Marketed as “The Youtube Sensation”, Kimbo Slice was brought into Elite XC thanks to his distinctive look, a name a pro wrestler wishes he could have thought of, and destructive knockouts that the world was marveling over in viral videos that were circulating the web.
Leaving behind bare-knuckle fights in parking lots, Slice was signed by New Jersey promotion Cage Fighting Fury Championship, where he was matched against a heavyweight champion from the boxing world, Ray Mercer. Under the tutelage of Bas Rutten, Slice showed that he was more than a one-trick pony, defeating the former WBO champ by guillotine choke. Slice was quickly snatched up by Elite XC, where Kimbo made his successful company debut on November 10, 2007, against Bo Cantrell.
Slice followed up this with wins over Tank Abbott and James Thompson, the latter of which was the main event of the first live MMA event on a major American television station, CBS.With Kimbo’s stardom rising in the mainstream media, the company decided it was time to match him up against another name that was known to the masses – Ken Shamrock. The battle was set to take place at Elite XC: Heat on October 4, 2008 in Sunrise, Florida.
At 44 years old at this point, Shamrock was also brought in to help Elite XC’s ailing ratings, which had slumped considerably with their past few shows. Furthermore, the company was losing money quickly. According to the SEC, Pro Elite, Inc., Elite XC’s parent company, reported first-half losses that same year of a whopping $24.4 million, which forced Showtime to have “exploratory discussions” to acquire assets of the company.
Shamrock was recently dropped by the UFC, which Shamrock claimed was due to him coaching with the IFL and that he had one more fight left on his Zuffa contract. In spite of this, Shamrock had not won a fight since 2004, and was on a four-fight losing streak when he was cut. When he joined with Elite XC, it was five fights, having been TKO’ed at Cage Rage 25 by Robert Berry.
Fans and pundits were quick to write off Shamrock as being over-the-hill and that Shamrock should have retired years earlier. “Everybody has the right to say what they are saying right now,” Shamrock said at a press conference, “Can I get in the ring? Should I get in the ring? Do I deserve to be in the ring? The only one who can answer that question is myself.” Kimbo took the fight seriously as well, showing off his MMA math skills at that same press event, “You got to remember, Ken lost to Don Frye. And Thompson beat Don Frye. And I beat Thompson.” Even if real MMA fans knew this was a farce, the mainstream masses ate it up and, whether they actually knew what the acronym for MMA stood for or not, were all ready to tune in to see a former WWF superstar battle a Youtube hit inside a cage.
The night before the event, Ken was training with one of his partners, Dan Freeman, and the two accidentally collided heads. Anyone who has seen the early UFC events know how devastating a headbutt can be, and Ken’s noggin was no exception, with a severe cut opened up over Shamrock’s eye.”To me this is dumb, I’ve fought through an ACL injury,” Shamrock told a CBS reporter. “I was just warming up and getting loose when it happened.”
With six sutures in his eyebrow, the Florida State Athletic Commission refused to clear Ken to compete, causing Shamrock to leave the venue and go searching for a second doctor in a hospital or anywhere else to sign off on the fight. Viewers at home were confused, as was the crowd waiting to see what they had paid for. Meanwhile, replacements were being searched for, otherwise the main event would be completely off. One of the names included Frank Shamrock, who was commentating that night but was ready to jump back into the cage if needed. Eventually, Seth Petruzelli agreed to step out of his fight against Aaron Rosa and battle Slice.
“It was an opportunity to step up,” Petruzelli told ESPN, “It was something I wanted all my life.” Kimbo was initially against the fight, demanding more money to fight a different opponent who weighed 30 pounds less than him, but whatever negotiations happened, it eventually led to the fight getting made at the very last minute, with Slice agreeing at 8:20 PM as the event was happening. In front of over 9,000 fans in attendance and 4.5 million viewers at home, Petruzelli and Slice stepped into the cage, with all of the issues and drama before turned moot in just 14 seconds.
Slice aggressively charged forward, pushing Petruzelli backwards towards the fence. However, with his chin wide open, Kimbo walked right into a jab from “The Silverback” that dropped him face-first into the mats. Sensing his chance, Petruzelli pounced on his opponent and pounded away from a dominant position until referee Troy Waugh had no choice but to call the fight. While Petruzelli ran around the cage freaking out over his win, Slice was so out of it that he attempted a takedown on the referee (which he was equally unsuccessful with).
Kimbo was surprisingly respectful after tasting defeat. “Before tonight nobody knew who this guy was, now everybody knows who he is,” Slice stated, “I have nothing but good stuff to say about him.”
As if Kimbo falling from grace was not damaging enough to Elite XC, Petruzelli went on the record during an appearance with a radio show, where he alleged that some shady things were happening behind the scenes. Petruzelli alleged that the promoters “hinted to me, and they gave me the money, to stand and trade with [Slice]. They didn’t want me to take him down. Let’s just put it that way.”
“Seth Petruzelli was offered a fee to fight Kimbo Slice, plus a knockout bonus, a common practice throughout the industry,” Elite XC Fight Operation’s Chief Jeremy Lappen responded, “We have not, do not, and will not suggest or dictate fighters’ strategies or tactics. How the fighters perform in the cage is at the sole discretion of the athletes involved.” However, company frontman Gary Shaw said he has urged fighters to go out and bang to keep the action off the ground. “Do I think that’s unethical? No,” Shaw said. “Because in MMA, you get bonus money for a knockout. I don’t see it as unethical . . . asking him to be TV and fan friendly.” Petruzelli later recanted his statements, but the damage was already done.
The company had one additional event planned for November 8, “A Night of Champions” that would have seen two title fights go down, but that was not to be. With CBS no longer interested in MMA (at the time), the Florida State Athletic Commission investigating the claims Petruzelli made, and the company in massive debt, Elite XC closed their doors on October 20, sixteen days after Kimbo’s defeat.
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