riggs was counting sponsorships in that figure. smaller show = less lucrative sponsors.

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  • HexRei says:

    PS I own a Mercedes and I aint rich.

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