Apparently, knocking out Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson wasn't enough of a headline grabber for Seth Petruzelli this past Saturday.
On Monday, the replacement for Ken Shamrock at EliteXC: Heat on CBS attempted to stir the media even more by insinuating that EliteXC made it financially beneficial for him stand and trade with the weak-grappling Slice.
Some interpreted Petruzelli's interview on 104.1 FM in Orlando, Fla., to mean EliteXC paid him so Slice, the promotion's biggest meal ticket, would survive with his reputation intact. Results would seem to dispute Petruzelli's claim, but under sudden and heavy criticism, the 27-year-old immediately backtracked from comments he said came at "7 o'clock on my most hung-over morning ever."
Even if Petruzelli wasn't as clearheaded as he would have liked, his basic premise of "It was worth my while to try and stand up and punch" held true. When he decided to ignore a 29-pound weight disadvantage between himself and Slice, Petruzelli signed a written bout agreement that guaranteed knockout bonus.
"People are just twisting it to have some crazy story out of it," he said Tuesday. "What I was insinuating by wanting to stand up was they offered money for a knockout -- and I just wanted to get a knockout so I could get extra money."
Petruzelli (10-4) said he received an additional $20,000 to $30,000 for the short right hand that snapped Slice's jaw after 14 seconds into the main-event fight. While EliteXC Fight Operations Chief, Jeremy Lappen, declined to discuss a dollar amount, he confirmed the presence of a guaranteed knockout bonus in Petruzelli's revised fight contract, which also included a higher purse for the trouble of fighting Slice.
Unlike the UFC's lucrative performance-based bonus structure awarded after each event for the best knockout, submission and fight, Lappen said a third to a half of all bout agreements offered by EliteXC come with an assured knockout clause.
"We're just trying to create exciting fights," Lappen said, doing some spinning of his own. "Fast-paced energy fights. It's just something we've always done."
EliteXC, it seems, does not view submissions, widely thought of as the most technical aspect of MMA, as an overly important portion of an exciting fight.
"We don't give submission bonuses," Lappen said. But Petruzelli "knew a knockout bonus was possible before the fight."
A year ago, Petruzelli would have hardly imagined a scenario that paid him to fight on prime-time television. A self-described "part-time fighter" over his eight-year career, Petruzelli made it to the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter 2 before losing to close friend Brad Imes. Petruzelli returned to the UFC and lost on points to Matt Hamill in October 2006. Nearly six months later against WilsonGouveia, Petruzelli lost by guillotine choke.
UFC officials had seen enough. Despite six fights remaining on the deal he had signed upon joining the T.U.F. 2 cast, Petruzelli was cut from the organization. The heavyweight --the small heavyweight -- was "falling short" of his expectations.
"That's why I opened my smoothie business," said Petruzelli, who owns two Smoothie King franchises near Orlando. "I wanted to have something as a backup for fighting."
And after the Smoothie King dropped the "King of the Street Brawlers?"
"Now that this just happened," he said, "it's turned more into a full-time career for me, I guess."
With a new gym (Jungle MMA) opening this week, Petruzelli said he's excited for the future. Whether that includes a rematch against Slice is anyone's guess at this point.
"When I mentioned it a couple times, Kimbo didn't look like he wanted that," said Petruzelli, who his mulling over a return to the heavyweight division after making the light heavyweight limit for a bout with Aaron Rosa on Saturday.
Neither Slice nor Petruzelli will fight again for EliteXC before the start of 2009. But judging from Saturday's "unbelievable" ratings, which, according to CBS, topped college football and Major League Baseball divisional playoffs among adults 18-34 and men 18-49, Lappen said his company would continue to heavily promote Slice.
"The fact that he lost, I think, will make people interested in what his story will become from here," Lappen said. "What's next? I still think he's a compelling character and the main event is who people want to see fight the most. I think he can still fit that bill."
If not, if Slice falls again, EliteXC will look to fighters like Petruzelli to emerge. For someone who has toiled on the lower levels, who briefly tasted the top tier, that is welcome news.