Posted by Bill Thompson on February 17th, 2008
By: Bill Thompson
EXC wants to be taken seriously, they want to be viewed as an equal to the UFC. A part of being taken seriously is that you have to appear to be serious. Being a rather big promotion like EXC is I am sure that somewhere along the line the memo that stated this fact was lost. Should EXC be taken seriously, or are they nothing more than a freak show promotion? I believe they should be taken seriously, but a quick poll of MMA fans will show myself to be in the minority on this issue. There are a few minor ways that EXC can change this stigma and make it so that they are a promotion that the MMA world feels should be taken seriously.
I admittedly am not a big fan of production one way or the other. I am a straight fights kind of guy. I could care less about video packages, dancers, or flashy lights and sound systems. All I care about are the fights and whether they entertain me or not. But, this is another case where I am in the minority when it comes to MMA fans. MMA fans don’t just want fights, but rather they want the fights presented to them in a nice package with a pretty bow on top. One of the common complaints I hear about EXC is that their production is second rate. This should not be the case in any way. They are a major business that is supported by a high level cable company in Showtime. If their presentation is coming across as cheesy to most fans then they should be able to figure this out and easily rectify the problem. Settle down the video packages a bit. Don’t focus on the fighters street cred or how tough they are, but rather who they are as fighters and why we as fans should care about them as a fighter. Make sure the dancers can actually dance and don’t just grind away in the corner like bad strippers. Amp the sound system up and use better music, and get rid of the dime show rappers. Hire better camera operators so that the fights are better showcased. All of these things will lead to a more professional looking show and will appease a lot of MMA fans.
Another big complaint, and one that I share, is the announcing. MMA companies as whole don’t have much to offer in the way of announcers. Bodog for its first couple of seasons had some very good announcing and the WEC has Frank Mir doing a tremendous job in the booth. Outside of those examples MMA is filled with bad announcing, and EXC is possibly the worst of the lot. Mauro Renallo spends the entire broadcast unleashing hyperbolic statement after hyperbolic statement and sounds like a fool while doing so. He never sounds like he knows what he is talking about and that is because he usually doesn’t. Stephen Quadros has taken his “Fight Professor” gimmick as far as it will take him. People don’t buy into his act anymore, because with each passing show he comes across as more and more incompetent. He contradicts himself on a minute by minute basis and does a terrible job of conveying what is taking place in the fight. That leaves us with Bill Goldberg, an announcer so bad that he makes me yearn for the days of Damon Perry in Pride. Now only does Goldberg not know the a material or have any legitimate background in either announcing or MMA, but he isn’t smart in any way. He comes across as a Neanderthal in his announcing style. He constantly stutters over his words and forgets what he is talking about while at the same time wildly exclaiming that fights are over because fighter A happens to have hit a glancing leg kick. EXC has the resources to make their announcing better and there is no reason for them not to do so. They brought in boxing regular Al Bernstein for one show, and in that one show he was leagues better than their regular cast. His MMA knowledge needs to improve, and it would with time, but most importantly he brought a sense of professionalism and ease to the cast. When Bernstein was announcing I felt drawn into the fight, he let me know what was going on and asked the pertinent questions. He did this while sounding and acting like a professional, something that should be a must for a professional announcer. EXC can and should use Bernstein again, or they can find some other professionals. Whatever path they choose would be better than the current crew they have announcing and would help their production level quite a bit.
Finally we have the issue of their fighters. On this I am once again in the minority as I have no problem with any of the fighters that EXC has used to this point. They have used some very talented guys as well as young rookies and experienced vets. I feel they have used a great mixture of talent to showcase the fighters that they really want to stand out. Their booking has been first class, but since the rest of the MMA community doesn’t seem to agree with this their execution must be off. The perfect6 example of this would be their current fighter du jour, Kimbo Slice. EXC feels that Slice, real name Kevin Ferguson, is their meal ticket. They believe he is a massive draw that is also the real deal as a fighter. He has fought twice for EXC, and both fights have been dubious in nature and haven’t shown much about Kimbo as a fighter. They may be potential there, or Kimbo may simply be too old and not good enough to matter. At this stage we don’t know and we have no reason to care. All Kimbo is at this point is a freakshow, someone to ogle at. That may make EXC some money in the short term, although the current numbers do not support this stance, but will it do anything for the company long term? Instead of presenting Kimbo as a freakshow street fighter EXC should be showcasing Kimbo as a former street fighter that has refined his skills and actually dedicated himself to the sport of MMA as he appears to have done. Showcasing Kimbo as the freakshow street thug does nothing to help his image as a fighter or the image of EXC as a promotion. This is another issue that they can easily get around, and there is no reason that EXC shouldn’t be able to. Promote your fighters as the athletes that they are, and let them swim or sink based on those merits. Allow them to appear professional and something that the fans can get behind.
EXC is a promotion that I believe has a chance to be something. They have the resources at their disposal to be big, they have the money, and they have the talent. At this point it’s all about EXC convincing the people that aren’t all about the fight like I am that they can be something bigger. If they are willing to take that step then they may have a chance. However if they continue to promote like they currently are then they will most likely fall to the wayside. Last night I had four MMA fans tell me that they are now done with EXC and have no intentions of watching another of their shows. Four may not seem like a lot, but those numbers will continue to grow unless EXC makes some changes. If they want a future in this sport EXCF needs to see this, and soon.