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Sliced and Diced
L. Jon Wertheim
October 13, 2008
An MMA star's flop could KO an upstart league
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October 13, 2008

Sliced And Diced

An MMA star's flop could KO an upstart league

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JUST AS the neighborhood drag racing champ isn't necessarily NASCAR material, winning a bunch of no-holds-barred brawls—no matter how spectacularly—doesn't make you a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Yet after his back-alley Miami street-fighting prowess had rendered him a YouTube sensation, Kevin Ferguson (nom de guerre: Kimbo Slice) wasn't merely offered a hefty contract in 2007. The founders of EliteXC based their entire fighting organization and its TV deal with CBS on Kimbo's menacing presence.

One problem: Slice, 34, was not a credible MMA fighter. This inconvenient truth was laid bare last Saturday night. Slice, a heavyweight, had won his first three EliteXC fights, against opponents carefully selected for lose-ability. His scheduled rival on Saturday was Ken Shamrock, once a star but now a 44-year-old who'd lost his last five fights. On Saturday afternoon Shamrock was cut above his left eye while sparring, and commission officials deemed him unfit to compete. EliteXC replaced him with undercard fighter Seth Petruzelli, a journeyman conceding 30 pounds and two inches in height to the 6'2", 235-pound Slice. Plus, Petruzelli's hair was, regrettably, dyed pink. But in roughly the time it will take you to read this sentence, Petruzelli ended the Kimbo myth and, quite possibly, EliteXC. He dropped Slice with a short jab, threw a dozen more punches and scored a 14-second TKO. This wasn't Buster Douglas stunning Tyson; it was Dorothy pulling back the Wizard's curtain.

The big winner on Saturday was the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), the dominant mixed martial arts group. As challengers have surfaced, trying to siphon MMA's market share, the UFC often responds with force. When the Affliction organization holds cards, the UFC schedules shows the same night. But with EliteXC, the UFC took a different, even more effective, tack, standing by and watching as the league overpayed and overhyped its star—and punched itself out.