It's a gimmick as old as the fight game itself: An organization takes its up-and-coming talent and pits him against an aging superstar who boasts a big name but a waning skill set. A win tags the youngster as a legend-slayer, and just like that, a new star is born.
This is the narrative EliteXC is trying for with Saturday night's Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson-Ken Shamrock bout on CBS. The only problem is it's a main event that's three years too late.
Shamrock has already played this role. He served as the springboard for RichFranklin's career in 2005. His first-round TKO loss helped propel Franklin into a title shot, which then led to UFC stardom for the "Ace."
In other words, Shamrock played the role perfectly, but it's the type of performance that becomes difficult to repeat when the losses start piling up. The last time Shamrock had his hand raised in victory was in 2004, when he beat the sub-par Kimo Leopoldo. Since then, "The World's Most Dangerous Man" has lost five straight -- including the bout against Franklin -- and none of them made it out of the first round.
Though Shamrock's status as an MMA legend can never be taken away, no matter how he chooses to embarrass himself in the long twilight of his career, he is past the point of transferring that status on to others. Don't believe me? Just ask Robert "Buzz" Berry, the last man to knock out Shamrock. Buzz, the then-reputed legend-slayer lost his very next fight via TKO.
Yet, somehow, despite his age and losing streak, Shamrock finds himself in the main event of EliteXC: Heat. He takes on internet sensation Kimbo Slice, who has yet to face an opponent who is coming off a win. He's the most famous fighter who hasn't fought a credible opponent in his brief career.
This is your main event. Only in EliteXC, MMA's alternate universe.
The organization has put all its eggs into two baskets: Kimbo Slice and GinaCarano,who is (not coincidentally) taking on an opponent with a two-fight losing streak Saturday. The promotion seems to think that the only way to keep the ratings machines working is to match its fighters with hand-picked opponents. Rather than promoting those who have actually proved their worth in the cage, EliteXC would rather build celebrity first and skilled fighters second.
For all the people out there who want to see actual competitive fights, well, that's what the undercard is for, right?
The other three televised bouts are all intriguing. Andrei Arlovski and RoyNelson -- two heavyweights who could easily top either of the night's main event fighters -- clash in an Affliction co-promoted bout; Benji Radach meets Murilo "Ninja" Rua in a middleweight contender fight; and EliteXC welterweight champ Jake Shields takes on the UK's always-explosive Paul Daley.
EliteXC describes Saturday's prime-time showing as something for everyone. And it may be a big hit on network TV, getting people to talk like they were after Slice smashed James Thompson's bloated cauliflower ear in the first CBS offering. But it won't mean anything for Slice to beat Shamrock (and he almost assuredly will). The only thing Saturday's card will prove is EliteXC's abilities as a matchmaker for ratings.
Sorry, Kimbo. You're too late to the party. If you want to steal someone's legend status you're going to have to aim for one who is still at least somewhere in the same area code as his prime. That is, if EliteXC will allow you to take a fight that (dare I say) you actually stand a chance of losing. Gasp!