Monday, November 10, 2008

The Kimbo Crash

This will be old news for those of you who follow mixed martial arts, but the rest of you might see some parallels between the story of Kimbo Slice (né Kevin Ferguson -- the formidable-looking fellow pictured above) and the fall of some formerly formidable-looking businesses this year.

The heavy-handed Kimbo Slice became famous as videos of his street fights, such as the one below, circulated on the internet.

Capitalizing on Kimbo Slice's notoriety, the mixed martial arts league Elite Xtreme Combat ("Elite XC"), operated by ProElite, Inc. (Pink Sheets: PELE.PK) signed him up as its marquee heavyweight fighter. ProElite signed a deal with the Showtime Networks, Inc. subsidiary of CBS (NYSE: CBS) to show fights on Showtime and CBS. Elite XC brought Kimbo Slice along deliberately, attempting to match him with beatable opponents. Kimbo's first Elite XC fight, with a 10-10 MMA fighter named Bo Cantrell -- who had lost his previous 4 fights -- ended in seconds, with Cantrell seemingly giving up after barely being hit. Next, Elite XC matched Slice with the 43 year-old David "Tank" Abbot, who had a 9-13 MMA record going into the fight. Another knock out for Kimbo.

Elite XC did step up the level of competition for Kimbo's third fight, against the 14-8 James Thompson (although Thompson was coming off two back-to-back knockout losses). Kimbo won in the third round, after a controversial stoppage. After that close call, Elite XC picked the 44 year-old Ken Shamrock as Kimbo's fourth opponent, in a fight it would broadcast in prime time on CBS on Saturday Night, October 4th. Shamrock had a 26-13-2 record going into the fight and a storied reputation in mixed martial arts, but he had also lost his last five fights. At the last minute though, Ken Shamrock backed out of the match due to a training injury. Elite XC replaced him with a light heavyweight named Seth Petruzelli had been scheduled to fight on an un-televised undercard. Petruzelli was a part-time MMA fighter whose day job was running his Smoothie King franchise. Below is a video of the fight.

Two weeks later, ProElite, Inc. received a notice of default from Showtime Networks and the Los Angeles Times reported that ProElite was considering filing for bankruptcy.


DaveinHackensack said...

The first video of the Kimbo Slice-Seth Petruzelli fight I uploaded into this post had an unfortunate musical accompaniment -- I didn't realize this at first because I had pulled the video from YouTube while I was at Starbucks and had the volume on my laptop turned off. I've now replaced that video with one where you can hear the original play-by-play.

Daniel said...

Nice commentary! Did you hear that Petruzelli was also reportedly told by the promoters to keep the fight a "stand-up" one (where Kimbo Slice would seemingly have the advantage)?

DaveinHackensack said...

Yeah, that allegation was mentioned in the L.A. Times article I linked to in the post. There's some other interesting stuff in the article about dysfunction at ProElite.

JK said...

I want to see Kimbo take up Dana White's offer to go on the T.U.F.

EliteXC was a scam from the start. UFC is the only legit MMA operation in my book. Most of EliteXC's millions were paid out in "consulting fees" to friends and family of the owners. It was probably headed to banko before Kimbo lost. There is talk that Kimbo bet against himself and threw the fight. I'm pretty sure the James Thompson fight was thrown for Kimbo's behalf too.

DaveinHackensack said...


Disagree that EliteXC was a scam. The idea of putting MMA on Showtime made a lot of sense, and the league did feature some talent, e.g., Cung Lee, who is the best kicker I've seen in MMA, and of course, the lovely and talented Gina Carano. I agree that it was poorly (if not shadily) run. The L.A. Times article I linked to mentions the overspending and overstaffing. Nepotism apparently had something to do with it, with Gary Shaw's son in the thick of it.

I also agree that the stoppage of James Thompson was questionable, but I doubt Kimbo bet against himself. There was more money in it for him if the plan worked, and EliteXC built him up into a 15-0 or 20-0 fighter and then cashed in with a pay-per-view fight against a name brand fighter.

Daniel said...


Unless I'm out-of-date, UFC has some legit competition in DREAM (the newer version of PRIDE).

I suspect Kimbo will be given a shot once again, somewhere--if only because a lot of people will watch.

But I wouldn't bet one way or another on that happening...

JK said...

DREAM is more of "potential" competition by disgruntled Pride execs who got laid off. Truthfully anyone can start a fight organization, even T-shirt guys like Affliction. But none of them are anywhere near the household name that UFC is, and I doubt they will ever be.

Also, Dana's doing the smart business move by not letting UFC fighters fight outside the UFC. Until there is an organization that comes close to the UFC's stature, he just needs to wait until the good fighters who were around before the UFC got huge -like Fedor- retire. As of now, the best aspiring fighters all want to join the UFC because they know they can never be considered the best in the world unless they fight the best guy in the UFC. If Fedor were to have Randy Couture for lunch (let's be honest, he would) then that would send a message to the world that the best fighters aren't found in the UFC and it would tarnish the brand he has worked so hard to build.

As far as Kimbo fighting again, shoot, I'd watch. I'd root for him too. But he needs to work on those chicken legs and get a half-respectable ground game.