Of Novelty Acts and Endurance

The story according to A.C. Nielsen’s overnight ratings:

  • EliteXC Saturday Night Fights (CBS): 2.7
  • Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4 (NBC): 2.6

So mixed martial arts is more popular than hockey now, right? Not with a single data point, it’s not. If some accounts of the main event, matching blanket-hyped internet sensation Kimbo Slice against James “Colossal Tomato Can” Thompson, are to be believed, the fix might have been in. I neither watched nor recorded the fight. (I prefer boxing. I’m old school like that.) That puts me in no position to judge the impact of Saturday night’s ratings matchup.

I’ll let the long term make its own case.

If the mainstream sports media is any indicator, MMA’s prospects weren’t helped by EliteXC’s show. At 1:15 PM today, here’s how some prominent MSM sports web sites are covering MMA on their front pages:

  • espn.com: The regular ESPN The Magazine cover story link, since last week’s cover was Kimbo Slice. Mixed Martial Arts is hidden under the “More +” menu item.
  • si.com: A link under The Scorecard entitled “TOO MUCH HYPE: Kimbo Slice is doing MMA a disservice”, and the regular “MMA & Boxing” menu item.
  • sports.yahoo.com: A link to the Dan Wetzel column I linked above, and the regular MMA menu item.
  • foxsports.com: An analysis of the Slice/Thompson fight, well down the page, and the regular MMA menu item.
  • sportingnews.com: Nothing. Not even a menu item for MMA.
  • tsn.ca: No story. MMA is a sub-entry under “Other”, but it doesn’t appear on the front page. (But there is a refreshing amount of European soccer news!)
  • sportsline.com: No story! That’s right, CBS Sports’ website has nothing about the event they aired Saturday night on today’s front page. Just a lonely little MMA menu item.

Clearly, CBS and EliteXC have done MMA fans no favors with this little experiment. I don’t think anybody was looking for a “big bang” opening in the first place, not when Saturday night is a ratings graveyard. But not so much of a graveyard that the NHL couldn’t improve its ratings over last year’s Game 4.

There’s still hope for MMA. I’ve seen enough WEC while waiting for hockey games on Versus to know that there are better-run organizations than EliteXC out there. Let’s face it, though. Cauliflower ear is no way to make a first impression.

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