Feeling the Heat? Tuesday, October 07, 2008 by Tomas Rios ([email protected]) Watching EliteXC Vice President Jared Shaw scream in utter horror at the sight of Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson being read the riot act by Seth Petruzelli at EliteXC “Heat” on Saturday provides proof of a long-suspected truism in the world of fight promotion. Gambling big can lead to big losses. Especially when you’re all-in on a rehabilitated 34-year-old street-fighter whose fame was built on grainy YouTube videos packed with more violence than a vacation in Iraq. Really, it was only a matter of time before someone like Petruzelli, a UFC castaway, derailed the superstar EliteXC spent the past year creating. Fate intervened by casting out Ken Shamrock and allowing the inevitable to play itself out far earlier than anyone anticipated. This is what happens when you take the shortcut route in mixed martial arts and put your future in the hands of fighters who are incapable of anchoring a promotion. Slice’s loss wouldn’t be much of an issue had EliteXC bothered to maintain a stable group of draw fighters. However, the fact remains that the promotion has failed with almost every major investment it has made. Forget Slice. Perhaps the most disastrous move was bringing in KJ Noons to carry the lightweight torch. After getting knocked out in his EliteXC debut by Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett, Noons rebounded nicely and went on to capture the promotion’s lightweight title. Happy days should have followed, but negotiations for a rematch with Nick Diaz failed, turned nasty and led to EliteXC stripping its lightweight golden boy of the belt. On the other end of the scale, there’s heavyweight champion Antonio Silva. After winning the title in July, he tested positive for anabolic steroids and received a one-year suspension from the California State Athletic Commission. There’s also female MMA poster girl Gina Carano, who has spent her career fighting the scale as if it were her mortal enemy. Competing in a division created specifically for her, Carano has raised the ire of fans by consistently failing to make weight, which forces her opponents into the awkward position of either calling off the fight or accepting a portion of Carano’s paycheck and allowing the show to proceed. Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com "Cyborg" Santos peppers Yoko Takahashi in a bout that should have been televised. Throw in EliteXC handling Carano with kid gloves while worthy challengers like Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos are kept off the air, and it becomes painfully obvious that executives know full well they cannot afford to lose the luster on any more of their golden geese. Unless EliteXC is prepared to move forward with incumbent welterweight and middleweight champions Jake Shields and Robbie Lawler leading the way, the time is now for the still nascent promotion to make some changes. It should start with a much-needed injection of prudent planning, and it would be best to keep Shaw out of that meeting. Thus far, EliteXC has tried to build a stable of stars that could compete with the UFC, but that’s a foolhardy approach considering the UFC’s massive market share. More importantly, in trying to protect that core group of stars, EliteXC limited itself in terms of the bouts it could make. Slice and company are not going to lead EliteXC to the land of milk and honey, so the new strategy needs to focus on promoting exciting fights. EliteXC has already shown itself capable of doing so. Of course, several other failed promotions have shown the matchmaking know-how to put together quality scraps, but none of them enjoyed the benefit of a CBS deal. The exposure’s already there; EliteXC needs to do a better job of taking advantage of it. With a massive audience just waiting to be tapped, EliteXC does not need to force its hand-picked saviors down anyone’s throat. Simply put on the best fights you can, and rest assured that whoever emerges from the rubble will make for a more than worthy representative of your brand. By building the buzz with quality fights and letting the winners sustain that buzz, you’re no longer married to the idea of a particular fighter carrying a division. In turn, the blow of high-profile fighters losing is significantly lessened, as whoever they lose to are likely to have their own cache of fans. Look to Forrest Griffin, the man who dethroned a popular champion, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, and is now every bit as popular. That’s the sort of dynamic EliteXC must foster. The only way to accomplish this is by avoiding shortcuts and aiming for legitimacy. I’m not saying show Slice the door, but perhaps EliteXC could use his notoriety to its advantage by matching him against a more skilled opponent who could benefit from a sudden increase in exposure. It’s easy to forget that this is the approach that dragged the UFC out of the red and transformed it into a juggernaut that pulls in so much money it makes boxing promoters cry themselves to sleep at night. We all remember being subjected to the returns of Ken Shamrock and David “Tank” Abbott, but their notoriety was harnessed to benefit the next generation of stars that carried the UFC to prominence. The road to the Promised Land is not littered with the footsteps of Noons or Carano or Slice. EliteXC tried to cut a new path with them, and all it has to show for those efforts is a bunch of red ink and failed headliners. Let me level with you. I won’t lose a wink of sleep if I never have to see Jared Shaw on my television again, but it will be sad to see another promotion torpedo itself despite having everything it could possibly need to succeed. Bleak as things may look, no one knows what the future holds for EliteXC. But I do know that, somewhere, UFC President Dana White is laughing at the competitor that was supposed to knock him off his perch.