There has been much said, post-fight, about EliteXC: Primetime’s main event between Kimbo Slice and James Thompson. The majority of which surrounds fight-fixing conspiracies, premature stoppages, phantom taps, why Kimbo will never be a top 10 heavyweight and how terrible it was that that fight was the main event on MMA’s first network card.
Much of the criticism levelled at the main attraction pre-fight was that Kimbo Slice was undeserving of the role of ambassador for mainstream mixed martial arts because of his lack of experience and his backyard brawling background and that the fight would be just be an early first round knockout and would be more about showcasing Slice than it was MMA.
A quick first round knockout wasn’t what we saw on Saturday night though and I for one am glad that I got to see 10 minutes and 38 seconds of back and forth MMA action instead. Granted, the fight wasn’t filled with the cleanest of exchanges and grappling transitions but in my opinion it was a lot better viewing than the much predicted alternative.
If Slice/Thompson went as everyone expected it to go then MMA’s first foray into the world of network television would of come across to the novice viewer as just sloppy kickboxing with the occasional tackle.
The hardest part, I think, of introducing MMA to the uneducated public is getting the public to understand the intricacies of the ground game. If MMA is going to have any sort of staying power or longevity as a mainstream sport it needs an educated fan base. You can only dish up less than technical stand-up war after stand-up war for so long until the product becomes stale and in my opinion what gives MMA its lure is the contrast between the intensity and power of the stand up and the technical and tactical battle of the ground. Surprisingly, Kimbo/Thompson probably ended up helping the education of the newer audience in the details of the ground more so than any other possible fight could.
Like it or not, the overwhelming majority of people that tuned in yesterday that haven’t watched an MMA event most likely did so in order to watch Kimbo Slice. Now if you had only very limited knowledge about MMA beforehand and were only tuning in to watch Kimbo Slice you would be very eager and interested to learn what was going on when Thompson was on top of Kimbo. The commentators did a good job of explaining what Kimbo needed to do in order to get out of the bad situations he found himself in and what James Thompson was trying to do. For an MMA newcomer and Kimbo fan that would resonate more deeply than it would if it were two BJJ blackbelts rolling in the main event.
With any luck that fight planted seeds in the minds of many newcomers so that the next time they stumble upon an event they will be able to see and recognise those positions and will be able to get more insight and enjoyment out of that fight/event.