Before Elite XC's debut show on CBS I was legitimately nervous. I woke up on May 31 thinking about how extremely important the coming evening was for the sport that I love. Unfortunately I went to bed nervous that night as well, worried about how harmful the Kimbo Slice/James Thompson fight would be.
Regardless of the main event though, the show had to be considered a success. Viewership was great and bottom line...that is all that really matters in network TV. Obviously Elite XC was ready to push its next show through the roof. The decision was made to come back with a July show knowing it meant no Gina Carano and no Kimbo Slice.
Due to the war between Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith ending in a no contest and both men being willing to make the fairly quick turnaround for a rematch EXC had a ready-made main event. The big problem though is that Lawler/Smith, while a very entertaining scrap, was probably the third most memorable fight of the first CBS show behind Carano/Young and Slice/Thompson. Also, Lawler and Smith don't have the explosive personality of Slice or the mainstream appeal of Carano.
The plan seemed to be to throw Nick Diaz on the show to represent a bit more of the personality side of things. But, where has the marketing push been with him? Why haven't I seen more from EXC pushing the "bad boy of MMA" image? American sports fans love to follow the bad boy, and seeing him against a guy who is able to trade verbal jabs with him in the pre-fight interviews should have made for great commercial appeal. Jake Shields and Nick Thompson isn't exactly a casual fan dream fight and if it turns into Shields working positional control for 5 rounds it could kill the broadcast. And say what you will about Shayna Baszler vs. Cristiane Cyborg and how good of a fight it could be, but a women's fight can't carry the marketing of a show.
Now it seems like the Shaws can't be bothered to be at the press conference...you know...the final chance for a real marketing push.
So tonight we get to see how MMA does on network TV with no "mainstream stars" and a very weak marketing push. Is MMA a strong enough draw as a sport alone that it can pull meaningful ratings without the UFC banner or a Kimbo slice level attraction for the curious?
That is what is important about EXC on CBS tonight. We're getting a glimpse at where the sport of MMA sits in the minds of the American public. And if this show fails, we could easily be seeing the beginning of the EXC's fall from a level that they managed to climb to a mere 57 days earlier.