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Xplode Fight Series owner responds to 'Soccer Mom' KO viral video aired on ESPN

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An Xplode Fight Series KO went viral on the internet and made its way to ESPN. Faced with criticism, XFS owner Gregg Sharp responds to the "haters".

Readers of Bloody Elbow may be familiar with Xplode Fight Series from our 2014 article on their history of questionable matchmaking practices, most notably involving former UFC fighter Dashon Johnson. The unsanctioned Valley Center, California promotion is back in the news but this time it has nothing to do with a UFC signing.

Six months ago, Team Hurricane Awesome's Ilima-Lei McFarlane made her professional debut (after a 5-0 amateur record with 4 of them in XFS) against the 0-2 Katie Castro, whose previous fights ended in a combined 54 seconds. As you can see in the video at the top of the page, this one didn't last long and Castro looked like she's never stepped foot in an MMA gym in her life. The video made its rounds throughout the web-o-sphere before eventually finding its way to a June 5th episode of ESPN's Highly Questionable debate show hosted by Bomani Jones and Dan Le Batard.

As you may expect, for the hilarity this KO brought to the casual observer, there was some backlash over what was a very obvious mismatch involving a woman who looked like she was literally picked out of the crowd at random. XFS owner Gregg Sharp spoke with Collateral Damage MMA on the subject, defending the booking as well as addressing the "haters" of his self-regulated organization.

I actually thought this would have been a bigger deal 6 months ago the way we seem to have so many "FANS" out there, but I am not naive in the fact that sooner or later a hater or two would jump on to our YouTube account and make something of nothing.

[...]

Let’s strip the names and gender away and take an objective look around the world of MMA… A 0-0 fighter debuted against a 0-2 fighter and the knockout was vicious. Does this not happen on every level of MMA short of the UFC? Of course it does. Now let’s add back the players real slow and see why there is nothing wrong with the equation and we can look across the board at promotions and sanctioned events all the way up to the big leagues and see that having a fill-in opponent happens quite a bit. Ilima Macfarlance who makes her Pro debut is a terrific amateur fighter, Katie Castro who at the time is 0-2 is a not so terrific fighter, but a willing and game competitor…Ilima’s opponent pulls out, she has family that has flown in from Hawaii and across the country and we all have a decision to make. It’s a cold evening so the fighters are wearing a top and bottom Katie unfortunately did not have a politically correct top/bottom for the viewers out there, hence the term Soccer Mom but, she is agreeable to step in last minute. Do we look to make a fight happen with the resource that is available or do we cancel the fight…

First person we ask is her Trainer is he accepts the fight, then we ask Katie if she accepts the fight. We then get her pre fight with the doctor, wrapped up and they fight. Ilima wins by knocking Katie out and that is it. If we were not in San Diego, no one would care. If we did not have tons of talent that has come through our show no one would care. But in the end 6 months later and now everyone cares.

Bold emphasis is mine.

By the way, the story of MacFarlane's opponent pulling out at the last minute and instead facing a woefully overmatched substitute sounds like an awfully familiar story, doesn't it? This is Sharp's explanation for Dashon Johnson rematching a then winless Jordan Delano, complete with their regular occurrences of emergency fill-ins:

He’s a physical beast and sometimes opponents get scared and pull out at the last minute. Come fight night and an opponent doesn’t show up, we have to make a decision. Dashon’s last two opponents were Ben Khoshaba and Fabian Diaz. Check the fight posters if you really want to go on a witch hunt! Both of them pulled for reasons other than injury. The list of fighters we had agreements with to fill in and then drop within both events time frames, is a who’s who of camps and fighters in San Diego. All say yes, then a week later they all bow out. Is that fair to Dashon?

[...]

So what do you want XFS to do for a fighter that made the commitment? Do we cancel a guy’s fight after he put the work in a 2 month training camp, tirelessly marketed his fight, and sold tickets to his fans? Or do we get someone to fill in last minute? Will they be champions of the world who fill in? No. It’s not fair to stack the deck against a fighter who did his part by training and is ready to compete, to throw a high level competitor against him that he knows nothing about. I have seen that scenario so many times it makes me sick. Fairness is the key to success, not stroking the promoter’s ego. I feel what we do is a fair and decent call. We try to put in guys who are scrappy, competitive, and will go for the knockout.

Last week, we had 7 guys pull out between the weigh-ins and the fights. What is the solution? There is none. You cannot teach or practice heart. So, we bring in fighters who fill in last minute.

Circling back to MacFarlane and her Team Hurricane Awesome affiliation, the San Diego gym -- fronted by UFC women's bantamweight contender Liz Carmouche -- has its own history of having its prospects and established veterans compete in Xplode. MacFarlane's amateur opponents in XFS are a combined 1-9. Former UFC bantamweights Walel Watson and Alex Soto fought a combined 3 times in XFS following their respective releases, and went 3-0 against opposition currently with a combined record of 0-26. Christine Stanley (4-1) had a pair of Xplode fights, including a 5 second spinning kick KO, but neither of her opponents has a win to their names. Prior to joining MMA Lab, UFC featherweight Mike De La Torre lost to Kris Armbrister (now 10-8) before TKOing the presently 1-16 Jordan Delano.

Hopefully MacFarlane's future professional fights won't be under these types of circumstances as she builds her career as a promising MMA bantamweight prospect.