This Saturday, CBS and EliteXC will team for the third time — and what could potentially be the last — to produce “CBS Saturday Night Fights” at 9 p.m. EST. This is a monumental moment for the EliteXC brand, CBS and ultimately, the sport of MMA as well.
Lets face it — right now, EliteXC is the only brand of MMA that is shown on network TV and that is a critical aspect to further pushing the sport of Mixed Martial Arts into the mainstream. Not until the fighters are household names, the audiences reach 10 million people and ESPN has a daily or weekly show on television (not just streamed online) devoted to the sport not to mention each and every event covered by SportsCenter with more than just highlights will this sport officially be “mainstream”, in my humble opinion.
Make no mistake, the UFC has been instrumental in growing the sport and taking it to previously unforeseen heights but the further growth and expansion can’t be done by UFC alone unless they were willing to expand their fighter base to, say, 350 rather than a current roster of 225 or so and put on 24 shows a year.
It’s tough for one organization right now to carry that heavy of a burden. Dana White, the President of the UFC, has many times mentioned the number of employees that the UFC employs and those numbers (about 150) are nowhere near high enough to conduct the number of shows and everything else that is involved with keeping 350 fighters busy, while focusing on growing the sport.
The fact of the matter is organizations like ProElite, Affliction and Strikeforce are instrumental in the growth of MMA. The competition for the UFC is necessary even if it’s unwanted. I believe there will come a time soon in the near future when the remaining organizations will essentially merge with the UFC (whether cooperatively or not) in the same fashion as the AFL and NFL once did to form today’s NFL. It’s a step that has to be done but one that in the current landscape, can’t be done.
So this third show by EliteXC with its biggest stars headlining is critical to the success of its partnership with CBS. Kimbo Slice, Ken Shamrock, Jake Shields, Paul Daley, Andrei Arlovski, Gina Carano — all of these fighters carry the burden of not only drawing an audience tomorrow night, but also enthralling that audience so that they, the casual viewers, become permanent fans of the sport. I certainly think that this is a card that is capable of doing just that and that these are fighters that have the skill (Shamrock and Kimbo not withstanding) to do so.
Obviously, CBS being so interested in the sport of MMA could turn to the UFC or another promotion if the ratings Saturday suffer and EliteXC crumbles but it would be good for everyone, I think, if that were not to happen and that EliteXC took a vital and major step in establishing itself as a solid brand of MMA on Saturday night.
I for one am looking forward to tomorrow night’s fights and will be watching to see just where that step will be (forwards or backwards). Hopefully you all will be as well and telling your friends and family to do so too.