Monday, September 15, 2008

Swinging for the fences

Ken Shamrock is a legend in the world of mixed martial arts.

He also happens to be on the downside of a long, productive career. At 44 years old, the former King of Pancrase champion and UFC Superfight titlist hasn't been competitive since a 2004 win against Kimo Leopoldo. In the ensuing years, Shamrock has suffered humiliating losses to his nemesis Tito Ortiz, former middleweight king Rich Franklin and most recently, journeyman Robert Berry.

That didn't stop EliteXC from hanging its collective hopes on Shamrock and green heavyweight star Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, however. Shamrock will meet the YouTube sensation in the main event of the company's next show on CBS on October 4 from the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.

The prize? Perhaps the future of EliteXC.

After an impressive debut, featuring the company's two biggest stars, Slice and Gina Carano, scored the largest television ratings in MMA history, EliteXC's follow-up show, without the services of its two big drawing cards, tanked, leaving CBS rethinking its future with MMA and EliteXC.

So, who better to draw a rating than the man who was in the most-watched North American MMA match of all-time against the man who was in the most-watched MMA match ever on cable television?

The Slice vs. James Thompson CBS match on May 31 scored an impressive 4.1 rating and 6.51 million viewers. Meanwhile, the October 10, 2006, Shamrock vs. Ortiz match on Spike TV had 5.7 million viewers and a monstrous 9.7 rating among the desirable Male 25-34 demographic.

Of course, EliteXC also hand-picked Shamrock as Slice's opponent to try and rehabilitate the slugger after his lackluster performance against Thompson. Since Shamrock has lost five straight fights by first round knockout or TKO, you can bet the company has visions of a highlight reel knockout for Kimbo. But, they haven't let Shamrock in on it.

"I want to apologize for my last couple of performances in MMA," Shamrock said during a recent conference call. "On October 4 I will shut everybody up. I can sit here and explain to you all day long what I'm going to do differently and how I'm going to do this and how I'm going to do that, but it's irrelevant.

"What matters to me is that I get into the ring and I get it done. And that's going to be the difference. In any of the other fights I've gone into, the attitude I have, no matter what happens from here on out, I'm going to go in there and get it done."

Slice seemed less than rattled with the newly focused Shamrock.

"I just hope Ken trains his ass off because I'm coming to fight and I'm coming on to win and he's old," Kimbo said. "The way I train, and me and my camp, losing is not an option and he's really gonna have to be Superman if he wants to beat me."

Shamrock brings far more star power to the table than anyone else EliteXC could match up with Slice. Unless, that is, the company (which is running deeply in the red) felt like dropping seven figures to secure the services of an Ortiz. Shamrock, thanks to a stint in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment, is also one of the best hype-men in all of MMA.

But, as far as the match goes, things may get ugly quickly. Shamrock's chin is gone and his conditioning has always been suspect, even when he was on top of the sport. Meanwhile, his once-vaunted submission skills haven't surfaced in years.

Shamrock, much like EliteXC in making the fight, will be swinging for the fences.

"I'm gonna go for everything, because in my opinion from everything that I saw of Kimbo - the only time he's ever knocked anybody out is when they started to get tired," Shamrock said.

"I don't respect his power, I don't respect his grappling ability and I'm gonna go in there and I'm gonna whip his ass. Whether it's a punch or whether it's a throw or lock or submission, it don't matter to me, because whatever is there I'm gonna take."

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