MMA's network debut mocks true sport

It sounded like such a good idea when the news broke a few months ago that CBS would broadcast a series of mixed martial arts cards in prime time.

But after watching its effort on Saturday's Elite XC show from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., the good news might be if CBS opts not to do another show.

These were supposed to be the professionals who would show the amateurs at the Ultimate Fighting Championship, who do their own production, how it's supposed to be done.

And while neophyte play-by-play man Gus Johnson acquitted himself well and analysts Mauro Ranallo and Frank Shamrock didn't embarrass themselves, the broadcast dragged on interminably.

There was more chatting than "The Tonight Show." Fighters were introduced as they made long, slow walks to the cage, then were introduced again once they hit the cage. Given that the show went 45 minutes over its allotted time, what do you want to bet the ring walks will be eliminated if there is another show on CBS?

For some reason, particularly early in the broadcast, CBS chose to use its overhead camera to repeatedly show Elite XC's skanky-looking cheerleaders doing nothing more than shaking their butts.

This wouldn't have been so bad had there actually been a fight on the air every now and then. But after the show had been on the air for 32 minutes, there had been 61 seconds of actual fighting. When it was 70 minutes into the show, there had been just 2:12 of fighting.

The whole show was built around Kimbo Slice, the Internet-generated star whose street fights made him into something of a mythical figure in the sport before he'd ever faced a serious opponent.

Slice's name and face was everywhere in the days and weeks leading up to the bout. Considering the way this dragged on, though, you have to wonder how many folks were still awake when the bell rang to begin Slice's bout with James Thompson at 11:27 p.m. ET, nearly a full half-hour after the show was supposed to have been over.

While it was mostly C-level talent on display, the fighters by and large held up their end of the bargain. Brett Rogers delivered a one-punch knockout of one-time Syracuse linebacker Jon Murphy in just 1:01 in the first fight of the night.

After glorifying loutish middleweight Phil Baroni as some sort of star – ignoring the fact he'd lost three of his last four and was just a decidedly mediocre 10-9 coming in – CBS looked bad when he was knocked out in 1:11 by Joe Villasenor.

The next two bouts were sensational. Gina Carano outslugged Kaitlin Young after two rounds and middleweights Robbie Lawler and Scott Smith went at it fiercely until Smith was inadvertently poked in the eye in the third, forcing a premature end to their middleweight title bout.

The main event showcased two mediocre fighters in mediocre condition, though after listening to Johnson, Ranallo and Shamrock, you'd have thought we were watching the MMA equivalent of Ali-Frazier.

Have no doubt about this: Slice would be destroyed by any legitimate mixed martial artist. Had Slice faced ex-WWE champion Brock Lesnar, the current UFC rookie hopeful, he'd have been beaten in less than two minutes.

As it was, Slice struggled his way to a sloppy third-round knockout of a complete tomato can.

You can't blame Slice, because he had no business being in a main event of a mixed martial arts bout at this stage of his progression. It takes years of training and sacrifice to reach the main event in MMA and Slice was only there because of the notoriety he'd gained in his YouTube street brawls.

It was kind of ironic that at the show's opening, Shamrock said with a straight face, "You won't find them fighting in a bar and you won't find them fighting in the street."


Well, this card featured a guy (Baroni) who fights in bars and another who made his name by fighting in the streets.

CBS should have known better.

The fans deserved better.

The sport deserved better.

The CBS folks ought to take a look at the WEC card on the cable network Versus on Sunday to see how an MMA show is supposed to be put together. They'll learn from watching that show how to introduce the viewers to the fighters but not drag the show on like a book that goes on 200 pages too long.

They'll see quality fights between trained and competitive MMA fighters.

Hopefully, CBS didn't manage to turn off a large segment to the country to what is a classic and compelling sport.

There's no question, though, that CBS didn't do MMA any favors Saturday.