The Four Horsemen of the EliteXC Apocalypse

October 22, 2008

With apologies to Grantland Rice….

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky in Sunrise, Miami, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Petruzelli, Shamrock, Shaw, and Lappen. They formed the crest of the EliteXC team which galloped over the precipice at the Bank Atlantic Center that night as 8,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering implosion of a promotion”

On Death
The card from Sunrise represented the death of many things: the death of the Kimbo myth, the possible death of Ken Shamrock’s days at the top of the card, and lo and behold two weeks later, the death of the promotion itself. A confluence of events, some of their own doing and some not, gathered a foreboding momentum that ultimately signaled the end of the road for EliteXC.

In the span of a week-end EliteXC would go from Friday night basically having a deal to be purchased by CBS in the bag…to a Monday Morning Radio show appearance by Petruzelli that would bring the whole house of cards collapsing around the organization. In between those two points you had Shamrock looking to get his pay bumped, receiving a mysterious cut on his eye that would knock him out of the fight, Petruzelli moving into the main event, EliteXC executives allegedly loading up on on incentives to Petruzelli to affect the flow of the fight, and capping it off with Petruzelli knocking out Slice in a fight that lasted about as long as the pre-fight instructions from the ref. Having their main draw getting knocked out was a blow in and of itself that could have doomed the CBS deal but Petruzelli’s case of loose lips while live on radio delivered the coup de grace in sinking the EliteXC ship. A rapidly deteriorating situation only worsened with the comments of Jeremy Lappen and Gary Shaw, whose attempts at crisis management seemed woefully inept. When the final news came in Monday the phrase “sad end to a sorry episode” rang true.

On Pestilence
What to think when looking back at the time of EliteXC on the MMA scene? Should they simply be written off as a total plague upon the MMA house, to paraphrase Shakespeare? While many would be quick to do so, EliteXC did bring many things to the landscape that were welcome. The re-emergence of Frank Shamrock on the national scene is one, both for his fighting and overall entertainment abilities. Frank would give lip service to being the best 185’er out there despite that clearly not being the case, but at this stage of his career that isn’t really the point. Under the EliteXC banner (with co-operation from Strikeforce), he was able to put on some entertaining grudge matches with Cung Le and Phil Baroni. Neither fight was of great importance in some mythological rankings, but they provided a lot of the sizzle and just enough of the steak that makes for a well promoted and enjoyable fight. Having a forum for a fighter like Nick Diaz was another benefit. The UFC may have tired of Diaz but I never did and his having a high profile venue for his fights was a good thing in my book.

Another calling card for the time of EliteXC in MMA will be the increased profile of women’s MMA in the US. With here performance on the May and October CBS cards, Gina Carano was able to cement herself as a bankable entity in the MMA game, a role for females that heretofore would have thought to been impossible. While the spotlight has shone brightest on Carano, other female fighters have been able to see increased exposure through the auspices of EliteXC. While the UFC has been adamant about not offering women’s MMA, the EliteXC exposure for the women will ensure that the ladies will have better opportunities available to them, and will live on even after the promotion breathes its’ last gasp.

On Destruction and Famine
Left in the wake of the EliteXC failure are the various remnants of regional promotions that were a portion of EliteXC. The promotional braintrust behind outfits like Rumble on the Rock, Icon, King of the Cage, and Cage Rage will spread back out across the landscape, like so much diaspora. The fighters of EliteXC will do much the same. These folks will do what they do best: promote and fight respectively. There can be little doubt of the destruction and paucity of options at the national level, but the spreading of promoter and fighter talent will hopefully lead to something more encouraging on a regional level.

Comments are closed.