Ben Fowlkes
Friday August 22nd, 2008

Dana White loves to say that running a major mixed martial arts organization isn't as easy it looks -- that's the typical self-congratulatory rhetoric we've become accustomed to from the outspoken UFC president. But White surely is the king of easy in comparison to the Elite XC, a recently tumbling promotion that has become the prodigy of making it look hard -- really hard.

It's been an especially tough week for Elite XC and their parent company, ProElite. The once-promising upstart is now nearly $55 million in debt, squabbling with its lightweight champ and doing everything in its power to keep its biggest draw, Kimbo Slice, out of truly competitive bouts.

In short, Elite XC is making the least out of what it has, which is especially disappointing when part of what they've got is a network TV deal.

There are some parts of the MMA business that a promoter can't control. Dealing with fussy athletes like K.J. Noons (not to mention his manager, Mark Dion) who wants to hand pick his opponents rather than face all challengers, is one of them.

Noons apparently balked at the idea of defending his Elite XC lightweight title in a rematch with Nick Diaz on the shaky logic that he didn't have anything to gain by facing a name fighter on network TV. The champ flatly refused to meet Elite XC's vaguely threatening ultimatum on the matter and Diaz, instead, asked for DREAM standout Eddie Alvarez.

That takes a lot of gall when you consider Noons has only nine pro fights under his belt. But then again, Elite XC handled the situation in perhaps the worst way imaginable, by airing its grievances in the press with the hopes that "public opinion" would compel Noons to take the fight.

So far, it doesn't seem to be working. And, as the Elite XC may soon realize, calling its champion a coward will alienate both its fighters and fans, even if it get what it wants in the short term.

It's a similar story with Elite XC's handling of their most valuable commodity, Kimbo Slice. Instead of putting him in a ready-made rivalry match with undefeated up-and-comer Brett Rogers on their next CBS offering, the organization seems intent on finding someone a little more -- to put this kindly -- beatable.

How else can you justify trying to sign an aging fighter on a long losing streak like Ken Shamrock (or a non-fighter, like Sean Gannon) as an opponent? Gannon is said to have since been ruled out -- but only because his asking price was too high, not because the fight makes no sense outside of a misguided attempt to bring YouTube quality fights to network television.

These are the things Elite XC can control. Matchmaking, marketing and dealing with fighters -- even the troublesome ones -- are the things any promotion needs to excel at if they are to survive. Not only has Elite XC stumbled through this difficult territory, it's obstinately refused to learn from past mistakes.

While White may claim it's easy, no one really believes that running an MMA organization is a painless endeavor. But Elite XC has taken it to extreme. The promotion had better figure things out soon, though, because second chances are hard to come by in the fight business.

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