It is being billed as a watershed moment for the sport of mixed-martial arts.
Later this month, the uncomfortable marriage between the world's fastest growing bloodsport and mainstream TV will be consummated when CBS airs the first of four EliteXC fight cards.
But before the bell rings to officially launch the New Jersey-based fight club as the only legitimate competitor to the UFC's dominance over the sport, there is already second-guessing from CBS brass over whether such violence has a place on prime time TV.
CBS executive chairman Sumner Redstone told Hollywood Reporter this week that the agreement with EliteXC is probably a mistake and he was never consulted.
Careful not to criticize CBS president and CEO Les Moonves — who struck the deal earlier this year — Redstone told reporters “I don't like the sport.”
While Redstone was gentle in picking his words, Fox Sports president Ed Goren was more forthright. He says his company didn't pursue a relationship with mixed martial arts because, “We don’t need money that badly.”
Television exposure is what catapulted the UFC into a billion-dollar enterprise through its agreement with niche cable channel SPIKE and its reality show The Ultimate Fighter.
But the UFC has failed in its quest to ink a deal with a major network.
EliteXC — run by former New Jersey State Athletic Control Commission inspector and boxing promoter Gary Shaw — has already made a splash in the fight world by signing the sport's most popular female fighter in Gina Carano and its biggest freak show in Kevin 'Kimbo Slice' Ferguson.
It has a solid stable of fighters including former UFC scrappers Robbie Lawler, Phil Baroni and Frank Shamrock.
A shopping spree late last year also brought feeder fight clubs like the U.K.'s Cage Rage and MMA staple King of the Cage under the EliteXC umbrella.
By adding the CBS deal — which airs May 31 at 9 p.m. EST — Shaw and his crew have not only positioned themselves to bring mixed-martial arts to a new level, they have also created the biggest single challenge to the UFC's chokehold on the sport.