Monday, May 26, 2008

CBS Takes (Kimbo) Slice From the MMA Pie

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It has been signed, sealed and official for a while now and this Saturday night at 9 p.m. it looks to finally be delivered. Due to the volatile nature of the fight business what with injuries and dirty politics involved, this was no sure bet to come off the ground. So, barring any last minute cancellations to Elite XC's primary line up, what is being billed as the "biggest night in MMA history" on network TV is finally in motion to proceed.

The biggest night of MMA in the USA already happened in its debut in 1993. While immediate reaction was mixed and the subsequent marketing of it was dubious, ultimately it proved a winner. Thanks to the Internet and lively attendance numbers from die-hard fight fans. And while this is a huge step in the right direction for MMA, CBS still seems a reluctant participant in a sport that has everyone craving to get a piece of the action and the profits it may reap.

With less than a week to go, CBS has not promoted its foray into MMA quite as heavy as those in the fight community. You'd think that their home Web page would feature a pictur or link to promote this event or at the very least, a big splash on its Sports page. But no, it's still mainstream sports that's the ticket, no matter how dismal their ratings are on average when compared to MMA and boxing (remember when CBS used to cover it?).

Maybe CBS, or rather the suits at CBS who green lighted it, is trying to be low key about something that has been tried before. First off, MMA on free TV is nothing new. UPN took a stab at it with the IFL, but its team based format did not attract the type of Nielsen ratings those other prime time sitcoms bring. Maybe it was because it was broadcast on a weeknight rather than a weekend? We'll see Saturday night.

Secondly, and maybe most importantly, CBS does not believe in their product as much as the fans. Some people are criticizing CBS for making Slice vs. James Thompson its main event. Many of those same people have also been criticizing the media for overrating Slice. Over rated? Hardly, since he's not in any one's top ten. Over exposed? Maybe, but what fighter would refuse the recognition?

While any knowledgeable MMA fan knows the main event is a farce, Slice and Thompson are not. They both train hard and come to fight. The fact that Brett Rogers, who kayoed Thompson in his last fight, is fighting beneath them on the undercard (and for a smaller purse) shows that the politics of fighting is never as noble as the fight itself. But once a corporation takes hold of something it makes it all its own.

Hopefully for fight fans, Slice and Thompson will fight to their usual standards, or above. Robbie Lawler will defend his EliteXC middleweight belt against famous UFC comeback ko kid himself, Scott Smith. And look for Gina Carano to add some estrogen to the testosterone world of artly combat. Will they try to market the American Gladiator star as a sex symbol as well? We aall will have our answers this Saturday night at 9 p.m. on CBS.

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