There were several theories that floated around after the demise of EliteXC as to why the once thriving company closed its doors in 2008, shortly after its final CBS show in October, and a loss by their most marketed fighter, Kimbo Slice. But was Kimbo to blame for the company's downfall or simply a catalyst to draw the end closer?
According to former EliteXC vice president Jared Shaw, Kimbo was in an impossibly tough position with his place in the company, with the fans, and with the MMA industry in general.
Shaw says that there were much bigger problems going on at EliteXC that had nothing to do with Kimbo or his short notice loss to Seth Petruzelli that served as the promotion's last televised show.
"Do I think the Kimbo's loss was the demise of the company like it's being portrayed? Absolutely, 100 percent, no," Shaw said. "What I do think the Kimbo loss did was probably throw away any last ditch efforts of CBS acquiring the company, or having enough money to hang on to get another buyer to come in. But I knew for a while that this company was done. When I spoke to you guys and said I'm clearing a runway in September for El Paso to get to October, no, that's not it at all. We just couldn't put on the show."
Kimbo Slice was publicized as the face of EliteXC, and Shaw admits that he stepped up to defend the fighter on more than one occasion because they knew the pressure they had steeped on him with virtually no experience in MMA stepping into the cage for them.
"I stick up for him a lot because we put so much weight on his shoulders because we had to, we needed a face. No, we didn't expect him to be the world champion. We knew if he fought the kind of fighters that were at that level that his chances of winning were probably slimmer," said Shaw. "But you've got to throw somebody up there as the best in the world, because you've got to put a face on the company. And that's not to say he can't become one of the best fighters in the world, cause he's an athlete, he has talent, but that was the situation we were up against."
Regardless of the situation, Shaw maintains that Kimbo was definitely a viable commodity, and could have been a top fighter one day if he had been given more time to succeed.
"He didn't have a chance to succeed with the fans, with the fighters, that's what he was going to be up against," Shaw stated. "I still think he can beat Petruzelli. I feel like he would have beaten (Ken) Shamrock. I don't think he had the best camp then, but you know things happen and for whatever reason, Kimbo's MMA journey with EliteXC, it ended right there."
There was no denying that Kimbo's crossover appeal to the mainstream brought him to the forefront of EliteXC's marketing, and Shaw compares his appeal to a very popular TV show that has received equal criticism from music industry insiders for the way it vaults newcomers into the spotlight over seasoned veterans.
"Whatever (Kimbo) did, he got 12 million viewers on YouTube," Shaw commented. "Whatever these 'American Idol' kids do, I don't care where they come from, or that there's better singers than them, at the end of the day, guess what? They've got 36 million people voting for them. So they're somebody now. And that's just the way unfortunately the game works."
Currently, Kimbo Slice is not scheduled to make a return to MMA anytime soon, although Strikeforce president Scott Coker has made several comments about using the fighter in a future show. There have also been rumors that the YouTube sensation could make a move into the boxing world in the near future, as well.