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MMA’s Jump to Network Primetime Leaves Some Unanswered Questions

It’s fair to say MMA’s primetime arrival on a major network is another signal the sport is becoming part of the mainstream. But unfortunately, CBS’s first foray into the MMA spotlight may have left more questions than answers. How would the general public perceive this sport? Was the delivery of the production executed properly? Why was Heavyweight fighter Brett Rogers doing the Ickey shuffle after his in cage interview?

Image of May 31 CBS Elite XC Show Early TV ratings reveal that “Saturday Night Fights” won their time slot and drew over 4 mill viewers in the first 2 hours, which was prior to headliner Kimbo Slice’s main event. But for the regular followers of the sport, Saturday’s CBS show lacked in talent and even less on delivery.

Slice won the main event, in a match that ended in controversy. Referee Dan Murgliotta stopped the fight in the 3rd and final round after Slice’s opponent, James Thompson, appeared wobbly from strikes but looked able to continue. The perceived early stoppage was not fully explained to the ‘first time’ watcher of MMA, which was puzzling.

The same ‘non explanation’ goes for the Scott Smith – Robbie Lawler fight which ended when Smith took an accidental finger to the eye, was given 5 minutes to recover, and was told the fight was over after about 90 seconds. For the true MMA fan, these endings were a little easier to understand, but one has to believe the goal on Saturday was to reach the first time viewer and convert them to a fan of the sport.

Slice proved that he still needs some work (especially on the ground), and his cardio appeared non existent. Kimbo admitted afterwards he has a lot of work to do, and from all accounts he appears determined to do so. His opponent, James Thompson, had fought in some big organizations against some tough opponents, but has never been considered a top ranked heavyweight – which gives critics plenty of ammunition to fling Slice’s way until his next entrance to the cage.

Other than the one female fight on the card involving Gina Carano, the fights looked lackluster and CBS production at times looked disorganized.

However, the early strong ratings are a positive sign for not only EliteXC, but for MMA. Considering these ratings do not include those for Slice Main event, EliteXC can pat themselves on the back. It appears from a rating standpoint, the EliteXC show was a success. But for the sake of MMA on primetime television, let’s hope CBS can improve their production quality and talent pool moving forward.

CBS billed this show as “the biggest night in mixed martial arts history,” and while that declaration may have been presumptuous, only time will tell how significant this will be in the MMA history books.

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