EliteXC Needs a Diaper Change
Somewhere in his desert villa Dana White is torn between hysterical laughter and incessant crying. If he’s not, he should be. EliteXC is a mockery of an organization-something that amuses him yet at the same time threatens to unravel everything he’s worked so hard for. Say what you will about the UFC, but the drama going on over there pales in comparison to what’s currently consuming its competition and wouldn’t fly on Dana’s watch. Especially in a promotion that’s done more to distance itself from boxing-style shenanigans than John McCain has from the Bush family.
MMA has always striven to be mainstream. While baseball fans suffered through strikes and NFL fans endured pampered athletes and their pretentious contract holdouts, MMA struggled to find annyyyyone to watch. But just as the UFC’s massive expansion was poised to lead the sport into previously uncharted territory, EliteXC erupts in public displays of jackassery that threatens to set it back to the days of “There are no rules!”
The heart of the matter isn’t cash, as it is with discontented UFC employees like Couture, Ortiz, and Huerta, but rather the ability to choose opponents. Brett Rogers, a previously unheard of commodity, has made a name for himself in the best boxing tradition-by publicly antagonizing the man he wants to fight, Kimbo Slice, and poking his promoter in the eye for not making it happen. In a bizarre press statement he compared Slice to a Black Yeti and a Chupacabra (note to self-keep your insults simple. I had to look up chupacabra). Next he’ll say, “I want to eat your children! Praise be to Allah!” Rogers’ flare would make a great addition to Don King’s roster.
As EliteXC’s lightweight champion, KJ Noons believes that he’s entitled to choose whom he fights and refuses to face a legitimate contender because his agent tells him he doesn’t have to. Noons has taken the drama one step further-a move that will surely end badly. He’s a middle of the road fighter who’s been inconsistent at best and has possibly committed careericide by refusing to fight on CBS. He’s not only bitten the hand that feeds, but gnawed it off as if he’d discovered a ghetto whore in his bed on Saturday morning. Randy Couture was unsuccessful at making his dream fight happen within his parent organization so what, or who, makes Noons think he would fare any better? Apparently a loose canon agent named Mark Dion.
Dion comes from the William Randolph Hearst school of marketing where no publicity is bad publicity. Like a pig wallowing in mud, Dion loves the fact that guys like me are saying his name, no matter what connotation it takes on. He’s whispered sweet nothings into Noons’ ear about his supposed worth and released a statement complaining about…baseball cards and DVDs. Really? I’d like to see an MMA agent fight between Dion and Ken Pavia. I’ll put a hundred on the Pav.
But who’s really taking it in the shorts here? The simple answer is the athletes. The short term gain from being publicly antagonizing is never worth the long term damage to their reputation and ultimately their wallets. The “press releases” written by Rogers and his camp are petty and will only alienate the few fans he has. Remember this is MMA, a sport where most of its athletes and fans have a background in the martial arts and therefore learn respect from an early age. Using childish, boxing-style antics is a sure way to get yourself booed out of any arena and become the whipping boy of an organization. Rogers’ tirade has had the side-effect of taking the pressure off of Nick Diaz, who now doesn’t seem like such a bad guy. At least he can intelligently respond to accusations made by his rival.
Speaking of whom…before this episode I’d heard nothing bad about KJ Noons and Sam Caplan at Fiveouncesofpain.com even referred to him as a stand up guy-a credible recommendation. Now it will take years for him to get back to that level of respect among the press and even longer among the fans. While writing my book (Title Shot) I learned firsthand that MMA fans will not tolerate weakness in any form. Biting, fish hooking, and eye gouging are all banned in MMA because the fans see it as dirty and underhanded. Refusing to fight is barely above these egregious violations of the cage code of conduct and even if Mr. Dion negotiates a better fight or more money for Noons, he will find himself fighting in front of a half full parking lot of haters. Just ask baseball.
In 1994 baseball fans suffered through a lengthy strike that ended ten months later, but impacted the game for the next ten years. Attendance levels at MLB games sunk to record lows for many seasons, one team (the Montreal Expos) completely folded, and the sport lost it’s heralded anti-trust law exemption when the Senate repealed it.
In Las Vegas Dana White’s amusement at the EliteXC circus is only matched by his rage at them out for making a farce of the sport he established and jacking up all the legitimacy he spent years building. For fifteen years Mixed Martial Arts has struggled to be recognized by the mainstream sports fan and is just now finally getting the attention it deserves. But for all the wrong reasons.
Kelly Crigger is a freelance MMA writer and author of the book “Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts” which you can purchase by clicking here. Contact him through his website at IntoTheSharkTank.com