The Spectacle That Could Have Been and the Spectacle That Could Still Be: Kimbo Slice, James Toney, and Herschel Walker

Kimbo's bags are packed, where is he headed?

Dave Meltzer in the latest Wrestling Observer (subscription required) discusses Kimbo Slice and his future:

Kimbo Slice, the biggest television ratings draw in history, lost to Matt Mitrione, and was then released the same night.
...

As for Slice, he was ground and pounded into defeat by Matt Mitrione. Slice was the second most popular fighter on the show (hometown fighter Patrick Cote got a deafening response). Make no mistake about it, he could still draw to a degree if put on a live Spike show. On PPV is a different animal. There is something that Slice has that few fighters have. People just like him, whether he wins or loses. But if he can't beat Mitrione, the reality is, he probably can't beat anyone in UFC. He didn't want to fight James Toney, who he possibly could have beaten in a fight that would have meant something. And his knees are shot and he doesn't know how to defend low kicks, which is a bad combination. The high price tag was also a factor.

Still, Slice vs. Herschel Walker, if put on CBS in the fall, has a good chance to be the most watched MMA fight ever on U.S. television and the door is open for Strikeforce. Of course, it's still a freak show fight that doesn't build the needed new stars and those kind of fights don't build the brand. But it may save the promotion if the CBS deal is hanging by a thread.

This is the first I've heard of Kimbo declining to fight James Toney, although I certainly don't doubt Meltzer's reporting. Honestly, booking Kimbo as the third-billed fight on a PPV card against Matt Mitrione was pretty nearly promotional malpractice.

I kind of admire Dana White's decision to cut Slice. As Luke pointed out, Dana White's decision to cut Kimbo Slice sends a loud and clear message that the UFC is more focused on sport than spectacle. Over the long haul, that's good brand building.

Nevertheless, that doesn't change the fact that a James Toney vs Kimbo Slice fight would have been a huge national media draw and would have done banner PPV business. Missing that kind of opportunity is just foolish. Especially when there's no pretense that James Toney is anything but a freak show signing for the UFC. And imagine this -- what if they pushed a Kimbo vs Toney fight via a season of TUF? Don't tell me that wouldn't have drawn ratings and tons of free media attention.

Especially as Meltzer points out that the biggest advantage boxing has over the UFC is the free media attention it garners:

Quite frankly, one of the reasons the "big" boxing match with Mayweather or Pacquiao do so well is because they get tons more media coverage than even the biggest UFC, because the media generally has a lag time behind something getting popular when it comes to judging public interest and importance in a subject.

Which brings us to a potential Kimbo Slice vs Herschel Walker fight. Sure that fight has absolutely no serious sporting significance. But so what. Fights like that are what draw in the casual eyeballs and the revenue that subsidize the serious fights that don't draw enough interest on their own.

Herschel Walker's first MMA fight for Strikeforce already outpaced anything else they've done -- including Fedor's network debut -- in terms of media coverage. 

And if Coker doesn't want to sully himself with Slice vs Walker, he could always book Slice against Bobby Lashley. Surely Lashley would take that fight. And beating Kimbo Slice would certainly get Lashley over with the general public.

If Scott Coker isn't savvy enough to book Slice vs Walker or Lashley, he really ought to hand in his promoter's license. 

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