Gary Shaw. Photo by Esther Lin/ProElite.
If anything could make EliteXC’s situation even worse right now, it would be a current or former employee involved in the matchmaking of the fights they put on to come out and basically admit that, yeah, the organization does tell fighters to keep their bouts standing “for the fans.”
Enter Gary Shaw. The former face of the promotion has told the Los Angeles Times that he hasn’t hesitated in the past to tell fighters that the company was looking to put on a certain kind of fight. And his comments couldn’t come at a worse time:
But Elite XC consultant Gary Shaw said he wouldn’t hesitate to “go to a fighter and say, ‘We’re looking for a stand-up fight.’ You’re not asking him to throw a fight. You’re talking about a fan-friendly fight, not about protecting Kimbo.”
Shaw said he has urged MMA fighters in the past to maximize the action, to avoid an abundance of yawn-inspiring wrestling.
“Do I think that’s unethical? No,” Shaw said. “Because in MMA, you get bonus money for a knockout. I don’t see it as unethical . . . asking him to be TV and fan friendly.
The majority of mixed martial arts bouts are fan-friendly for the most part because unlike boxing, the fights are relatively quick and fast-paced. There’s a reason why the sport is considered by many to be the most exciting and fastest-growing in the world.
You can debate whether or not what EliteXC is apparently doing is “fixing fights”, but at the end of the day, asking a guy who is primarily a submission artist and is looking to secure a spot in the promotion to keep his fight on the feet is putting him at a disadvantage in the fight and affecting the outcome, bottom line.
UFC President Dana White was also asked about the situation and he’s less than thrilled to say the least.
From the Boston Herald:
“It disgusts me,” White said. “I’ve been busting my (expletive) for 10 years flying all over the planet to show everybody what a great sport this is and what amazing people are involved in it. Then CBS throws this guy who fights at people’s barbecues on the main event because they’re trying to compete with us, and he gets knocked out in (14) seconds by a guy who didn’t win ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and couldn’t fight in the UFC. Then the guy turns around the next day and says, ‘The promoters actually paid me to not go to the ground with this guy. They paid me to stand up,’ which I’m pretty sure is illegal.”
“It put a nail in my coffin, too,” White said. “When dirty people go out and do stuff like that, it hurts. Promoters have a bad rap as it is because of the last 100 years of boxing. We actually started to turn that around and were doing the right things and then you have these guys coming out and doing (expletive) like that. It hurts us.”
I’m not sure that this whole debacle is going to affect MMA as a whole as much as White thinks it might. Through all of this, EliteXC has pretty much been painted as an organization with immature officials, (Jared Shaw) clueless spokespeople (Jeremy Lappen and his contradicting answers) and terrible promoting (hyping Kimbo Slice up as something he’s not), while the UFC has come away looking great.
In any event, EliteXC is still denying any wrongdoing, as evidenced by an official statement sent out by Lappen to the media late last night:
STATEMENT FROM JEREMY LAPPEN, HEAD OF FIGHT OPERATIONS, ELITEXC
“Press reports that EliteXC suggested or paid money to heavyweight fighter Seth Petruzelli to keep his fight against Kimbo Slice off the ground are false. Let me be perfectly clear with no ambiguity — that did not happen.
“Seth Petruzelli was offered a fee to fight Kimbo Slice, plus a knockout bonus, a common practice throughout the industry. EliteXC organizes and promotes fights. We have not…do not…and will not suggest or dictate fighters’ strategies or tactics. How the fighters perform in the cage is at the sole discretion of the athletes involved.
“The circumstances leading up to the Petruzelli/Slice fight were unusual. Ken Shamrock was declared medically ineligible less than three hours before the fight. As an organization, we made a decision to serve the paying audience in the arena and the prime time audience at home by delivering on a Kimbo Slice fight, which we had promised. This was done simply and solely with a standard fee and bonus offer to Petruzelli and by increasing the purse to Slice. Elite XC is grateful to both Seth and Kimbo for taking this fight against an opponent they didn’t train for and on such short notice.
“In addition, reports that Frank Shamrock volunteered that evening to fight Kimbo Slice are true. Frank is a competitive fighter and he was willing to step up for his organization and the MMA fans. His offer was very greatly appreciated, but everyone in the room knew when he made the offer that it wasn’t a realistic possibility on such short notice.
“Despite all the craziness leading up to and in the aftermath of the event, the evening was a resounding success. The fights were diverse, impressive and entertaining, and I think the Seth/Kimbo fight speaks to the excitement and unpredictability of the sport. Great potential match-ups lie ahead for all the fighters involved that evening.
“And, the television ratings exceeded everyone’s expectations. In fact, the broadcast on CBS was the #1 entertainment and sports program of the night among the adults 18-34 and male 18-34 demographics, topping competing MLB Baseball Divisional games on TBS and college football games on both broadcast and cable. These ratings, and the intense discussion that has followed, speak volumes to the interest and future of this growing sport.”
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