The contender (cont.)
Posted: Monday July 16, 2007 12:48PM; Updated: Monday July 16, 2007 12:48PM
The Stars of Elite XC
The promotion's top star is MMA legend Frank Shamrock, UFC's first Middleweight Champion who never lost in that organization. He stepped away from fighting during his prime because there wasn't much money in the sport. After only fighting twice from 2000 to 2005, Shamrock re-entered the spotlight with a fight against Cesar Gracie that was California's first MMA event and at that time the largest attendance in North American MMA history.
Shamrock then signed a big money deal to be Elite XC's top star, but faltered in his debut earlier this year against Renzo Gracie as he was disqualified for illegal knees in a controversial fight. That led to a lot of criticism of Shamrock leading into his most recent fight with Phil Baroni. However, Shamrock silenced the critics in that outing, delivering an electric performance in defeating Baroni, despite going into the fight with an injured MCL and ACL.
Following that performance, Shamrock has a number of marketable matchups on the horizon. The most immediate is likely to be a rematch with Renzo Gracie to settle the controversy from their first fight. Another potential draw would be the battle of San Jose between Shamrock and San Shou star Cung Le. However, the biggest fight of all is Shamrock vs. Shamrock, with Frank facing his own adopted brother Ken. Both are big stars and can talk, and they have expressed a willingness to face each other. With this series of fights, Frank Shamrock will be the key to Elite XC's short term success.
Another Elite XC star with a lot of potential is the controversial and colorful Nick Diaz, a UFC and Pride veteran known as much for his skill as his antics outside the ring. His last fight was his most remarkable. In a fight of the year contender for Pride FC, Diaz had a standup war with top lightweight Takanori Gomi, defeating him with a beautiful gogoplata submission hold. He then lived up to his controversial reputation by testing positive for marijuana and having the result of the fight overturned by the Nevada Athletic Commission. Diaz is likely to debut for EXC before the end of the year.
Another popular star for Elite XC is female fighter Gina Carano. An attractive young woman with a vibrant smile and lethal striking ability, Carano has connected with crowds throughout her young career. Shaw sees great marketing potential in Carano, "She's got that ability to represent women and be the face of women's mixed martial arts." Elite XC also features a number of other high level fighters including Jake Shields, Antonio Silva and Murilo "Ninja" Rua.
EXC going forward will have three tiers of shows. ShoXC will take place at smaller venues and function as a showcase for up and coming fighters. The first ShoXC event takes place July 27 in Santa Inez, Calif., with striker K.J. Noons facing submission specialist Edson Berto.
There are three more ShoXC events planned for 2007 and nine planned for 2008. Elite XC CEO Doug DeLuca sees the ShoXC series as important for the growth of MMA. "We're committed to growing the sport and giving a platform for the stars of tomorrow to grow," he says.
In additional to the ShoXC events, there will also be regular Elite XC events on Showtime, with the next one taking place September in Hawaii, and followed by another later in 2007. These events will feature established stars and some marquee attractions. Finally, the biggest events will take place on pay-per-view.
Elite XC has shown a willingness to run events on its own and in concert with other promotions. Co-promotion has been a mixed bag for the company. A joint show with the Japanese K1 outfit at the Los Angeles Coliseum was disorganized and had trouble moving tickets. However, a subsequent joint show with the Strikeforce promotion produced one of the best shows of the year. DeLuca couldn't have been happier, "I think it went spectacularly. Every fight to me was an amazing fight."
Shaw recognizes that in the future it will be important to find the right partners. "I always want to do it when we have good partners and don't want to do it when we don't have good partners. Sometimes you've got good dates and sometimes you've got bad dates and sometimes the bad dates are the more attractive ones."
EXC's potential ace in the hole could be its recent agreement with reality TV guru Mark Burnett, who put together hits like Survivor, The Contender and The Apprentice. An MMA reality show with the right premise could do for EXC what The Ultimate Fighter did for UFC.