Ask any fight fan what the big MMA event is tonight, and most will tell you UFC 134 in Rio de Janeiro. Far less, if any, will tell you about the return of ProElite. And that's a shame.
After the 2008 death of EliteXC, ProElite is back, now under the ownership of Stratus Media Group. Operating under the watchful eyes of T. Jay Thompson, VP of Fight Operations and former ICON Sport owner, and former Strikeforce match maker Rich Chou, ProElite is taking steps towards becoming a legitimate MMA promotion contender.
Speaking with MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani, Thompson said, "My job with ProElite is put it in a position when an opportunity arises, we'll be able to capitalize on it...big name fighters, television contract."
They have clearly learned from the poor financial decisions and controversy that crippled EliteXC, and they are happy to take things slowly business-wise. Their patience seems to be paying off, as they were able to secure Coors Light and Monster Energy as fight sponsors.
They also should have an opportunity to get onto cable television with Bellator widely assumed to be moving to Spike, leaving MTV2 without any MMA programming.
From a fight standpoint, however, they are jumping right into the deep end. Featuring UFC veteran Andrei Arlovski and the debut of BJ Penn's younger brother, Reagan, the debut ProElite card offers up several exciting fights.
Arlovski will be facing upstart Ray Lopez, a King of the Cage veteran with a 6-1 record. Penn brings a black belt in jiu-jitsu as well as years of training experience with his older brother BJ and will be facing Paul Gardiner, who sports a 3-0 record, with all his victories coming by first round knockout.
The last notable fight pits UFC veterans Kendall Grove and Joe Riggs against each other for the first time since 2004, when Riggs defeated Grove during Rumble on the Rock 5.
For true MMA fans, ProElite's event tonight should serve as a nice late night snack after the UFC main course. It can be watched live and free online on Sherdog.com, starting at 1am ET.
Keep your eyes on ProElite in the future, I think they are bound to sidle up behind Bellator as the next major regional MMA promotion.