Many long-time mixed martial arts fans think Saturday’s Kimbo Slice fight on CBS was fixed because, well, it looked exactly like what they think a fixed fight would look like.
Personally, I don’t think it was rigged, if only because it worked. Kimbo, the obvious beneficiary since the entire promotion hinges on his success, won. For Elite XC to purposely deliver this desirable result would display a level of competency not seen in any other part of its amateur hour production.
But that’s just me. In the days after the first ever network televised card, everyone seems to have an opinion.
It generally splits into two groups.
Moderate to hardcore fans saw it as an abomination of their sport; CBS and Elite XC combining to produce a circus act headlined by an overhyped Kimbo that set the perception of MMA back a decade.
New and casual fans saw it as great entertainment, especially considering it was on late Saturday night where the expectations of programming aren’t real high, although some viewers undoubtedly were.
Both sides are correct; it’s simply a matter of perspective.
If you’re a fan of MMA, then what Elite XC trotted out as a main event was mostly an absurd exhibition. It’s like tuning in for the NBA Finals and finding the And 1 Mixtape Tour – only with announcers pretending Hot Sauce is a better player than Kobe Bryant.
This was entirely predictable. Any promotion that was going to use Kimbo Slice as its main event clearly cared nothing about the quality or growth of the sport. It was just grabbing cheap viewers. If that meant sending a mostly unskilled street fighting sensation against a guy who was such a tomato can he should have dressed in red, then so be it.
Of course, the tomato can, James “Colossus” Thompson, almost won. At least, until the fight got stopped, Kimbo was declared the winner and MMA message boards almost collapsed in fury.
But if you didn’t know, or care, then you didn’t know or care. This was better than reruns of “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
What the main event lacked in quality it made up for in entertainment, unintentional or not. Here are my four favorite absurdly hysterical moments of the Kimbo-Colossus fight.
4. When the fight was called, Colossus, the loser, tried to fight the ref for unfairly ending it. Kimbo, the winner, collapsed in exhaustion as many in the once pro-Kimbo crowd in Newark, N.J., turned on their guy. Not exactly a victory lap.
3. The CBS announcing crew’s endless hyperbole reaching its pinnacle when one of them compared Kimbo to Tiger Woods.
This would be applicable if Tiger had gained fame hitting trick shots in putt putt and then was invited to a second rate club championship which CBS was conned into televising. He then shot a final round 124, after which he was declared the winner anyway.
2. The judges. Kimbo spent most of the second round getting his skull hit and thanking the heavens that Colossus could only manage weak punches and elbows. Anyone else and this ends ugly. Even with Colossus, the fight could have been called (ha) in this undeniably terrible round for Kimbo.
Naturally, one of the “impartial judges” scored the round in his favor anyway. If this had gone to decision, is there any doubt at least one of the judges would have scored the three-round fight for Kimbo, five rounds to zero?
1. The Ear. What, you’ve seen an ear like that before? When everyone predicted this would be a freak show, no one thought the Colossus would take it to heart. His cauliflower ear was massive, this huge ball of blood and puss hanging off his head.
Ah, didn’t anyone think to mention he might want to drain that thing before Kimbo whacks him upside the head and makes it explode? Which, of course, happened.
Pre-fight, as the cameras zoomed in on that monstrosity everyone watching was horrified, fascinated or laughing uncontrollably. It was something out of a summer comedy; I kept expecting Verne Troyer to appear in the scene. CBS’s Gus Johnson declared it an “alien life form.”
This was the stuff that pained longtime fans. For the average person just looking for something to watch, though, this train wreck was wildly entertaining. At the very least, it was memorable. Not everyone is concerned about the integrity of cage fighting.
It’s worth repeating that Kimbo Slice isn’t the problem. He may have a long way to go to be even a good MMA fighter, but he is an easy-to-root-for American original. He shouldn’t apologize for suddenly having a chance to make a bunch of money.
If out of the blue the New York Yankees called and said you could have Alex Rodriguez’s third base position (and contract), you’d take it. Then you’d spend every waking minute at the batting cage and taking grounders, all while walking around scared senseless that this was going to end badly (except for your bank account) when they realized you aren’t a major league ball player.
That’s what Kimbo looked like in the run up to this one. He’s training as hard as he can, but he has to know the truth. Fedor Emelianenko, the best heavyweight in the world, would toy with him. Every heavyweight and light heavyweight in the UFC would beat him handily. Even some middleweights, such as Anderson Silva, despite giving up 50-plus pounds, would take him. It’s just a matter of MMA being a lot more than a street brawl. He’s on their turf now.
Colossus has now lost seven of his last nine fights and he wasn’t enough of a stiff to assure Kimbo victory. Kimbo is fun, but reality is reality.
Still, it wasn’t Kimbo saying he was Tiger Woods. It wasn’t Kimbo who showed up with a racquetball in his ear, or hired the dancing girls or choreographed the WWE introductions.
As frustrating as this was for many who love the sport, I don’t buy the argument that the card was a big negative for MMA. Yes its credibility was hurt with old media and some skeptics, but many potential fans were exposed to it for the first time.
Some of them will stick around and discover the upper reaches of the sport. If Sunday’s WEC card highlighted by the Jens Pulver-Urijah Faber epic had been on CBS, then the sport would have shot into the stratosphere overnight. The same is true for any UFC production or, most likely, next month’s promising Affliction event.
If new fans watch those, soon they too will realize what first introduced them to the sport was mostly just an entertaining joke.
Now, if only CBS could realize it. Not since someone decided to make a television show about the Geico Cavemen has a network been sold such a bill of goods.
CBS tried to claim it was wary of MMA because of its old perception as “human cockfighting.” That hasn’t been a reality in over a decade, though. Naturally, they contracted an organization that played on that very stereotype and, in turn, furthered it.
If CBS would dump Elite XC but stick with MMA – finding a more suitable promotion to televise – they’d find the good overnight ratings it produced could build into a juggernaut over time.
Not by providing minor league fights long on unintentional comedy that insult hardcore fans, but by trusting the sport on its own merits.
If we could get that fixed, there’d be no complaints.