Joshua Robinson of the New York Times has an article on the MMA blog pushback on the ending of the Kimbo v. Thompson fight in Saturday's CBS/Elite XC primetime debut.
More than 8,000 fans headed to Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday to witness a milestone for mixed martial arts: a series of fights shown on live network television in prime time.
What they got was a controversial stoppage by the referee Dan Miragliotta in the main event, a decision that handed the wildly popular Kimbo Slice a victory in a fight he was losing.
Boos filled the arena. At the time, 38 seconds into the third of three scheduled rounds, two of the three judges’ scorecards had Slice down on points to James Thompson. The third judge split the first two rounds. Almost immediately, the sport’s fans made their opinions and suspicions heard on the Internet.
“Way to go ‘Dirty Dan’ Miragliotta!” read one post on mmajunkie.com. “What were your instructions? If Kimbo doesn’t get knocked out, make sure he wins the fight?”
Another added, “This is the beginning of the end of M.M.A.”
As far as mainstream press articles on blogger reactions to any sort of news, this one's actually pretty good.
Eric Shapiro, a blogger on mmafrenzy.com, suggested that the referee might have been instructed to step in before anything “too gory or morally horrifying could happen,” to protect the sensibilities of a new audience. But Shaw said Miragliotta had been under no such orders. Lembo said the primary interest was to protect the fighters.
“If it lasted two more punches,” he said, “I might have been here defending the decision to let it go long enough for one of the fighters to get hurt.”
Gary Shaw's point is fairly indisputable. Had the fight continued and someone been hurt, he would be forced by the traditional press, likely sporting and non-sporting, to defend those extra few shots. There's no argument that can be made today that Mirgliotta wasn't consistently protecting fighters at a very high level (save Kimbo from 22 straight elbows to his head). The Times doesn't touch on the outcomes of the Lawler/Smith or the Carano/Young stoppages, nor the quick though justifiable stoppages when Baroni and Murphy went down.
That said, any time the level outcry over of officiating rises to the point that the Times covers it, you know something isn't right in Denmark. EliteXC is in a bind here. They face angry fans (like me) who are at least skeptical of the decision making in the five main card fights. But alternatively, they would be facing an even wider call of anti-MMA journalists and moralizers had these fights not ended how and when they did.
Also of note is Gary Shaw's insistence that a Kimbo loss wouldn't have been that big a deal for EliteXC:
But Shaw insisted that a Slice defeat would not have stunted the organizers’ overall strategy. “He’s just one of the marketing pushes,” he said. “The next show, I could be investing in someone else. Kimbo may have lost some fans, but people will still come to see him — some to see him get beat and others to cheer him on.”
Right. EliteXC built their mainstream brand around a novice fighter and the thought of him losing doesn't greatly impact their overall strategy? That only reinforces my poor impression of the EliteXC marketing model.