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Reports: Kimbo/Petruzelli fight being ‘investigated’

By Zach Arnold | October 9, 2008

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LA Times report and San Jose Mercury News report. Additionally, posts at MMA Convert and MMA Opinion. Steve Barry’s article at MMA Convert catches Jeremy Lappen supposedly changing his story on the bonus structure of Elite XC contracts.

I’m not bullish on anything happening here as far as a positive outcome in this ‘investigation’ is concerned. It will be the standard, “We didn’t manipulate the fight” response from Elite XC, the Florida commission will probably go along with it, and then we’re all supposed to hope this thing goes away and vanishes forever.

The credibility of this whole investigation boils down to one question — does the Florida Boxing Commission think that promoters telling MMA fighters to do ’stand up’ fights constitutes an ethical breach in the sport? Based on previous Commission answers in media reports, the answer so far appears to be ‘no.’ If the FBC thinks there’s no ethical breach, then this ‘investigation’ is meaningless. If the FBC thinks it is a breach (and Gary Shaw has more than given them ammunition based on his comments to The LA Times), then this investigation might actually go somewhere.

Let me be very clear here with my opinion on this matter — telling fighters to ’stand up’ for fights is manipulating a fight. Gary Shaw is on record as saying that it’s not unethical to do this in MMA. You can spin this 5 million ways if you would like to that this kind of policy is not ‘fixing’ fights, so let me suggest the following… Go up to one of the major MMA bettors in Las Vegas and try to tell them with a straight face that a promoter suggesting or ordering a fighter to do a ’stand-up’ fight in MMA is somehow not manipulating the outcome of a bout. You will be promptly laughed at.

In addition to focusing on the concept of promoters being able to tell MMA fighters to do ’stand-up’ fights, there’s also the concept of certain fighters having specific bonuses (a “KO” bonus but not a “submission” bonus) but not all fighters getting this bonus option. The idea that certain fighters are given certain type of fight-performance bonuses without that information being publicly disclosed is a questionable practice, in my opinion. Don’t think gamblers wouldn’t like to know which fighters have or don’t have “KO bonus” provisions in their contracts? A selective bonus structure like this could certainly influence the way fighters compete at fight events, and it’s the kind of information that could certainly sway how much money is bet on a fight and who it is being bet on in Vegas. This bonus structure is not similar to UFC’s bonus structure because the UFC awards bonuses for best KO, best submission, fight of the night, etc. after each fight event. In other words, the promotion is not approaching certain fighters with certain types of bonuses that could persuade a fighter to change their behavior.

Can’t keep a straight story in public

Let’s focus in quickly on a point that Steve Barry raised at MMA Convert. Jeremy Lappen told Josh Gross of Sports Illustrated the following on Wednesday:

Petruzelli (10-4) said he received an additional $20,000 to $30,000 for the short right hand that snapped Slice’s jaw after 14 seconds into the main-event fight. While EliteXC Fight Operations Chief, Jeremy Lappen, declined to discuss a dollar amount, he confirmed the presence of a guaranteed knockout bonus in Petruzelli’s revised fight contract, which also included a higher purse for the trouble of fighting Slice.

EliteXC, it seems, does not view submissions, widely thought of as the most technical aspect of MMA, as an overly important portion of an exciting fight.

“We don’t give submission bonuses,” Lappen said. But Petruzelli “knew a knockout bonus was possible before the fight.”

Now, take a look at what Lappen said to Franklin McNeil of ESPN & The Newark Star-Ledger on Thursday:

“We offered Seth Petruzelli a knockout bonus, a submission bonus and “fight of the night” bonus. If we were trying to influence the fight, why would we do that?

You just got caught contradicting yourself, Mr. Lappen, by your own conflicting statements within the timespan of 48 hours. What conclusion am I supposed to come up with by reading these two articles and these two entirely different, contrasting statements? You are part of corporate management in Pro Elite, which runs Elite XC. Pro Elite is a publicly-traded company that, in theory, is supposed to be more scrutinized in terms of business activity than a privately-operated business. Could Pro Elite be investigated by an entity for this scandal outside of the Florida Boxing Commission?

The most damaging aspect about this scandal involving Elite XC is that the parties involved have made conflicting statement after conflicting statement publicly. It’s all documented and on the record. This isn’t some anonymous blog site posting rumors involving hearsay. It’s quotes directly involving Petruzelli, Lappen, and the Shaws. None of them have a similar story and all the Florida Boxing Commission has to do is read the major MMA web sites to find out the sourcing of all of these quotes (whether it be from radio interviews, newspaper articles, or press release statements.) That’s what makes this case so damning for Elite XC — every time they’ve tried to respond and deny an allegation, they end up conflicting their past statements in the media with new statements that go against what they said in the first place.

Bottom line

There are plenty of questions that can and should be raised in an investigation, but I suspect that few if any will actually be asked or if anyone in Elite XC will be heavily scrutinized on this front. (Again, this is my personal opinion.)

If you’re wondering about my skepticism in regards to this investigation, this article might explain my feelings a little bit.

Stock news

Speaking of Pro Elite, here’s their latest SEC filing in regards to the role CBS played financially in last Saturday’s event in Florida.

Just who is potentially affected by this Elite XC scandal?

How do you think CBS would feel about an SEC investigation into Pro Elite, given the amount of money that CBS has put into the company so far? It doesn’t matter if the amount of money is peanuts for CBS, the fact is that they put money into the company.

Previous articles:

Topics: MMA, Media, Pro Elite, Zach Arnold | 19 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

19 Responses to “Reports: Kimbo/Petruzelli fight being ‘investigated’”

  1. banter says:

    Keep it coming ZACH!!!!!!! You are the man!

  2. Jim Allcorn says:

    So, where does EliteXC go from here?

    Honestly, I think they’re dead in the water.

    High ratings or not, I doubt CBS is going to want to continue to have a broadcasting relationship with them after this debacle. Especially in light of the fact that the non-Kimbo show in July pretty much tanked. Making it clear that EliteXC is a one trick pony who’s headliner was just taken out back of the barn & shot.

    With attention to this controversy apparently gaining momentum rather than fading from view after a day or two, I have to believe that the suits at CBS will want to distance themselves from it ASAP.
    And while I expect Showtime to be somewhat more forgiving, how long will they stay involved with an entity that clearly has very little chance of becoming a viable PPV product?

    While their boxing programming is doing great without the added revenue of having a steady stream of PPVs, I have to believe that they got into the MMA business with the hope of eventually tapping into those big $$$ that the UFC nets so regularly. Something that’s just not going to happen now, nor at any time in the near future.

    So, with it’s name & product so tarnished, it’s value on the market worth peanuts & it’s TV deals in doubt, what do the rest of you think should be done with the company?

    Me?
    I think the powers that be should just sell it’s assets off ASAP while they can still get something for them.

    Perhaps there’s still a chance that Viacom will want to do what they can to salvage their two year time & financial investment in MMA. If so, I could see them showing Lappan, the Shaws & their lot the door right away & do their best to relaunch their MMA product with as clean a slate as possible.
    If so, I would think that renaming it would be a priority as IMO the EliteXC moniker is, at this point, damaged goods.

    Other options might be Affliction stepping in & purchasing EXC’s assets & hopefully assuming it’s television deals while promoting it’s fighters along with it’s own under the Affliction banner.

    Then, of course, there’s the UFC.
    Dana White & the Fertitta bros could see this as a big opportunity to step in ( or ride in on their white horses ) & save “it’s” sport from corruption by buying out EliteXC, dismantling it & having those athletes that it finds desirable signed to compete in either the UFC or it’s WEC brand depending on weight class.
    What would happen to EliteXC’s television contracts, I don’t know. But it seems like it would be a great chance for the UFC to get much further toward getting a premium cable & network television deal on their terms were they to choose to buy out EliteXC.

  3. Dukes says:

    Zach,

    What’s the difference between a coach telling a fighter to “stand” in a fight or a promoter? Technically speaking, the fighter makes the decision 100%, because he is in control of his body. BUT, there are outside influences, for sure.

    Let me as you this: If Greg Jackson (I’m just using him as an EXAMPLE – no evidence here for real) knows that one of his fighters thinks his ground game is better then the fighter’s game really is. He knows that if his fighter keeps it on his feet, he’ll win the fight. In order to persuade his fighter to stand up (and have a strong chance of winning), he tells his fighter: “If you keep it standing and stay off the ground, my cut of your purse will be 3% and not 8%”. He’s not telling the fighter to loose on purpose – he’s only motivating his fighter via financiual means to use his strengths in a game plan that will make him more likely to win the fight.

    Would you consider that to be unethical, too?

  4. kjh says:

    Dave Meltzer made a couple of interesting posts over at the Figure Four Wrestling boards in a thread about Franklin McNeil’s article and calling what Elite XC allegedly did fight fixing.

    “How is that any different than offering a best match bonus that pays five to ten times more than the entire paycheck for undercard guys.

    The incentive is more to go out and have a war instead of tactically trying to win a fight. I’m not arguing its wrong, because without entertaining the audience they will have no customers and no sport. But it does influence the way the fight is fought.

    Plenty of guys have tried to fight to get the best match bonus rather than preserve their health and try to win safely but less entertainingly.

    There was a TV war on Saturday night. Dana’s side won in July. They lost in October.”

    “I’m just saying that Dana White can’t talk all high and mighty about bonuses that change how a fight is fought. UFC gives them and guys have changed how they fight because of it, and people change how they fight because they know promoters gravitate toward giving more work to stand-up fighters with lesser records than physically dominant wrestlers who use their wrestling with the goal of winning above entertainment.

    Plenty of wrestlers have not gone for takedowns and lost because of it because they’ve been strongly encouraged to put on entertaining fights or they won’t be brought back. Jake O’Brien was cut with a 10-1 record, only loss to Andrei Arlovski in a match he was the aggressor and won the first round in, and only brought back because they couldn’t find opponents for Cain Velasquez, despite beating Heath Herring. Yushin Okami was very nearly cut, you have no idea how close, when by wins and losses he should have gotten a title shot at Anderson Silva.

    UFC has never fixed a fight (fighters and managers privately have but not in the current era), but they have encouraged fighters to fight a style that gives them less chance to win, and in doing so, have influenced outcomes.

    This wasn’t fixing a fight either, other than giving the guy they wanted to win a much better chance to lose. So it was more stupidity than anything.

    An investigation will reveal exactly what was in the contract regarding bonuses. If it was a bonus to not go to the ground, they did commit fraud upon the audience that believed they were seeing a full MMA fight, and they should be fined heavily for doing so and put on some sort of a probation, and the people who made the offer probably should be removed from power.

    If it wasn’t, I hope all the people who are railing on them for doing so will give as much press to the fact they were wrong at the end.”

  5. banter says:

    Dukes

    you don’t see the difference? A trainer is giving advice on ensuring his fighter wins…the promotor is giving a biased order to affect the outcome that is favorible to the company.

  6. GassedOut says:

    UFC has never fixed a fight (fighters and managers privately have but not in the current era), but they have encouraged fighters to fight a style that gives them less chance to win, and in doing so, have influenced outcomes.

    That’s a pretty big accusation to make as an off-handed comment. I’d like to see documented evidence of that.

  7. cyph says:

    Being exciting =/= stand up and trade. You can be exciting as a submission artist as well, hence the submission bonus. You can also KO or TKO someone via ground and pound.

    To think that the UFC’s encouragement to be exciting = stand up and trade only is foolish. People who watch MMA are not stupid enough to think that excitement can only come from the stand up. Otherwise, we’d all be watching K-1.

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    I have seen Joe Silva come into the octagon after a great ground fight and shake the fighters hands with a huge smile.

    The UFC wants to see guys continue to put out effort. They don’t want the Antonio McKee style. However, they have never really shown a preference for striking or grappling. If anything, they are the most grappler friendly organization in America. Most of the other companies prefer the stand-up guys.

  9. banter says:

    UFC has never fixed a fight (fighters and managers privately have but not in the current era), but they have encouraged fighters to fight a style that gives them less chance to win, and in doing so, have influenced outcomes.

    Proof or go away

  10. Smithson says:

    Zach, have you actually spoken to anyone involved in this? Lappen, Shaw, Petruzelli, Kimbo, the boxing commission, etc? I mean, you’re awfully sure of yourself and you’re swift to draw conclulsions. So clearly you’ve talked to the people involved in this situation and used it to draw informed conclusions, right?

  11. David says:

    With all of this conjecture… BOTTOM LINE!

    It is like the Scott Peterson murder trial, sure he looks guilty, and I am damn sure he did it, but can they prove it…

    Zach, everything you write here is the gospel, you are amazing, a GREAT reporter, brilliant, I love your site, I just don’t think they can nail Kimbo, Seth, Lappen, Shaw, Turi, or anybody at EliteXC.. sorry :( I wish they could.

  12. Fluyid says:

    Mac Danzig said that the King of the Cage promoter used to pay people to keep the fight standing all the time.

    It’s at around the 38:50 mark into the show.

    Source is http://carsonscorner.podomatic.com/entry/2008-10-09T11_52_12-07_00

    Danzig also talks about promoters paying fighters to stay standing and not take the opponent down in general.

  13. Rollo the Cat says:

    ” I love your site, I just don’t think they can nail Kimbo, Seth, ”

    Good investigators have ways of getting people to talk. Believe me! But only if they take the investigation seriously.

  14. MMA Fan says:

    jermey and skala will be selling star maps in west hollywood next month

  15. Fred says:

    The lack of a submission bonus offer is EliteXC’s error in this situation. It does show that they strongly prefer the fight to remain standing. It’s silly to not offer both, and it wouldn’t cost any extra money (a fight can’t simultaneously end in a KO AND a submission).

    It’s comical and baffling that EliteXC officials don’t understand this late in the game that a ground fight can be exciting, too. They should have encouraged fighters merely to finish, and not exclusively on knockouts.

  16. Timothy K. says:

    One of the best MMA articles I’ve read in awhile (and I read this shit everyday). I wish everyone did their homework as well as you obviously do Zach.

    This whole scandal (and I think we can officially call it that) should make all of us sick who have supported this sport from day one.

    The real people who should be ashamed is CBS Executives. In trying to gain a foothold in MMA, they approached the UFC in the wrong manner, turned them off by wanting to produce something they had no idea how to produce, and partnered with shady boxing promoters and pornographers instead of approaching some of the fine businessmen we have in MMA outside of Dana White (Sven Bean, Steve Coker, Monty Cox). Businessmen that really understand what it means to have a quality MMA show, and would never have led us down this Kimbo freak show path.

    If Kimbo is smart, he’ll go fight in Japan where he can be spoon fed opponents and fix fights with ease… And if Bob Sapp is an indicator, he’ll do great.

  17. Nate says:

    This is excellent reporting and analysis. A couple of thoughts…

    1) It doesn’t really matter what the official Florida investigation finds, the damage to Elite XC has already been done.

    2) If Elite XC does offer bonuses for certain outcomes (KO, TKO) but not others, they could keep things ethical and please the oddsmakers by making that information public available before the fight, which they did not do here.

    3) Will casinos and online sportsbooks continue to take bets on Elite XC fights? I don’t know, but I’m curious to find out.

    Keep up the good work on this story. Elite XC really should have consulted with a PR specialist before they began giving all of these conflicting statements.

  18. trizzle says:

    I would just like to respond to duke’s theory on the event that took place, first off the difference between a promoter’s influence and a trainer’s influence on a fighter is that a promoter influences a fight to take place a trainer influences a fighter’s ability to win the fight, you cannot persuade a fighter to stand up, that’s fixing a fight, and if you think for an instant that there were just opinions and the fighter should fight a stand up battle and that there were no influences in the shape of bribes, then you are living in the times where fighters fought 30 rounds and were payed five bucks. Listen what your not understanding is that this is mixed marshall arts, anybody who fights or loves the sport or even just understands the sport has a passion to watch technique, if they wanted to see a stand up brawl all the time, well boxing and kickboxing were created too. Think about what your saying and think that if this was just a naive opinion of a promoter telling a fighter he thinks he should keep the fight on his feet, then it would have never came to this level of exploitation. Then again I guess maybe it takes a fighter to understand the sport, I would expect comments like yours from somebody who lives outside the octagon, and only watches the fights on basic cable, tell a fighter your theory, i would like to hear the response in which you receive.

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