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.
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.