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Random Rants: EliteXC’s identity crisis; Iron Ring bad for the sport?; and thoughts on a Jersey smoker

If you’re reading this site, chances are you resemble something closer to a hardcore MMA fan than a casual one. And as hardcore fans, so many of us live in what I call “the bubble.”

When you live life in the bubble, you really on see things from the inside and don’t have much perspective of what life is like from an outsider’s perspective. For me, these days I rarely interact with people who aren’t diehard into MMA whether it be fighters, managers, promoters, etc. These days, most of my friends have some sort of tie to the MMA industry. Even when I’m not working and interacting with my family I’m still dealing with people on the inside of the bubble since my wife is an amateur fighter and my son trains jiu-jitsu on a daily basis.

So my experience on Friday night was quite interesting because for the first time since I can really remember, I was able to watch MMA with people that knew very little about the sport.

In watching it with them I observed many telling details. On one hand I felt it was unfair to make judgments based on their perspectives considering I was only in a room with about 10 people. But then I realized, if EliteXC is going to survive long-term on network TV, these are the kinds of people that they are going to live and die with. Appealing to hardcore MMA fans only isn’t going to cut it. Hell, I don’t think even appealing to casual MMA fans is going to get the job done either. The CBS telecasts need to make people that aren’t MMA fans into fans.

I watched ShoXC on SHOWTIME right after a fantasy baseball draft. During the draft everyone was watching CBS because it seemed like I was the only one there not involved with some sort of NCAA poll. We saw a few of the “Saturday Night Fights” commercials and I think just about everyone there knew who Kimbo Slice was. In fact, towards the later rounds, one guy even jokingly called out Kimbo’s name when it was time to announce his pick.

While just about everyone knew Kimbo and knew CBS was getting into the MMA business, very few knew what EliteXC was.

The guys in the room pretty much ranged from 24 to 28 years of age. Most of them were single males who spend a lot of their time watching sports. They get together and watch sporting events at bars and at each other’s houses. They are into baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. A lot of them also grew up watching professional wrestling and some of them still watch it on a regular basis. Some of them were even planning to watch Wrestlemania together next weekend. If I haven’t already made it clear, I think what I just described is the typical sports fan that needs to be won over in order for MMA to have any chance to survive on network TV and grow into something bigger.


  • William W. says:

    Nice write up as always.

    The thing that disturbed me about BET’s Iron Ring was that the entire first hour showed literally only one minute of fighting. I figured the first half hour would be the intro and that is fine. But the second half hour showed guys just yelling at guys to train and then 1 quick fight. I can’t forgive that.

  • Sam Caplan says:

    “But the second half hour showed guys just yelling at guys to train and then 1 quick fight. I can’t forgive that.”

    What you just described was a typical episode of TUF.

  • Noah says:

    Hey Sam,

    Let me preface this comment by saying that I am a fan and I read your stuff almost every day. That said, there is something that I’m annoyed with and hopefully you can help me out.

    I promise, I’m really not trying to be the grammar police and I know you probably wrote this article rather quickly. MMA is not different “than” boxing, MMA is different from boxing. Using “than” does imply a difference, but it’s because MMA is more exciting than boxing, or MMA figthers make less than boxers.

    You are a great writer and you’re just as good as anyone out there. I read “different than” much more frequently now more than ever. I hope you, as probably the best MMA writer, can be an example for the others out there.

    Since I believe I will undoubtedly be tagged as one of the grammar police, I should get this off my chest as well. It drives me crazy when people don’t know the difference between your and you’re. Come on people!

  • Noah says:

    I spelled fighters wrong, isn’t it amazing how you only see the mistake once it is posted?

  • Sam Caplan says:

    Noah, no prob. I will make the change and start phrasing it that way from this point forward.

  • William W. says:

    “What you just described was a typical episode of TUF.”

    Yeah, but TUF fights usually last longer than one minute and they usually highlight the fighters (when Dana isn’t on screen). Here, I had no idea who either guy was as they just showed up and fought. Nothing about age, location, fighting style. I’ll watch it again on Tuesday, but if they can’t show more than a minute of fighting, it isn’t really worth it.

  • platypus says:

    friends that i train with are in the same situation. they cant tell the difference between the orgs, they can only talk about the hype of the big name fighters like liddell or kimbo. I dont even think a lot of people know that kimbo isnt his real name.

    its actualyl hard to keep up with the sport of m ma if you arent always trying to find more about the fighters and orgs, but for younger generation people its easier because most time is spent in front of a computer. while those people may eventually become die hard fans, for those who follow sports via the tv or are more into mainstream sports its not that desirable or easy to follow all that goes on in the mma world.

    its even hard for me to keep shoxc and elite xc shows straight, did strikeforce merge with elitexc or everyone is just being bought out by pro elite ? (cage rage, icon sport, strikefoce) – i see the elite xc tag everywhere thats not ufc or wec these days.

  • Eric says:

    Excellent write up Sam, thank you.

  • Ross says:

    not to bash Lil John but I dont get how he can be a coach on the show but not know the difference between MMA and UFC. He made a comment about being “ultimate fighters” instead of saying mma fighters. That might make Dana smile but it makes me cringe.

  • mike wolfe says:

    Thoughtful piece. I would add that I question UFC’s decision not to show more premiere events on Spike as opposed to pay-per-view. Show the occasional big event to draw in more fans. If casual fans only see fights by the J.V. squad, will they want to spend money on the varsity when they don’t understand the differences.

  • Evan says:

    “I would add that I question UFC’s decision not to show more premiere events on Spike as opposed to pay-per-view.”

    Dana says the go pretty far in the red when they have shown free “PPV’s” on spike. So I guess they can only afford 1 or 2 a year. Who knows

  • BJJDenver says:

    ShoXC-I see your point about eliminating it to ease confusion, but I feel that may be a drastic move. I would prefer a name change or clarification. With few exceptions, these guys are minor league fighters. I don’t mean that as a slight towards them, but rather, they are usually young (mma wise), inexperienced fighters learning the sport and elevating to a new level. I enjoy the opportunity to see up and coming guys and don’t want to see ShoXC or many of the HDNet shows disappear. Perhaps changing the name to fit the shows would be better…”Ring of Fire Presented by ProElite”, “Cage Combat presented by ShoXC” and such. Just use the promotions original name. This is AAA mma, not the major leagues. Or choose a name that tells exactly what it is…ShoXC development series instead of Challenger Series.

    Iron Ring-Perhaps the worst program i have ever seen, as far as production values go, almost unwatchable. That said, i watched the first 2 episodes and it got worse as it went on. It was hard to follow what was going on and they jumped all over the place with no bridging of the “story lines”. I don’t think it will have much impact on the mma world and if anything, it shows that mma still has a long ways to go in the black community. Almost all of my black friends are still huge boxing fans and have very limited knowledge of mma and its fighters. Iron Ring may bring a few more fans to mma, but the lack of fighting has to change. T.I. had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and when they did show fights, it was more akin to watching Kimbo’s YouTube fights, which actually may be a good thing for adding more fans. My man Krazy as a coach? What is he going to do, have the fighters play basketball for cardio, lol?? I don’t have a problem at all with the concept, but the follow through seems to be very lacking on Iron Ring and I think they may have missed a good opportunity to spread mma in a large segment of our society. I’ll give it another try, but the production quality may push me away.

  • jaydog says:

    I enjoyed Iron Ring and found both 1/2 hour segments fascinating. Sure, a lot of the hype was grating on the nerves, but MMA has a high affinity for “extreme themed” productions and Mean Gene style announcers yelling about “pandemonium” in the arena of 3500 people. I try to tune that out, no matter what show I’m watching. While I did feel that some of the team owners diminished the sport with their lack of understanding, their interest and their clout as entertainers is a tribute to MMA and there is no doubt that Ludacris, TI, and Lil Jon will bring new fans with them.

    As a fight fan, I wanted to see more battles, but the training and the facilitation of the try-outs was really interesting to me. As this sport grows, different trainers will bring a variety of approaches and I’ll gladly tune in next week to see these new faces and their fighting/training/coaching styles.

    One fact is undeniable about Iron Ring. At least one fighter will emerge from that show with a full head of steam to make a run at the top 10, MMA superstardom, and maybe a title one day. The fighters’ talent will capture attention and continue to build regardless of the production or the disappointing stereotypes that BET tends to promote. So, when Sam says that he doesn’t think it will take the sport to the next level, I sort of agree. But it will take at least one fighter to the next level. On the other hand, if you consider the possibility that Iron Ring will help MMA grow in terms of diversity (of both fighters and fans), then I think that’s important to the sport and maybe a “next level,” depending on how many people we’re talking about.

  • HexRei says:

    Iron Ring is nothing but hype preying on the fact that black americans as a demographic aren’t really into mma the way whites, asians, and latinos are. dana has made overtures and gotten decent interest from most of these communities but black people have been the hold out in regard to mma… having big hiphop names (regardless of the fact that these big names have nothing to do with fighting outside a rap battle) was just a tactic by the producers to lure in this demographic and it seems to be working.


  • jaydog says:

    MMA marketing has mostly been geared toward a white fanbase thus far (my opinion) and I don’t guess there has been many complaints about it as moneymaking ploy that somehow diminishes the sport by intentional outreach. Hooters girls, Harley Davidson sponsorship, the ubiquitous nu-metal theme music. MMA has largely segregated itself and as the profits rise, that was bound to change as new markets have to be explored if growth is going to continue.

  • HexRei says:


    I don’t think that gearing an mma show toward the black community diminishes the sport in any way, in fact quite the opposite. I do question having these hip hop producers manage the fighters. What have they got to do with anything? They should be producing music for the show, not involved with managing the fighters’ careers.
    For what its worth, I always thought TapOut’s premise of backing a fighter for the show was pretty silly as well.
    I think it partially thrives off the fantasy that these musicians are somehow involved in the fight world and confuses the viewer about what it really takes to succeed in mma- training, experience, and dedication to the sport.

    I don’t think its the doom of the sport or anything but I wish it presented black viewers with a more intelligent and realistic picture.

  • jaydog says:

    Someone said early on in the show that he thought black athletes have been hesitant to jump into MMA. But he believed that once it becomes clear that there is decent money in the game (austensibly, the show would help convey that message), more African-Americans would get involved. That’s a pretty honest assessment. If the arrangement seems contrived, it’s for a pretty obvious and worthwhile purpose.

    I would say that the producer/rappers have gotten involved as sponsors. That means, building their names, branching out as entrepreneurs, encouraging a growth industry, an opportunity to look/act/talk tough, and possibly genuine interest in the combat sports. Personally, it all adds up. It’s not pretty and it’s not well produced, but I think all of the elements fit well together. Okay, except for one: Crazy Horse announced that one of his main qualifications to be an MMA coach is the fact that he’d never trained for a single one of his fights. That might make for interesting television, but it’s maybe just a little bit bad for the sport.

  • Zantetzuken says:

    Iron Ring is the biggest mistake since condoms.

  • Dan K. says:

    That show was so terrible!!! I would love to put my fist through T.I.’s teeth!! Show him how easily “touched” his “untouched face” would be. Does anyone know if that Nevell guy has any credentials for coaching other than watching old kung-fu movies on tv? He didn’t show one thing, other running his mouth, that would show he has any idea what he’s talking about. And Crazy horse as a coach???? A guy whos famous for saying he doesn’t train is going to instruct people how to train? Doesn’t make sense to me. IMO this is going to be a step back for the advancement of the sport as much as the IFL’s first broadcast bragging about a fighter leaving on a strecher. Especially since I remember people saying that they want fighters who will put opponents in the hospital.

    …Although it was funny to see Wes Simms trying out for the show. I wonder if we’ll see him illegally stomping on faces the way he did to Mir.

  • D says:

    Personally, I found the whole team owner concept a little demeaning. These guys know nothing about the sport, but yet they (and their entourage) get to reign over these fighters…like they own them.

    You get the feeling that these “owners” and their entourage are just interested in the finish and don’t really give a crap about the fight itself. Given the IFL’s stretcher gaffe (as mentioned by Dan K), it was really low-brow for the producer’s to leave the “who’ll be the first one leaving in the ambulance” line in.

    I really hate to use this stereotype, but I think that some rappers/entertainers bring it upon themselves through their music or just perceived image: To me, the Iron Ring had the feeling of a human dog fight. And, of course, I don’t mean the actual fighting (I love MMA), I’m talking about the way the fighters are trotted out in front of the owner and his entourage and then have to fight, basically for their amusement. That’s the honest feeling I got from watching the show.

    And trust me, I would have a similar feeling if Donald Trump tried to get into the MMA world with some celebrity MMA team owner BS…oh crap, what if I just gave him the idea!


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