(CNBC’s sports business readers aren’t an optimistic bunch.)
As the Kimbo Slice backlash pendulum swings to and fro in the days following his defeat, we find ourselves asking what lingering affect Slice’s fourteen-second performance might have on the MMA landscape. The good news, some MMA pundits tell us, is that people are talking. They’re covering Kimbo Slice on ESPN. They’re talking about him in the mainstream news media. There is a buzz, in other words, thanks to Elite XC and Kimbo Slice.
And that’s nice, except for when you stop to listen to what these people are actually saying. CNBC’s sports business guru Darren Rovell, put it thusly:
…[T]his will turn out to be a great case study in sports marketing.
You have a really marketable asset in a guy like Kimbo Slice. The problem is, he’s a good street fighter against normal guys. He’s just not that good of an MMA fighter. So you know that he has to continue to win, but there aren’t enough weak guys for him to fight. In fact, as was proven in Petruzelli, a decent guy can beat him. The other problem is that you can only fix the results if the guy makes it to three rounds, which you’re never guaranteed. Slice couldn’t have won on Saturday night. He was getting pounded. Mike Tyson was Mike Tyson because he really was a talented fighter, along with all the weird baggage that we loved.
An astute analysis, even if we were sick of the Kimbo Slice/Mike Tyson comparisons months ago. But Gravell, who wrote about how drawn he was to Kimbo’s persona and backstory when he fought on the first CBS show, seems to have come to the realization that it was all hype. Which should be encouraging, because it means that maybe the people who were drawn to the sport because of the Kimbo buzz will not abandon it now that they realize he’s far from the best MMA has to offer.
NBC Sports’ resident MMA expert Mike Chiapetta says Kimbo’s loss is no good for anybody in MMA, no matter what we might say to the contrary:
The crazy thing is, nobody is truly guilty in this mess, and nobody is 100 percent innocent, either, which makes the glee with which some are celebrating Kimbo’s downfall downright ridiculous. Around the web, the feeling is that this is a victory for MMA, that Kimbo’s loss somehow helps the sport or brings credibility to the “real” fighters, whoever those are.
The real truth is that Kimbo’s fate affects the sport more than perhaps any other fighter alive, and losing in such decisive fashion will cause ripple effects that many will feel.
While it’s hard for me to get on board with the idea that no one is “truly guilty” — the most generous thing we could say about Kimbo, to quote Hemingway, is that he seems to have been caught “in a trap that he had only helped a little to set” — but Chiapetta makes a good point.
Chuck Liddell has to nearly walk on water to get the kind of broad media coverage that Kimbo and Elite XC have gotten. They created tremendous buzz that reached outside the normal boundaries of the sport.
It was the kind of thing that could have helped propel the sport and its fighters to a new level of public awareness. And just look at what they did with it.