The controversy as to whether ProElite and EliteXC officials offered a bonus to Seth Petruzelli this past Saturday not to take Kimbo Slice to the ground continues, as both Petruzelli and EliteXC Head of Fight Operations Jeremy Lappen have made contradictory statements.
During an exclusive interview with Five Ounces of Pain conducted on Tuesday, Petruzelli, the former UFC fighter who scored an improbable victory over Slice as a last-minute replacement after Ken Shamrock was medically disqualified from competing, said that while he was offered a knockout bonus, he was also offered a submission bonus and “Fight of the Night” bonus of equal value.
“Yes,” Petruzelli responded when asked if he was also offered a submission bonus in addition to the knockout bonus. “There were submission bonuses, knockout bonuses, and a ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus — just like the UFC does it. They just want an exciting fight no matter where it goes.”
Apparently it isn’t just “like the UFC does it” because in an interview with SI.com’s Josh Gross, Lappen said the complete opposite.
“We don’t give submission bonuses,” SI quoted Lappen. “(But Petruzelli) knew a knockout bonus was possible before the fight.”
Not only did Lappen contradict Petruzelli’s words, it appears he may have contradicted his own. On Wednesday night, EliteXC issued a press release in which Lappen said that it did not influence Petruzelli’s strategy in any way.
“Seth Petruzelli was offered a fee to fight Kimbo Slice, plus a knockout bonus, a common practice throughout the industry,” Lappen is quoted as saying in the release. “EliteXC organizes and promotes fights. We have not…do not…and will not suggest or dictate fighters’ strategies or tactics. How the fighters perform in the cage is at the sole discretion of the athletes involved…”
EliteXC officials and Petruzelli have remained consistent in their claims that nobody was issued an edict to keep the fight standing. However, one has to question Lappen’s assertion in last night’s press release in which he’s quoted as saying “We have not… do not… and will not suggest or dictate fighters’ strategies or tactics.”
Depending on your point of view, the fact that EliteXC offers a bonus to some fighters for knocking his or her opponent out without offering an equal bonus for a submission is in a way dictating a fighter’s strategy through the potential of financial remuneration.
EliteXC’s policy in this regard is a rather uneasy one in that it clearly benefits those that come from a striking background and one could make a strong argument that it discriminates against fighters who come from a background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
All major sports offer performance incentives to athletes. It’s not uncommon for a power hitter to get receive a bonus if he hits a certain number of home runs. If a quarterback throws a certain amount of touchdown passes, he too may be offered a performance-based incentive. The athlete is receiving a bonus to perform in an area that is an acknowledged strength. If EliteXC wants to play to the standup exploits of a fighter, they should also compensate those such as Jake Shields and Wilson Reis who excel on the ground. Perhaps they already offer the two a submission bonus, but what if they do not? For a company trying to make the claim that the name of the sport is “mixed martial arts” and not “UFC,” they should remain true to the nature of the sport and not favor one style of fighting over another.
Since many bonuses to a fighter do not have to be disclosed to a commission, a promotion should not be left to their own devices in this regard. Commissions across the country should mandate that all promotions that offer a knockout bonus to a fighter must also offer a bonus for a fight that ends in submission that is of equal value.
For the sake of the sport, the practice that EliteXC is executing of awarding knockout bonuses to select fighters without also offering them a submission bonus is one that is unacceptable and indefensible and violates many of the fundamental principles that the sport was founded on.