When it was announced yesterday that Kimbo Slice would face Ken Shamrock on the next CBS card, I thought it was possible EliteXC had turned a corner and were ready for a rally. Even though the KJ Noons Nick Diaz fight did not materialize, they did put a lot of pressure on Noons and truly did their best to get the two into the cage. It seemed like they were now committed to putting top fighters into matches with each other, some thing they have failed to do in the past (Antonio Silva vs Justin Eilers for the Heavyweight Title, anyone?).
Apparently I was being hopeful, because now it seems like they are back to their old tricks and will have Robbie Lawler defend the Middleweight Title against Joey Villasenor on November 8. Villasenor is not an awful fighter at all. In fact, I like watching his fights very much. The problem with this match-up is Villasenor brings little to no attention to the event. He is not a name most MMA fans care enough about to watch. He has also already lost to Lawler (in 22 seconds). On the other hand, Lawler is one of EliteXC's top fighters and is well on his way to becoming a big draw down the line. At this point, though, he can not sell a fight card on his own. He needs help from an opponent and EliteXC has not given it him. Maybe they could not afford Frank Shamrock's expensive booking fee, but why not a rematch with Murilo "Ninja" Rua? They already have him fighting on October 4 against Benji Radach. The first fight between Rua and Lawler was a classic. Matching them up a second time would actually bring some positive attention to the broadcast.
The thing EliteXC always goes back to is, "Just wait till our Pay-Per-View Event!" The problem with holding back quality fights until a PPV card, is you never build a dedicated fan base. EliteXC does not have big enough stars to put on a PPV and get buys from casual fans. They need EliteXC followers who watch all the fights and believe in the promotion. Fans like that do not exist because EliteXC continually pushes back their most exciting fights in favor of lesser matches fans are not as interested in. They did the same exact thing with the Gina Carano Christiane Cyborg fight. It should be on the October 4 CBS card, but EliteXC is purposely holding it back for their mythical future PPV. To me it is this "wait till next year" philosophy which hurts EliteXC the most. MMA was built upon putting the best fighters against each other. Fans do not want to wait through 1-2 fights to see the two people they want in the cage. For whatever reasons, EliteXC still refuses to give fans the best matches.
Before people start emailing me, I am well aware of why they want to hold back fights for the PPV. EliteXC does not make a ton of money on their Showtime and CBS events. A PPV would bring them considerably more. The problem with it is you first need people to buy the PPV. They are ruining a golden opportunity to promote themselves on network television as an MMA company who puts on the best fights at each event. Stop giving us filler. Every event needs to be treated as its own entity. Make it the best you possibly can and fans will become loyal to your brand. The UFC has built such a massive following because fans know when they tune in the show will deliver. You will see the champions facing the true top contenders. Hell, the UFC put on a show this summer on short notice in which one of their top stars went up in weight to fight. Taking a risk like that shows how much more the UFC is committed to the fans than a company like EliteXC.
But, hey, what do I know? I've never lost millions running an MMA promotion into the ground.