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Bad news for Elite XC — big media outlets focus on the Kimbo/Petruzelli stand-up scandal

By Zach Arnold | October 8, 2008

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A few hours ago, I wrote this post reviewing the possible options of attack for MMA fans and writers if they wanted to further pursue the Seth Petruzelli/Kimbo Slice “stand-up” media scandal that is unfolding before our eyes. The most viable option of attack was to encourage the mainstream media (the broadsheets, TV networks) to pick up the story and run with it. We’ve already seen Jim Rome on ESPN give his two cents.

Now, business is really starting to pick up.

First, Dan Duggan in The Boston Herald talks about Petruzelli’s controversial radio comments from a few days ago in Orlando. Duggan’s media angle here? Getting comments from Dana White, which a sure-fire way to build up more steam for this story.

“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.”

Second, Lance Pugmire in The Los Angeles Times has an article about Petruzelli’s Orlando radio comments and further elaborates on how damaging the Kimbo Slice loss is to Elite XC. Congratuations to Steve Barry of MMA Convert for getting quoted in the article. Note that Pugmire’s story is not only online but also in the print edition of the Times paper today.

The LA Times article is even more damaging because it has quotes from Gary Shaw about encouraging MMA fighters to stand-up for fights.

“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.”

One quote I want to address in the LA Times article is this one:

“Press reports that Elite XC suggested or paid money to . . . Petruzelli to keep his fight against Kimbo Slice off the ground are false. . . .

Look. This scandal never would have happened if it wasn’t for Petruzelli himself saying what he did. The MMA media hasn’t ‘twisted his words’ one bit. Why? There’s been no need to twist any words. Petruzelli’s comments were made during a radio interview. The audio clips from that interview are easy to access online and accurate transcriptions of those comments are also available for anyone to access online. The Internet can be a very unforgiving place, especially when it comes to attempts to re-write history.

To have two big articles on this scandal in two major media markets (LA & Boston) is real bad. To have the comments that Gary Shaw made in the LA Times is devastating in terms of credibility.

Yesterday, I said that the media should have covered the PRIDE yakuza scandal more seriously than they did (coverage barely existed in the States). That scandal negatively impacted the business in a big way. Hopefully, everyone in the media, in the MMA industry, and those who work at state athletic commissions starts investigating the ’stand-up’ fighting scandal.

Make no mistake about it — if Dana White wants to use his clout to push this story further in American media circles, he can. Would UFC benefit from this? Yes. However, so would the industry as a whole. Everyone has a vested interest in keeping as much corruption out of this business as possible. If you don’t think UFC management has a vested interest in seeing things stay as clean as possible, then you don’t understand what’s at stake here.

As for Kimbo Slice, Dan Henderson of all people is bullish on him making a comeback in the MMA business.

One other angle to focus on…

Think about what Gary Shaw is quoted as saying in the LA Times article as compared to what Shaw’s son, Jared, said to MMA Weekly a couple of days ago. Go through the money quotes:

Gary Shaw:

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.”

Jared Shaw:

“Why in a million years would we ask Seth to not take Kimbo down? That’s crazy. That’s all Kimbo’s been working on is the ground game. Ken Shamrock, 84 percent of his wins are submission and through the ground, so Kimbo was ready for the ground. If anybody knows Seth Petruzelli, he’s a K-1 fighter, I wouldn’t want him standing. So to say ‘don’t take him down,’ that’s ridiculous.”

Now, focus in on comments Jeremy Lappen made in a brand new company statement:

“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.”

Really? You should have told Gary Shaw this before he spoke to reporters at The LA Times on the record. Gary Shaw, a man who’s still a consultant for Elite XC. Gary Shaw, the man who built Elite XC based on his personal fighting & matchmaking philosophies. Gary Shaw, the man who built Elite XC around Kimbo Slice & Gina Carano as his main attractions. Gary Shaw, a man who told the LA Times that asking fighters to keep things ’standing’ is not unethical.

One thing is very clear here — this has been a terrible PR disaster for Elite XC. If Dana White chooses to make this a bigger issue, it will be more than just a PR nightmare for Elite XC management.

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Topics: MMA, Media, Pro Elite, UFC, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

22 Responses to “Bad news for Elite XC — big media outlets focus on the Kimbo/Petruzelli stand-up scandal”

  1. EJ says:

    Hey Zach, I gotta say while I haven’t always agreed with your articles you’re doing a great job in exposing Elite and their shady business tactics. It’s amazing how many apologist have popped up to defend the undefendable, at this point it’s not about if you like Elite or not. It’s about exposing criminal behaviour that could end up ruining MMA and damaging all the positives that have stemmed from the UFC for the past couple of years. Someone needs to investigate Elite because it is becoming clearer by the day that this doesn’t pass the smell test.

  2. Rob Maysey says:

    Bravo Zach Arnold–

    I don’t think you will be quoted on Sherdog.com for your efforts, and honestly, I don’t understand. Perhaps you are not a “media outlet?”

  3. D.Capitated says:

    The mainstream media didn’t cover PRIDE’s collapse stateside because virtually no one cared about PRIDE. The MMA media didn’t do it because it was either far beyond their capabilities to rationally cover it themselves or they felt no particular interest in doing Babelfish translations of Japanese websites/blogs.

    As for this MASSIVE CONTROVERSY, it proves how short people’s memories are. It was about 5 months ago that every blog was awash in talk of a “fixed fight” or whatever in the same organization. We see now what a massive detrement it had on Kimbo’s ability to pull viewers.

  4. Zach Arnold says:

    As for this MASSIVE CONTROVERSY, it proves how short people’s memories are. It was about 5 months ago that every blog was awash in talk of a “fixed fight” or whatever in the same organization. We see now what a massive detrement it had on Kimbo’s ability to pull viewers.

    Allow me to play along with your train of thought here to amuse myself:

    1) Name names of reputable MMA web sites that had writers coming out and specifically saying that James Thompson vs. Kimbo Slice was a work. Provide links for documentation, as well.

    2) The Kimbo/Thompson situation has absolutely no correlation or bearing whatsoever with the Kimbo/Petruzelli story.

    3) We have a situation here where a fighter, with words directly coming out of his month, started this scandal on his own accord. There were no such statements made by any parties involving in the Kimbo/Thompson fight.

    4) After Petruzelli’s comments were made, there were further reports by both Dave Meltzer and Bryan Alvarez in response to whether or not they heard about both Petruzelli and Shamrock being offered money to keep the fight against Kimbo “standing up.” To my knowledge (and I may be mistaken), no one from Shamrock’s camp has publicly issued a denial/statement yet in response to this allegation by Alvarez, and no one has attacked Meltzer for claiming that he heard about Petruzelli being told to keep the fight ’standing up.’

    5) The genesis of this scandal did not come from a media writer or a blog screaming that a fix or match alteration occured. Because the actual winner of this fight made the statements he did during his Orlando radio interview, it started a tidal wave of responses from everyone inside the MMA industry. That tidal wave is starting to spread into the broadsheet media.

    If you want to downplay the potential of negative damage to the image of MMA in the North American landscape due to a match fixing or bribery scandal, be my guest. I’ve laid out the arguments already as to why people should and will care about this story, and why it will resonate much more with the casual MMA fan than the PRIDE yakuza scandal ever did.

  5. Ultimo Santa says:

    Aside from kids on the Sherdog forum, I never read a single person claim, or even hint, that James Thompson vs. Kimbo Slice was fixed.

    You definitely get the feeling that Elite likes the stand-up fighting though – moreso even than UFC.

    Nelson was doing little more than ‘controlling’ Arlovski, and was setting up a very, very slow submission. This is not 1993 – there are only 3 x 5 min. rounds, and if you slowly work a sub for the better part of a round, that’s 30% of the entire fight.

    Not good for us, the viewers (ie. the people who may their salaries).

    HOWEVER – in the UFC I can’t remember anyone (in recent memory) getting stood up from a side mount. So it FELT like the refs were instructed to make things more “exciting” by encouraging the stand-up.

    And as it was pointed out on the Fight Opinion Radio show this week, when did it become the refs job to hype the fight during INSTRUCTIONS? “Hey, let’s make an exciting fight for all the fans! Now touch gloves!”

    WTF?

  6. banter says:

    Interesting how many MMA websites that seem to have connections to EXC have ignored this issue. Good work Zach.

  7. dave2 says:

    I laughed when Dana White said that Kimbo Slice wouldn’t even cut it on Ultimate Fighter. It’s so true. Dana is overhyping Brock Lesnar way too much (Being 1-0 and yet he’s in the co-main event and hyped up big time twice and then given an undeserving title shot) but at least Brock Lesnar beat Heath Herring. At best, Kimbo Slice beat a WASHED UP James Thompson (in the main event on CBS!) that came in the fight with a bloated Cauliflower ear ready to burst. And on top of that, I thought James Thompson earned a TKO in the second round when Kimbo failed to intelligibly defend himself.

    Dana should follow his own advice to a certain extent though. If you want to bring legitimacy to the sport, you should have guys like Brock Lesnar work up from the bottom and you shouldn’t be giving him a title shot for beating Heath Herring. Mixed Martial Arts is going to have to be more sport-centered in America than in Japan to gain acceptance. It might be bad for business in the short-term to not push Brock Lesnar down our throats but it will make the sport look more legit this way.

  8. Steve Barry says:

    Zach, great job in putting this all together. And thanks for mentioning we got quoted. There’s quite a few other sites who deserve it more than we do, such as this one, so it was quite the surprise.

  9. Ultimo Santa says:

    You know the story by now…it’s not a sport, its sports entertainment. You just have to draw the line somewhere between the two.

    As far as where the line goes, that’s your personal preference. Kimbo puts asses in seats and eyeballs on the TV. Does he DESERVE to be in the main event? That’s a matter of opinion. IMO, no, but many would disagree.

    Brock Lesnar getting a title shot is absurd, but I don’t feel it crosses the line in the same way Kimbo Slice does.

    If he were getting the shot *instead* of Arlovski, Fedor or Barnett, then I would be complaining – but since the UFC doesn’t have any of those top-5 guys under contract, I don’t feel like Lesnar cutting in line is a big deal.

    Who else is the UFC gonna put against Couture? I mean besides the winner of Mir/Nog?

  10. banter says:

    dave2

    I agree…however. IMO the UFC gets bit of a pass for 2 reasons. 1. They were in a huge mess at the time because of Randy. 2. He looked good fighting both Mir and Heath and every fighter out there says he is the real deal.

  11. Todd Martin says:

    Really good work on this story, Zach.

  12. zack says:

    I don’t really care about this story too much, but I gotta admit Zach is hands down the best writer to cover these scandals.

  13. David says:

    Brock Lesnar > Kimbo Slice

    “And as it was pointed out on the Fight Opinion Radio show this week, when did it become the refs job to hype the fight during INSTRUCTIONS? “Hey, let’s make an exciting fight for all the fans! Now touch gloves!””

    Refs making fights exciting is no different than big John saying “Let’s get it on , C’mon” with an assertive aggressive voice.

  14. dave2 says:

    Of course the Brock Lesnar-UFC situation is not the same as the Kimbo Slice-EliteXC one. Like I said, Brock Lesnar beat Heath Herring and no one is going to argue that beating Heath doesn’t earn you status as a legit fighter. It’s a matter of degree. Pushing Brock Lesnar, who is 2-1, to this extent hurts the legitimacy of the sport in the long-term BUT pushing Kimbo Slice is A LOT worse. Zuffa is doing a better job of upholding the sport’s respectably compared to ProElite though I think Zuffa can do a better job.

    Most successful professional sports (boxing especially but also team sports) are going to be Entertainment first, Sports second but the promotion needs to be sport-ish enough to not lose legitimacy with the mainstream. Obviously ProElite has went too far in the entertainment direction with Kimbo Slice as they are being mercilessly crucified after Kimbo Slice was exposed.

    As for who should have had the title shot, I’d say Fabricio Werdum is probably the most deserving UFC heavyweight for a title shot versus Randy Couture. Couture vs Werdum would probably draw even less than Couture vs Gonzaga but it reflects poorly on the sport when a man can leapfrog into a title shot just because he beat Heath Herring and has some WWE fame. (and I’m saying this through a PR/business perspective, not a purist fan perspective. I don’t see myself as a purist fan myself) Of course this isn’t anywhere as bad as what ProElite has done with Kimbo Slice and the Shaws should be ashamed of themselves.

  15. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    Is there a difference between BJM saying “Let’s get it on, come-on” and him saying “Let’s get it on in the UFC Heavyweight Championship of the world brought to you by Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquor: GET STUNG!”

    It’s not the ref’s job to pimp any brand, that’s the ring announcer’s job.

  16. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    I think that, retrospectively, how well Lesnar does going forward is going to legitimize or de-legitimize the opportunities that UFC is handing him now, but in general, the record is going to be kind toward UFC on this matter because the level of talent they’ve been able to amass for their HW division at this particular point in time, and their commitments to specific headline fights even further weakened what is already MMA’s kiddie pool in terms of divisional depth.

  17. D.Capitated says:

    Name names of reputable MMA web sites that had writers coming out and specifically saying that James Thompson vs. Kimbo Slice was a work.

    Like this one?:

    http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2008/6/1/543425/the-fixer

    There’s a ton of reactionary stuff on pages 18 and 19 that look shockingly similar to the ones shown here with this new “massive controversy”; New York Times and USA Today raise their eyebrows! Jim Rome trashes the show! Where have I heard this before?

  18. Joseph says:

    Ultimo Santa,

    “HOWEVER – in the UFC I can’t remember anyone (in recent memory) getting stood up from a side mount. So it FELT like the refs were instructed to make things more “exciting” by encouraging the stand-up.”

    Are you kidding me??? Cro Cop vs Gonzaga and Mir vs Brock Lesnar HAD HORRIBLE STANDUPS!!! Is that RECENT enough for you?

  19. ChairibOfJustice says:

    These are “talking heads” offering opinions designed to provoke rather than inform. Anywhere else, what these journalists do would be considered trolling or at least being overly dramatic.

    Michael Wilbon just trashed the fight and MMA on Pardon The Interruption. He made it a point to say that it was a phantom punch that put Kimbo down and of course that the fight was fixed.

    I’m not really sure and I don’t think he was either about who was actually behind fixing the fight. First he said that Kimbo took a dive and then soon after he said that others tried to fix the fight for Kimbo by getting Petruzelli to fight him.

    Very shoddy editorializing going on but I guess it doesn’t matter because he just seemed totally dismissive of the entire sport. He’s just trying make all kinds of accusations and hopes one actually sticks.

    Not surprised this kind of crap coming out of ESPN nowadays. Sports journalism has become the home to the functionally retarded and incredibly lazy. People are not capable of rational analysis or willing to do the work, so shoddy research forms the basis of dogmatic and closed minded preaching. It’s why Skip Bayless has a job.

    Saying there was a fix is just lazy journalism. These same idiots can’t make the “human cockfighting” argument anymore so insinuating there was a fix between two horribly untalented fighters isn’t surprising. They’re not capable of any deeper analysis.

    People don’t watch Chuck Liddell because they’re hoping he’ll throw an armbar on somebody. They watch Chuck because he’s going to throw strikes. Part of being a fighter is to put on a show, it’s been that way since the beginning of the sport.

    There isn’t a single thing that happened in that fight that I haven’t seen before. And instead of discussing great fights that have occurred or are coming up, we’re stuck letting the “Shortbus Kids” dominate and dumb down the level of discussion about MMA.

  20. cyph says:

    That article referenced had this as the caption:

    “Dan Miragliotta, when the fight absolutely, positively has to go your way.”

    Gee, I always thought that blog post was a tongue in cheek joke.

  21. ChairibOfJustice says:

    Miragliotta is just another man’s Larry Landless.

  22. D.Capitated says:

    http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2008/6/2/544049/on-fixes-bad-calls-and-kim

    Same guy a couple days later basically reiterates that Miragliotta was reffing the fight for the purpose of Kimbo winning, though he now shifts the rationale.

    None of this matters though.

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