Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Looking back at EliteXC's debut event

By Pramit Mohapatra

At first glance, the mixed martial arts (MMA) action Feb. 10 at the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss., seemed similar to what fans have grown accustomed to over the last few years. The fights were held in a venue near a strip of casinos. The combatants fought in a cage. Brandon Vera and the City Boxing crew were spotted at the fighters' hotel and the arena. Quinton Jackson was seen walking through press row, chatting it up, choice beverage in hand. VIPs dotted the arena, including former Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George and TV talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel. Veteran referees Herb Dean and Steve Mazzagatti officiated the main events. And the night ended with a controversial Herb Dean-refereed match involving a Shamrock.

But a second glance revealed some differences -- subtle and not-so-subtle – compared to what some MMA fans have gotten used to from a steady diet of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in recent years. First, there was the fire-breathing dragon's head through which all the fighters entered the arena. Then there were the dancing women -- a lot of dancing women -- who seemed to change wardrobes as often as an emcee at the Oscars. The cage was more circular than the UFC's familiar Octagon. And while the City Boxing camp was in the arena to support one of its own, it was not UFC heavyweight Vera but fellow training mate KJ Noons fighting on this night. And the Shamrock embroiled in controversy was not Ken, but younger brother Frank.

Thus began the journey of Elite Xtreme Combat (EliteXC) -- the newest league on the mixed martial arts landscape. What follows are some notes on EliteXC's debut event.

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