Commentary

Well, we've seen worse

The worst hasn't yet to come

Originally Published: February 16, 2009
By Jake Rossen | Sherdog.com

Kimbo SliceSherdog.comKimbo Slice's so-called bout in October is among the worst MMA promotions of all time.

With apologies to all involved -- including Sherdog.com, which acted as a sort of viral host carrier to the thing -- Friday's netcast of the clumsily titled "Wargods/Ken Shamrock Productions: Valentine's Eve Massacre" was the kind of hot mess that suddenly makes you appreciate play-by-play announcer Mike Goldberg.

This is not a feeling I had ever expected to have to deal with.

As it turns out, promoting and executing an event in which participants are allowed to hammer each other into unconsciousness is an unwieldy thing to negotiate. The UFC, minus an occasional hiccup, has spoiled us into believing otherwise. A Zuffa broadcast is a tightly knitted, controlled bit of chaos. The camera direction is immaculate, and the pacing is airtight. It looks, feels and breathes like a professional sporting event.

"Wargods," in comparison, lacked as much talent behind the camera as in front of it. Medical and commission commitments were a jumble of he-said/he-said fiascos, 30 percent of the card was scratched and main event fighters, save perhaps for a determined-looking Shamrock, probably wouldn't have passed a junior varsity football tryout.

Watching the fuzzy, shrunken feed brought to mind a wealth of other promotional embarrassments. See how many you were fortunate to have missed.

10. No Rain Delay (King of the Cage: Wet 'N Wild, 2001)

Weather permitting, an outdoor fighting event can be a pleasure to experience. Muhammad Ali and George Foreman's African expedition was memorable in part because of the mammoth outdoor arena. Fresh air is usually a good thing, etc.

Except when it's pouring down rain, at which point promoters can take either a financial bath or a physical one. King of the Cage opted for the latter, a 2001 event slated for an outdoor venue at Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif., then passed on a rain delay and instead invited athletes to strike and grapple in MMA's equivalent of a Slip 'N Slide. Fighters went for takedowns, then slid; for submissions, then slid; for strikes, then slid. Puddles collected on the canvas.

How these bouts can qualify as professional wins and losses is beyond comprehension. Congratulations to all who avoided breaking their necks.

9. Crowd Riot (Pentagon Combat, 1997)

"No Contest: Fans Rioted" is not a common bout result in the Sherdog Fight Finder. One exception is Renzo Gracie's bout with family rival Eugenio Tadeu in their home -- and hostile -- territory of Brazil.

After roughly 15 minutes of back-and-forth brawling, a crowd that had gathered around the ring apron decided that passive participation wasn't enough. Someone tried to strike at Gracie, who lashed back. Chairs went flying, as did a few people. The fight never reached a resolution.

To mention that this was Pentagon Combat's only show might be unnecessary.

8. Biker Riot (Ultimate Athlete 2, 2002)

If there's one thing more irritating than overpriced nachos, it's getting beaten to death with a bike chain just when the show was getting good.

Ultimate Athlete organizers should have sensed a possible storm brewing when combatant Rick Slaton invited several dozen of his Mongols motorcycle gang pals to his bout in the fledgling promotion. (It's rumored Slaton was free to sell tickets, thereby profiting from his fraternity's presence.)

[+] EnlargeGracie
Peter LockleyIFL's Battleground with Daniel Gracie and Wes Sims was a debacle.

After Slaton's opponent, Leo Pavlushkin, claimed he ate an illegal knee to the groin, impatient Mongols members began throwing refuse at the ring. This angered nearby civilians, who retaliated with airborne soda of their own. If you cannot imagine how a marauding biker gang would respond to that, you have not seen enough movies.

Eventually, sheriffs with M-16s intervened, and no deaths were reported. Any evening that ends with the K-9 unit being called is certainly worthy of entry here.

7. Well Done (Pride 9, 2000)

The Japanese fans love their spectacle, from 8-foot-tall pituitary cases ignoring doctor's orders for tumor operations to expressing complete amusement at the idea of weight classes.

Excepting the occasional smashed orbital or arthritic knees, this is all in good fun, except when it's not -- as in the case of Johil de Oliveira's Pride debut in 2000. Idling near the arena entrance, De Oliveira -- who was slated to face Matt Serra -- was the victim of poor production planning when he was set ablaze by an ill-timed fireworks display.

"I was next up and saw them carry him out on a stretcher," Heath Herring recalled of the incident. De Oliveira, though nicely toasted, fought six months later. He carried a fire extinguisher to the ring.

6. Time Out (UFC 4, 1994; UFC 33, 2001)

So much has been written about the UFC's two monumental failures to budget time properly -- in both instances, viewers were unable to see the end of the main events because they exceeded the allotted three-hour window -- that further exposition would be tiresome. Nonetheless, they are production gaffes of the highest (or lowest) order.

That said, I'd reserve the flip remarks for the cable companies themselves, which essentially cut off their own noses to spite their faces when they remained obstinate in not allowing a time-bleeding program some breathing room. In each instance, thousands of angry fans called and demanded a refund -- a refund that came in part out of the pay-per-view provider's healthy cut of the purchase price.

5. Rules Made to Be Broken (Strikebox, 2009)

The premise is ridiculous: a stand-up-only sport with 4-ounce gloves. Takedowns are allowed, but the fighters must stand up afterward.

Welcome to Strikebox, which is no longer called Strikebox but rather Titans Fighting thanks to copyright issues, but might not be called anything at all. It seems inconceivable a second event will materialize.

The grappling-averse rules presumably were intended to avoid the boredom some spectators experience at groundfighting, which is at this point more hypothetical than fact. (Crowds are now cheering at mount escapes and submission attempts during UFC events.) Because Canada couldn't recognize such a dopey conceit, fighters were allowed gentleman's agreements not to grapple, and … well, you see how quickly this devolves into complete idiocy.

In brief: Main-event athlete James Thompson, for reasons known only to a brain sandwiched between two cauliflower ears, decided to forgo silly handshake agreements and immediately took opponent Steve Bosse to the mat with no intention of letting him get up.

The ensuing near riot has put Montreal athletic officials on alert. The UFC, a legitimately organized promotion, is now in danger of having to move or cancel a big event thanks to the fallout.

Yet another reason promotions run by sock puppets run into frequent snags.

4. The Warning Track of Death (Yamma Pit Fighting, 2008)

There are many reasons to respect the efforts of Bob Meyrowitz. The Yamma is not one of them.

Although not exactly an early innovator of the UFC, as some would have you believe -- Meyrowitz didn't even attend the first show -- he did make valiant, expensive efforts to save the sport when it was nearly politically assassinated in the 1990s.

Yamma Chris Tuchscherer vs  Alexey Oleinik
Peter LockleyChris Tuchscherer and Alexey Oleinik were part of the wacky Yamma promotion.

It was with great goodwill that I sat down for Meyrowitz's latest venture, a fighting surface with raised edges that allowed fighters to -- well, God only knows what the hell that thing was supposed to do. But whatever it was, it didn't do it. Yamma's fighting pit played host to a bore of an eight-man tournament, and its idea of a superfight was "Butterbean" Eric Esch versus Pat Smith.

(All of my thoughts were collected during that weekend's Minute by Minute article, now available in my therapist's files.)

A second show has yet to materialize: Meyrowitz's petitions for bungee cords, broadswords and Tina Turner appear to have hit some commission snags.

3. A Bloody Mess (IFL Battleground, 2007)

The International Fight League's move to "network" television -- technically true, albeit on My Network TV -- was supposed to be a coup for the new promotion, which had an inexplicable insistence on a "team" presentation for the world's loneliest sport.

It gets points for originality, but the repackaged first broadcast was little more than a two-hour barker show directed at people for whom "Felony Fights" is too intellectually challenging a product. All evening long, viewers were teased with the promise that someone would leave on a stretcher; graphics consisted of a heart monitor flatlining. Subtle.

The IFL later acknowledged its error. So did fans: They stopped watching.

2. Mob Mentality (IFC 1, 1996)

Despite the theoretically unlimited space afforded by the Web, there's really not enough room to go into detail on the International Fighting Championship's movie-worthy foray into Kiev, Ukraine, which consisted in equal parts of the following: the Russian mob, seized videotapes, Bas Rutten slapping men armed with automatic weapons, promoters being forbidden to exit the country and, perhaps most horrifying of all, Igor Vovchanchyn sharing a protective cup with other Russian athletes.

Details abound in Clyde Gentry's excellent "No Holds Barred: Evolution." The purchase price is worth that chapter alone. Promise.

1. KimboGate (EliteXC, 2008)

It is difficult to imagine so perfect a storm of bad choices, bad luck and bad management colluding in the fashion it did on Oct. 4, when the semipromising EliteXC brand performed the anatomically impossible feat of nailing its own coffin.

The specifics are well recorded: Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, forced to fight a legitimate threat after opponent Ken Shamrock performed the neat trick of beginning to bleed before the fight, was knocked back to obscurity by replacement Seth Petruzelli. Petruzelli then claimed he was financially motivated to keep the fight with Slice standing.

Not only did their prized steer lose, but Elite officials were forced to stave off allegations they were running an ethically bankrupt organization. What followed was the sport's highest-profile implosion, a Popsicle-stick collapse of Elite's infrastructure and unwelcome sabbaticals for quality athletes.

Further proof that the majority of damage in MMA happens outside of the ring.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to Sherdog.com.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to ESPN.com. His byline has appeared in the New York Times, Wired.com, and numerous other outlets. He began covering mixed martial arts in 1998.

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