Ahh...Blogger. It's been a while. For those who don't know, My name is Anthony DeFranco, Host of 3rd String Radio, editor of The 3rd String Safety and co-host of such fine programs as Fourth Down and Sports Talk 4 Dummies. My blog is on temporary hiatus while we re-design and move hosting servers, so for the moment, I decided to bring the operation over here to WCWPSports.
I also double as the MMA voice of WCWP. I love the sport, and I keep saying sport because I want people to understand that that's what Mixed Martial Arts has become. It's no longer a spectacle like it was in the mid-90's. It's not a 600 pound sumo wrestler versus a guy who has a black belt in some version of Karate that no one has ever heard of. This is a sport with a specific set of skills that you need to have in order to be successful. The mix of amateur wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu among other things are tools that fighters possess. It can be compared to having handle and a jumpshot in basketball.
However, some have suggested that the sport is moving backward because of UFC President Dana White's latest "publicity stunt." Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson will be taking part in the 10th season of the UFC's reality TV talent hunt "The Ultimate Fighter."
For the uninitiated, The Ultimate Fighter is like American Idol with 4oz. gloves and a cage. The best unsigned fighters in a given weight class. They fight it out while living in a house together in Vegas. Hilarity ensues, and someone normally gets kicked out of the house for being out of their minds. However, the most important thing is that they get coaching from some of the best fighters in the UFC like Chuck Liddell, Quintin "Rampage" Jackson, Matt Serra and others.
However, while the show has produced champions like Forest Griffin, most of the fighters fade into obscurity. They simply can't cut it in the organization that has the best fighting talent in the world. At most two or three fighters in a season make their mark in the UFC.
So, what makes Kimbo bad for the sport? The fact that he isn't a professional athlete right now. He's a dude who beat up dudes on the street for cash.
He made his name as a youtube sensation, knocking dudes out in backyard brawls and illegal streetfights. He was signed to an MMA contract by EliteXC and made into their headlining fighter. He was in main events right away, and won a couple of fights against guys who were animated punching bags. He was scheduled to fight former (overrated) UFC legend Ken Shamrock but Shamrock was injured in warmups and he was replaced by, coincidentally, an Ultimate Fighter alumni in Seth Petruzelli. Petruzelli is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert, and a bad match-up for the ground game challenged Slice.
That is, if the fight promoter allowed Seth to take Kimbo down. That's right, the EliteXC brass told Seth that he isn't allowed to go to the ground with Slice. So, Kimbo beat him of course? Nope. Petruzelli knocked him out in 14 seconds. Shortly after this, and Seth telling the media that he wasn't allowed to take Kimbo to the ground, EliteXC folded.
Of course, people started to question Dana White about Kimbo in the UFC's mediocre-to-terrible Heavyweight division. White said that the only way that he would be let in was through TUF. He also said that he a sideshow, and not a complete fighter.
Now, White has brought slice in and in terms of it being a business move, it's briallant. If Slice wins, White can talk about the improvements he made under the coaching of two of his best and most marketable fighters: The previously mentioned Jackson and Rashad Evans. If Slice loses he can say that he was right. But is White bringing back the "sideshow" mentality of the early days of the UFC a mistake?
It's not just Slice. It's been reported that four former NFL players are on the upcoming season of TUF. White seems to really be reaching for a heavyweight star that he can market. As a counter argument, All of these guys do have previous MMA fights on smaller shows.
White is toeing a dangerous line. He needs to find a heavyweight star to fight against guys like Brock Lesnar. All he has now is guys that hardcore fans know like Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and a couple of hot prospects in Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin. But are we really going to tune in to see a guy fight just because he is a former NFL player?
While Slice is a draw, he might bring negative attention to a sport that is at a key moment it it's development. With network TV sniffing the UFC and the state of New York on it's way to legalizing the sport, there is a lot riding on White and his roster of fighters not screwing up right now.
Dana, Tread carefully. If you want people to start taking your sport seriously, it needs to be more about good competition than big guys punching each other in the face.