After watching Saturday's EliteXC undercard and main event, one looming question remains: What the heck was that?
Saturday was supposed to be a historic day for MMA—the night in which the perception of the sport would be forever changed, the night when MMA could be viewed in every household, the opportunity to tap into a new, previously untouched audience.
However, on May 31, on national television EliteXC embarrassed the sport of MMA with their questionable stoppages (or lack thereof), lack of technique, lengthy pauses in-between fights, and allowance of one of their feature fighters to enter four-and-a-half pounds overweight—an embarrassment the organization and others like it will have to fight even harder to overcome.
Regardless of how great a fight the Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith fight was, how active the fighters were throughout each of the rounds, how beautifully each fighter connected with their punches, the fight will still be tainted by the questionable stoppage after Smith inadvertently got poked in the eye.
Ordinarily after an incident like this, the fighter would get five minutes to recover from his/her injury. However, after a brief discussion with Smith, the doctor recommended the fight be stopped. What happened to the five minutes?
According to EliteXC, Smith told the doctors twice that he was unable to see immediately after getting poked—of course he couldn't! However, instead of immediately stopping the fight, the doctor should have allowed Smith to clear his eyes and then determined whether or not he could have continued.
It was clear during his post-fight interview in the cage that Smith could now see and probably could have fought. Sure, he probably wouldn't have been 100 percent, but it is EliteXC's job to prevent permanent damage to a fighter's health, not ensure that they are running around at 100 percent all the time.
Kimbo Slice dodged a bullet when his fight wasn't stopped as he lay on his back absorbing hammer-fists and elbows. Sure they did very little damage and probably never would have knocked him out, but one of the criteria for a fight to continue is that the fighter "intelligently defends" himself.
The flailing of Kimbo's left arm as James Thompson pinned his right and leveled elbows on his forehead could hardly be considered "intelligent." Any decent fan would have stopped it after what seemed to be minutes of inactivity on Kimbo's part.
But Kimbo is EliteXC's poster-boy, and they would be hard-pressed to stop any of his fights unless he is put into a coma or breaks his arm. In fact, its not even correct to say he dodged a bullet—no one was aiming to take him down.
Besides boxing/kickboxing in EliteXC's maincard, what techniques were on display? There was minimal wrestling, almost no jiu-jitsu, and no submissions. Seriously? NO submissions?
For the regular viewer, Saturday was nothing more than a boxing match. Okay, with a bit of kicking and hugging too. Oh, and a guy can lay on another guy? Gross! But for the moderate-hardcore supporter, Saturday's fights were disappointing at best.
It is pathetic when the most technical skill shown in an event is a sweep on the bottom (performed by Kimbo, who would've guessed?) to flip on top. It is sad when a fighter's striking is "effective" simply because his opponent doesn't seem to want to put his hands up.
EliteXC got lucky that James Thompson didn't live be up to his "glass-chin" nickname. Phil Baroni was unlucky when he decided not to bob and weave against a boxer. The fans were unlucky that they saw such little technical skill from a intensely technical sport.
It is understandable for CBS to get their advertising time in, after all, broadcasting isn't free. But the length of commercial time in-between the fights—even the announcement of fights—was horrendous.
Combined, the commercials before and after Brett Roger's short TKO of Jon Murphy were longer than the fight itself. No wonder the event went longer than half an hour over the scheduled time.
My father back home, who usually avoids watching MMA, stumbled on to CBS and became interested in what was going on. Two hours later, after watching four of the five maincard events, he became tired of how it was being drawn out—so much that he made the decision while watching the widely-hyped and advertised Kimbo vs. Thompson fight.
CBS/EliteXC could have made another fan, one over their target age of 18-34, but lost him because it was "just another boxing match."
In such a widely advertised event, how could EliteXC allow one of their fighters to come to the weigh-ins four-and-a-half pounds overweight and still refer to them as one of the "faces" of their organization?
When it comes to professionalism and respect for the sport, making sure you make weight is one of the most important things you can do. When Travis Lutter didn't make weight he was chastised by nearly everyone in the sport, fighters and commentators alike.
When you become an officer you take a test and have to pass. When you become a fire fighter you take a test and have to pass. When you are a professional fighter you have to make weight. That is your job. Period. Not doing so is an insult to those who take their job seriously and work hard to be the best they can be.
Though steps towards nationally televised bouts are steps in the right direction, one must really wonder if EliteXC knows how to get it done.
They have the fighters and have put on some great fights: Frank Shamrock vs. Cung Le was fantastic. Saturday's Robbie Lawler vs. Scott Smith was a classic waiting to happen. Even Wilson Reis in one of the undercard fights displayed amazing BJJ skills.
What America wants to see is what makes MMA different than boxing. They want to see the skill of the ground game, the finess in the submission. Quick hands and quick feet. They want to see heart and perseverance. Blood, sweat, and tears. Something real and violent, but at the same time, honorable.
And though they made a mockery of themselves on Saturday, EliteXC has the tools to make their organization great. The question is, do they know how to make it work?