I’ve already shared some of my thoughts on Saturday’s EliteXC card in Newark as MMA made its network TV debut on CBS. In particular, I was impressed by Gina Carano and think that’s a strong meal ticket for EliteXC. So getting down to it, there was a lot of mixed reaction to the fights on Saturday night. Let’s start with the ratings. In Miami, it drew a 5.0; in LA it did a 4.7; nationally, it had a preliminary rating of 2.7 equating to 4.3 million viewers. Those figures are pretty strong, but let’s think about context here. How much competition for live entertainment is there on Saturday night? A live, novelty event like the EliteXC card should do well — and it did.
Alright, so that’s a solid number for MMA’s network TV debut. I was watching and excited to see how it would turn out. I consider myself someone who’s becoming a fan of the sport. But even as a newer fan of the sport, I think they could have done a better job setting up the fights and the telecast in general, a point well illustrated by Kevin Iole on Yahoo! Sports. I watched the WEC fights on Versus Sunday night just for a basis of comparison and came away thoroughly impressed by the quality of fights, and that’s my main issue. I really think MMA is a sport that sells itself — people like to see fighting and blood — and high quality fighting at that. Personalities are important, like a Gina Carano or a Kimbo Slice (he’d be worthless if he shaved), but I really think the fights on Saturday night should have been a lot better. And therein lies the issue.
The big problem as I now see things is that CBS has a deal with EliteXC, which is probably the weakest of the MMA groups. The best fighters as far as I can tell are in UFC, where many big names already exist. I’m pretty confident UFC on network TV would have done better than the EliteXC fights did. And if you want some more details, check out the comments on this post at FanHouse; they pretty well delineate the plight of the MMA fan. Additionally, I’m still surprised that CBS aired this type of programming. When I checked up Bloodsport and Kickboxer — two of my old-time Van Damme favorites — they each had R ratings. These EliteXC fights can’t be any different. So you’re really telling me that R-rated programming is on basic cable? I just hope elementary school kids and kindergarteners aren’t going around practicing submission holds on their classmates this week.