Well, it has finally happened. ProElite/EliteXC has closed up shop. The struggling promotion had lost upwards of $55 million, but in the end it seems an unlikely nemesis drove in the final nail. Showtime was working on a deal to purchase a majority stake in the company, which would have alleviated the financial concerns. According to MMA Junkie, Showtime changed their mind after the Seth Petruzelli controversy surfaced. So not only did Seth Petruzelli take out their biggest draw Kimbo Slice, he also managed to put ProElite/EliteXC out of business. Ken Shamrock also deserves some blame, because if it was not for his suspicious cut, Petruzelli would have never been in the main event. Although, booking Shamrock to headline a major show probably was not the best idea. He is not the most reliable fighter, as EliteXc found out.
The real culprits of EliteXC's demise are the executives who ran it into the ground. Yes, the controversy surrounding the Petruzelli incident probably was the last straw for Showtime. No, it was not the ultimate reason they died. As I have pointed out numerous times, EliteXC repeatedly made stupid mistakes. They never grasped what fans wanted. Instead they gave viewers a shoddy product that could never compare to the UFC.
Their biggest problem was they never understood how to form a fight card. Their top fighters routinely fought mediocre competition (Silva vs Eilers for the Heavyweight Title, Diaz vs Denny), which goes against the UFC branded philosophy of no easy fights. Like it or not, MMA formed with the UFC's influence. You cannot expect to pass off less than stellar match-ups and get away with it. Fans flocked to the sport because for many reasons, but one of the biggest is the notion that every fight matters. Any one can win on any given night. EliteXC broke the rule and paid the price.
The death of EliteXC should start a bidding war between the UFC and Affliction for the services of the defunct promotion's top fighters (also throw WEC in there under the UFC banner). This is part of the reason I was always hard on EliteXC. They had quite a bit of talent. They just never used it properly. Here is a list of some of the notable names who now find themselves without an employer:
The most intriguing names are Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Antonio Silva, Eddie Alvarez, Gina Carano, and of course Kimbo Slice. Diaz was already in talks to fight in Japan. It seems that will be his first stop. On GracieFighter.com, they claim Jake Shields going to the UFC is a "real possibility". The other four could conceivably land just about any where. Silva would be a solid addition to any promotion's lineup. He has some talent and it would be nice to see him face quality competition. Alvarez will not have trouble finding work, either. Carano and Kimbo are the toughest to predict. Women's MMA is still in its infancy and most promotions are not serious about it, most notably the UFC where Dana White basically treats it as a joke. Hopefully Affliction is not as closed minded and goes after her.
Last is Kimbo Slice. I find it hard to believe he will accept a low salary and fight for a small promotion. He could go to Japan, where they love novelty fighters. Affliction might be interested in his drawing power, as they get ready for their second PPV. Even the UFC is a possibility. Dana White has badmouthed him in the past, but it would not be the first time he changed his opinion when the wind blew in the other direction.
Another name not on the list is Tito Ortiz. He gushed at EliteXC's final CBS event that he was a week away from signing. I never believed it. EliteXC was in enough money trouble without adding his salary to the mix. Now he finds himself caught between the UFC, where he is hated, and Affliction, who have shown mild interest in his services. EliteXC's death hurts him more than the others because now there is a large market of free agent fighters. Affliction has more options and could decide to sign a few fighters for the price of Ortiz's salary. That would be the sensible and logical thing to do. I'd much rather have Alvarez, Rogers, and Reis than Tito. Even with those three, you would probably still save money.