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Todd Martin Hates Kimbo Slice

And for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.

Over at CBSSportsline, Todd Martin has an article that tries to make the case that EliteXC's signing of Kimbo Slice is a "bad gamble". Martin is correct insofar as signing Slice is a gamble and one that could potentially backfire, but his conclusions don't even follow from his premises in this piece. Let's go through his arguments and see where he comes up short.

To begin with, his fame is not as great as many seem to believe. He made his name in Internet message board forums based on online fights, but that community has never been large enough to make a major show profitable. The internet MMA community is small relative to the audience that watches EXC on Showtime, and miniscule relative to the broader UFC audience that EXC hopes to tap into. Slice's fight with Mercer ran on pay-per-view and generated very little interest even with the novelty of Slice's first sanctioned fight. Slice won't bring in a broad audience.

What are you talking about? Slice's fight did run on pay-per-view, that's true. But the fight was carried by a smaller, regional Northeast promotion in Cage Fury Fighting Championship. CFFC doesn't have the exposure or marketing powers of EXC or UFC. That being said, signing Kimbo Slice to fight Ray Mercer brought them, comparatively, enormous attention. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that Kimbo probably maximized the amount of media coverage due to CFFC. Martin's right in that the Internet community is small compared to the larger audience, but what EXC is banking on is Slice appealing to them as well. And that shouldn't be a problem. For all his shortcomings, being hugely marketable and an interesting MMA character is not one of them.

Slice made his reputation fighting street fighters, not well-conditioned MMA athletes. His most famous fight was against an out-of-shape police officer named Sean Gannon, and he lost. Gannon later received a UFC fight on the basis of that win, and he was demolished in the first round by a low-level opponent. Gannon's failure doesn't bode well for Slice.

Todd, this is a distortion of the facts and you know it. First, Gannon isn't "an out-of-shape police officer"; he's a professional MMA fighter who trains at the highly-respected Sityodtong Academy. He's also a reasonably accomplished grappler. Gannon is not a UFC-caliber fighter, but  he's not untrained and out of shape. He also has something important: an iron chin and willingness to scrap. Gannon's chin is nothing short of absurd. Not only was Kimbo unable to put him away (although he rocked him several times), but so was his UFC opponent Brendan Lee Hinkle. And Hinkle - a very accomplished wrestler - didn't trade on the feet with Gannon; he took him down, passed to half guard and unleashed elbows. The referee had to stop the fight, but at no point was Gannon even bordering on unconscious. Technically, then, Slice did more to challenge Gannon's chin.

Secondly, you shouldn't doubt Kimbo's power or boxing. I personally know people who were at the Slice - Gannon fight and they've told me that beyond Gannon's face getting destroyed, he's suffered permanent damage as a result of the bout. Read that again: permanent damage. I believe the quote is "He just hasn't been the same since." Gannon's chin is his own worst enemy and Kimbo proved it. Virtually any other person would've been KO'ed with the shots Kimbo was throwing. Who knows what Bo Cantrell has in store for Kimbo, but he's proven he can be dropped. If anyone can tap Cantrell's chin, it's Kimbo. I'll add that Kimbo's boxing certainly needs work, but I would say that without formal training his footwork, trunk movement, and combinations are respectable. He's got a long way to go before he's going to be competitive with elite heavyweights, but at least Rutten and Tompkins have material to work with.

This leads into the final problem with signing Slice. Even if Slice proves he can fight, promoting him could backfire on EXC. Slice is best known for getting into unsanctioned and illegal street fights. MMA has spent over a decade trying to combat that image. It was that stereotype that got MMA kicked off pay-per-view and banned in many states.

EXC looks sleazy to fans and outsiders alike for promoting a man who made his reputation in street fights. That could in turn hurt the company's ability to run in new venues, attract corporate sponsors and generate greater mainstream coverage of its events.

This argument is just tired, boilerplate nonsense. To begin with, BJ Penn also got his start in street fights, he just didn't document them on YouTube. What's the difference now, Todd? Street fights may carry legal penalties that make them prohibitively stupid, but they aren't the worst thing in the world. And the fact is that so many of today's MMA fighters have a checkered past as it relates to brawling on the block. Instead of paying attention to his past, what you should be paying attention to is his present. The fact is he abandoned street fighting for legal, sanctioned, professional combat athletics. That's highly commendable and speaks to Slice's priorities and values.

And I've said this before, but people seem to forget. American Top Team's Jorge Masvidal also fought on the street - while he was fighting MMA - and no one seems bothered by it. I have no beef with Masvidal just as I have no beef with Kimbo. For street fighters, they were decent sportsmen. But if you're going to criticize Kimbo, I'd like the same attacks levied against Masvidal. In fact, you can make a stronger argument against Masvidal given his double dipping. Slice is a higher profile name, but if you're concerned with crimes and bad images, there's plenty of blame to go around.

Lastly, in terms of Kimbo being a bust for EXC, I'm not sure I follow you there. Either he's well-known outside the Internet MMA community or he's not. If he is, then yes, a potential KO loss to Cantrell would be devastating. But you've said yourself he isn't, so what's the problem? Certainly it's not a good thing if Kimbo losses and EXC would stand to suffer from a defeat, but because Kimbo is still a relative unknown a few losses doesn't really damage EXC in the long run. By contrast, Chuck Liddell losing a third time - say by KO - would be since he's very well known and faces strong expectations.

Todd's a good writer and does his homework, I just think he's off base here. Understanding and liking Kimbo is admittedly an acquired taste, but once you make the conversion you begin to see all the attacks and arguments against him were little more than sound and fury, signifying nothing.