Elite XC Scandal: Much Ado About Nothing
For nine days after Petruzelli first made his remarks on a Florida-based radio show suggesting that Elite XC representatives strongly encouraged him to keep the fight standing, I have tried to ignore the increasing media attention but despite Petruzelli’s quick retraction of comments, the circus has continued.
I held out longer than the FSBC but I can’t take any more. I am writing to tell you that it is time to stop writing about this non-event. Forget all the hoopla; there is no story to report.
The mainstream media so interested in headlines seems to be ignoring two important points: 1) The FSBC will not find any evidence of wrong doing and 2) Even if they did, it will not have any meaningful influence on the fate of Elite XC or the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Sorry to threaten the livelihood of hard working sports journalists but aside from some sensationalist headlines, this is not exactly what I would call a newsworthy story.
Here’s where it started:
On October 4th Seth Petruzelli appeared briefly to be the saviour of Mixed Martial Arts as he stepped in to fill Ken Shamrock’s shoes against Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson perhaps sparing us from witnessing the savage beating of a formerly great, elder athlete.
By stopping the infamous internet bad-boy in 14-seconds, Petruzelli also vindicated the hardcore MMA fans who had long protested that the former street fighter Kimbo Slice had no business headlining MMA events.
14-seconds was all Petruzelli needed to elevate MMA about the clutches of an internet street thug but sadly it took Petruzelli about the same amount of time to drop the sport even farther into the realm of shady promotions and fixed fights with a few poorly considered, below-the-belt comments.
Suggesting in his radio interview that Elite XC had attempted to influence the fight’s outcome by exhorting him to keep the fight standing, Seth Petruzelli gave MMA’s critics one more reason to damn the fledgling sport.
Perhaps he was taken out of context or maybe he just realized his grave error because the very next day Petruzelli was backpedalling, trying to retract the comments he had made and claiming that he had been misunderstood.
Too late; Journalists are drawn to scandal like sharks to blood and a hint is all that is needed to draw them in droves. In no time the news leapt from MMA fan forums to mainstream media outlets like ESPN.
At first the Florida State Boxing Commission tried to assure journalists that Elite XC had conducted business in correct legal fashion but the mounting media pressure has forced the commission’s hand and the FSBC has reluctantly undertaken a preliminary review if only to deflect criticism from itself.
While the word ‘investigation’ makes for good press, the investigation itself can have little substance especially since Petruzelli having belatedly come to his senses has realized that once bitten the Pro Elite hand will not be willing or able to feed him again.
The FSBC review will focus on questioning Elite XC executives. Call me cynical but I do not expect Elite XC representatives to confess to fixing fights. The FSBC may question fighters as well but don’t expect Petruzelli to be too forthcoming now. Unless the FSBC had a tape recorder hidden in Petruzelli’s locker where the alleged ‘fight-influencing’ took place the commission will not have any grounds for continuing the investigation.
Innocent or guilty, we will never know the truth. Don’t expect to see headlines shouting “Review Reveals No Damning Evidence Against Fight Promoter”, it just doesn’t sell. But it doesn’t matter by that time sports journalists will have found new headlines to capture readers’ attention.
What if I’m Wrong?
Nostradamus I’m not, so what if someone in Elite XC in a moment of conscience confesses to his sins and next week’s headlines read “FSBC Finds Elite XC Guilty of Fight Fixing”?
Don’t get me wrong. Fight fixing is serious business and someone is going to get punished if the promoter is found guilty but what will the long term ramifications of such a finding really be?
Elite XC cannot survive such a scandal so we could expect for the promotion to close up shop leaving a lot of fighters as free agents and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts would suffer another undeserved black-eye to its reputation.
The folks at the UFC might quietly celebrate the implosion of yet another would-be rival but Zuffa and Co. would probably be more inclined to curse the damage done to the sport which they have laboured so long and hard to build into legitimacy.
In the end, the UFC brand is strong enough to weather the storm of controversy and they have made such concerted efforts to conduct an above-board business that their brand image might be strengthened rather than weakened in the long run by the ignominious end of disreputable competitors. And at the end of the day, in the United States the UFC is MMA.
Doomed to Die
Maybe the collapse of Elite XC due to charges of fight-fixing might sound newsworthy if it were not for the much ignored fact that the collapse of Elite XC has been inevitable from the moment Kimbo Slice crumbled to the canvass.
Sure the promoters will be relieved to be found not-guilty and thereby dodge any potential legal ramifications, fines and what-not but will it really make a difference?
Even innocent, the management of Elite XC is left facing a very ugly reality: Kimbo Slice the star they banked heavily upon to drive the ratings succeeded in drawing over 4-million CBS viewers; all of whom witnessed the destruction of said star in a mere 14-seconds at the hands of a relatively unknown, last minute challenger; A man with a solid-but-not-stellar skill set; A man with no fan following and limited marketability.
Already deep in the red, Elite XC doesn’t have the time to build up a new star to carry the organization. Innocent they may be, but doomed nonetheless.
In the end it all works out the same. Whether management sought to influence the bout or not, Petruzelli’s quick KO of Kimbo was the final nail required to secure the lid on the struggling promotion’s coffin.
The accusation of fight fixing is a nail hammered into a coffin already sealed. The allegations may make for great headlines but a low-blow to a fighter who’s already going down doesn’t do anything to change the outcome of the fight. True or not, charges of influencing Petruzelli’s main event fight with Kimbo Slice won’t influence the outcome of Elite XC’s brief underdog battle for a share of the MMA market.