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Thursday, December 21, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- Analysis of Elite Xtreme Combat's Public Unveiling
by Ivan Trembow
Originally Published on MMAWeekly

Elite Xtreme Combat (Elite XC) shows a lot of promise and will carry with it the prestige of being the first MMA promotion to air live fights on a premium cable network in the United States, but there is also reason for concern on a few specific points where Elite XC seems to be disconnected from reality.

First, there's this statement made by Elite XC president and longtime boxing promoter Gary Shaw at the company's press conference last week: "With Showtime and their eyeballs [television viewers], we will make real world champions."

While it's more prestigious than Spike TV due to its history of winning television industry awards, Showtime is a pay cable network with approximately 14 million subscribers, while basic cable networks like Spike TV are available in over 85 million homes.

If Elite XC is going to "make real world champions," there are a number of ways in which they could do that, but they are deluding themselves if they believe that they're going to have more "eyeballs" than the average UFC broadcast on Spike TV.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Elite XC executives are also hoping to match up their fighters against UFC fighters at some point in the future. Good intentions aside, that's another statement which is simply disconnected from reality.

Zuffa has its fighters under exclusive contracts and is going to continue to have them under exclusive contracts in the future; Zuffa is certainly not going to send fighters to its upstart competitors. It's unrealistic to think that there are ever going to be fighters competing in Elite XC while they're still under contract to the UFC.

Then there's the obligatory Frank Shamrock drama, which has gone something like this over the past few months alone: The December 8 bout against Phil Baroni was a fight that Shamrock announced without it ever actually being signed. Then it was announced that he'd be fighting Renzo Gracie in The World Fighter's debut show on January 26. Then The World Fighter went under before it had its first show.

Then Shamrock signed a contract to fight Baroni on a Strikeforce show in April, a contract which specifically states (according to Strikeforce) that he cannot fight for any other group before his next Strikeforce fight. Then he signed with Elite XC to fight Renzo Gracie on February 10 and announced it publicly, despite the existence of the Strikeforce contract. Shamrock claims that he's allowed to fight Gracie first.

Now Strikeforce has sent documents to Elite XC and Showtime "officially notifying them that there is a problem," according to Strikeforce's Mike Afromowitz in an interview with MMAWeekly's Ken Pishna.

As with any Frank Shamrock fight, one can only have a fair degree of certainty that it's going to happen when the bell rings to start the fight.

One of the most disconcerting statements at the Elite XC press conference was another one from Gary Shaw: "We want to come out with a 15-second stand-up clock, and if in the referee's judgment there's zero action, you stand them up and start again after 15 seconds." Shaw added that it will be up to the individual athletic commissions to approve that proposed change to the rules.

This should alarm MMA fans who actually want to see MMA, as opposed to something that could turn into kickboxing with takedowns and the occasional submission. This could happen in the worst-case scenario if "zero action on the ground for 15 seconds" ends up meaning "zero strikes or submission attempts for 15 seconds." It all depends on how one defines "inactivity," which is purely subjective.

Gary Shaw went on to say at the press conference, "We want electrifying fighters... we don’t want two guys to lay on the ground and... the fans turn on Showtime and they see two guys laying there. We want to give them action, and I believe that's been the success of the sport."

If "two guys laying on the ground" is what Shaw thinks of ground fighting, then Elite XC has a very serious problem. Statements like that are only going to give the impression to MMA fans that Shaw is either a boxing promoter who doesn't understand MMA, or he's doing one heck of a good impression of a boxing promoter who doesn't understand MMA.

At least one thing that Elite XC does seem to "get" is that one of the keys to success is promoting individual fighters and match-ups, as opposed to the promoters. Shaw said during the press conference, "I believe in the talent. I believe the talent should be larger than the company because that’s who people come to see.... If you ask people who promoted [Mike] Tyson versus [Lennox] Lewis, they have no clue, but two million people bought it on pay-per-view... It should be about the athletes. They’re the ones that should be the stars."

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