The mainstream media has hit EliteXC harder than Seth Petruzelli hit Kimbo Slice this week, with prominent sports writers and commentators saying the MMA promotion is no better than pro wrestling and that Kimbo's loss to Petruzelli was fixed.
Today I asked EliteXC head of fight operations Jeremy Lappen what that does for EliteXC's credibility. Lappen told me he believes the media is focusing on something that's "not a story."
"I don't know what it does for our credibility," Lappen said. "I think it's an unfortunate situation. I think it's not appropriate for the media to say things like that when there's not a story. We didn't manipulate the fight. How somebody could think Kimbo Slice threw the fight, it's ridiculous. We should be getting credit, Kimbo should be getting credit and Petruzelli should be getting credit for putting on the fight after Ken Shamrock pulled out at the last minute. I think most organizations and most fighters in Kimbo's situation would have just said, 'Sorry, but we're just going to cancel the event.'"
Regarding the controversy over whether EliteXC paid Petruzelli a bonus (or, as some would call it, a bribe) to keep the fight on his feet, I pointed out to Lappen that he had seemed to contradict himself about what, exactly, EliteXC offered Petruzelli.
Lappen was quoted by Sports Illustrated as saying that EliteXC does not give submission bonuses, while he was quoted by ESPN as saying that Petruzelli was offered a submission bonus. Lappen said both stories misquoted him.
"They're both wrong," Lappen said. "We have given submission bonuses in the past but they're not as common as knockout bonuses. If the question is, 'Have we ever given submission bonuses?' The answer is yes. But we give knockout bonuses more often. We gave Seth a knockout bonus before the fight started. That was part of the deal."
Of course, the whole thing got started because of what Petruzelli himself said. Lappen said Petruzelli was simply not making himself clear.
"I feel bad for Seth because it's taken away from the story of a huge win for him," Lappen said. "He made a misstatement and has since retracted it, and the media is now focusing on what's not a story."
Lappen added that he welcomes an investigation by the Florida Boxing Commission.
"I think it's a good thing," he said. "I think they can do their investigation, and when they have their findings and put it out to all the media that nothing inappropriate happened, then it's case closed and everyone can focus on the real story, which is that we put on a great show that got great ratings."
Lappen acknowledged that when Shamrock pulled out just hours before the show was supposed to start, those "great ratings" were in jeopardy. He said there was some talk on Saturday evening of simply canceling the main event.
"Yes, of course, when we first heard Shamrock would be out, there was the potential that the main fight could be canceled," Lappen said. "We had a great card on top of that fight. there were terrific fights, but it was in Kimbo's hometown and most of the people were there for Kimbo. We wanted to give the fans what they came to see, and it turned out to be a monumental occasion for MMA."