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EliteXC: What They Do Right, What They Do Wrong

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This criticism isn't necessarily a reflection of any one event, but more an amalgamation or larger picture about their product itself. One year in to their existence, a little reflection about the quality of their product is due. This is by no means exhaustive, but it does get the ball rolling. Please feel free to add either of your own.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH ELITE XC?

1. The weakness of their roster in terms of deep talent is partly a problem that's out of their hands anyway. So, it's too easy and clumsy to say any one division is not that strong. What I do criticize, though, is that no clear efforts seem underway to use the interesting weight categories to build any division. Efforts from EXC to build the heavyweight weightclass should be a given, so I'd like to see some work thrown behind the 160lbs. class. You now have Nick Diaz, K.J. Noons, Yves Edwards, Edson Berto and the always entertaining Charles Bennett in one class. That's a great starting point to find other free agent talent looking for the most optimal weightclass to coalesce under a relatively single umbrella.

2. Get a reality show. You have to give credit for leveraging a heavyweight outside of the top 20 in the world as a massive ticket draw, but the fact is the UFC has proved a reality show - even if the show itself is terrible - can still produce real, talented and marketable stars. A reality show for EXC has been rumored for months and months with nothing actually happening. As quality as the EXC product is, trying to string together interest with events as leveraging points yet only holding events months apart is not a winning strategy. I just don't think fans can be strung along like that with the UFC machine constantly on the march. They need more facetime for their product and fighters, they need brand identity and a reality show is a great way to do it.

3. Fire Bill Goldberg. Immediately. As much as Mauro's puns and similes can get a bit out of hand at times, he is the most competent play-by-play commentator in the business. Goldberg, on the other hand, offers no clear contribution to the commentating team. He's supposed to be a MMA Tony Kornheiser: the one who weaves a tale and offers a narrative about the action we are seeing. But Kornheiser is camera friendly, very bright and actually professorial to an extent. Goldberg, by contrast, doesn't give the impression that he's overly competent about the action. He also isn't that great at telling a tale. Worse, his professional wrestling background causes some awkward moments in conversation. He yells with joyous aggression at Brock Lesnar's K-1 win, engages in racially questionable banter live, and speaking of live, isn't great on camera. For all the criticism of Joe Rogan, the man is capable of cobbling together a few ideas without stuttering over his own words or carrying a though from brain to mouth. Goldberg is a big fan and supporter of the sport and his contributions are noteworthy. But if we are offering sober analysis, he adds little to the broadcast team and cheapens the professionalism of the Elite XC product.

4. No more dancing girls, no more rappers. Elite XC, no one cares about the rappers. No one cares about the girls. I know you think they do, but they don't. And when people who are accustomed to the UFC product watch your events for the first time, they are shocked at how low-end the appeal can be. All these bells and whistles make you different and memorable, but not in a way that motivates folks to give you a second look.

WHAT'S RIGHT WITH ELITE XC?

1. When it comes to building stars, they turn lemons into lemonade. Think about this: Elite XC has managed to convince people in a Zuffa-dominated era that a fighter who embraces his street background and isn't even in the top 20 of his peers is worthy of being seen on a main event. That is astounding. For all their faults, they have done a great job of building Kimbo Slice the right way. Event by event, fight by fight, they are building a fighter's skills by using marketable/beatable foils and getting him used to the spotlight. That is genius and going to pay dividends when Kimbo will be forced to fight serious contenders. Even if he losses at said date, he will have brought the company a number of folks across the Elite XC banner. As far as building other stars, perhaps they have not done as good a job. But they aren't doing poorly there either and Slice is enough of a star - for the moment - on which to hitch a wagon.

2. The televised product embraces more of the fight. Here's what I mean. Take the sound editing, for example. Elite XC, like Pride and not like the UFC, does a fantastic job of offering quality acoustics of the fight. This may sound minor, but it's not. Part of the appeal of being live is hearing the drama of the fight: the kicks landing on stomachs, the punches humming through the air and the fatigue of lungs burning for air. The sound of the fight is what gives fights their color, their polish. It's the ultimate form of blandishment. The UFC, and particularly BodogFIGHT, don't make this nearly the priority they should. Part of the reason may be the larger crowds drowning out that noise with their noise, but I don't think so. Elite XC finds angles to entertain however and wherever they can. Necessity is the mother of invention. This audio addition is welcome and a tip of the hat to Elite XC for realizing just how important this is.

3. The Showtime association is critical. I think the boxing audience is different at fundamental levels, but Showtime's rep as a legitimate banner for combat sports is for real. That automatically helps Elite XC's credibility and visibility. Showtime also knows how to market across demographics, particularly the hispanic community. Now, in the wake of the WEC show, this compliment may sound premature or off the mark. What I am saying is not that EXC does it better than anyone else, but they do make efforts to do both in their booking selections and marketing offerings. And, over the long term, just as the UFC is known as being at home on Spike, a smaller but similar relationship can be established between EXC and Showtime. Obviously a network deal would be better, but with a few adjustments this current arrangement can work.