Josh Gross
Monday May 5th, 2008

Having quickly overcome Chuck Liddell's badly torn hamstring and the second lost main event for June 7 in London, the Ultimate Fighting Championship can sit back and await its next pay-per-view attraction, UFC 84, in Las Vegas, knowing it's booked solid back-to-back cards.

Other mixed martial arts promotions, however, are not as fortunate or able to plug in Matt Hughes and Thiago Alves on short notice when things go awry.

Last week it was revealed Drew Fickett, who was set to fight Jake Shields for the vacant EliteXC welterweight belt, had been forced out of the June 14 Showtime-televised clash with a badly injured knee. The question now for the Kimbo Slice-led promotion is what to do with Shields, who is coming off an injury that prevented a bout with Fickett on March 29.

Step one starts Monday, when Shields plans to test his bad back for the first time with hard training and sparring. If healthy, Shields said he'd like to remain on the upcoming Hawaii EliteXC card, even if it's not a title bout.

"I'm pretty sure I'll be fine," the 29-year-old Shields said. "I'm hoping they'll get me a fight in June. If not, they said September, and I don't want to go that long without fighting. That's just way too much ring rust."

According to EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw, the fighter's June wish has been noted.

"My plan right now, as you and I speak, is to fight him on June 14," Shaw said. "The question is, can we get him the right opponent?"

If the search poses trouble, Shields' bout could be moved to September -- not July -- because Shaw is contemplating holding off on a second CBS event until the end of summer. With television sweeps in effect, Shaw said the Sept. 13 or 20 would be the likely date for the card. The status of July's card will be determined in the next two weeks.

Shields (20-4-1) last fought in November of 2007, earning a submission victory over Mike Pyle.

No names were mentioned, but EliteXC is looking for worthy title challengers, possibly from outside the organization.

The on-again, off-again saga of Shinya Aoki's status in the Dream lightweight tournament appears to be on. Again.

Following his enthralling decision nod over Gesias "JZ" Calvancante in Tokyo on April 29, Dream promoter Fight Entertainment Group planned on a quick turnaround for the Japanese submission wizard. Calvancante's rough-and-tumble style, punctuated by a series of heavy shots to Aoki's head, has forced the Japanese fighter out of the second round of the 155-pound tournament set for May 11.

Uncertain as to Aoki's status in the immediate aftermath of the Calvancante bout, Dream set about finding a short-notice replacement. Grappler Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro was tabbed, however, the Brazilian's inability to secure a visa into Japan prevented his participation, sources tell SI.com.

While Aoki (15-2, 1 NC) still requires medical clearance from his doctors in order to compete on the fourth Dream card (June 15 in Yokohama), it's expected that the multi-divisional fighter should make his return against Katsuhiko Nagata (4-2).

He may have made them in passing last Wednesday during a panel discussion on the sports industry at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, but Viacom and CBS chairman Sumner Redstone's criticisms of MMA didn't go unnoticed.

During a radio tour last week to promote the historic May 31 MMA card, Shaw was asked about Redstone's comments on six of the eight shows on which the CBS exec appeared.

"I thought it was an off-the-cuff remark," Shaw said. "I don't think he meant it as it came because Sumner Redstone owns Spike TV."

Spike TV, of course, is the television home of the UFC. One could argue that the success of the UFC on Spike led directly to CBS becoming the first major broadcast network to carry MMA live in prime time. So, ironically enough, Redstone, whose personal fortune was estimated at $9 billion by Forbes in 2007, may have had an unwitting hand in the rise of, what he coined, "socially irresponsible" programming on terrestrial TV.

"I think we need to just do a much better job of educating," said Shaw, "and I don't think Sumner understands the magnitude of what he said."

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