CBS' MMA deal a mistake?

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 7:05 AM ET

It is being billed as a watershed moment for mixed martial arts.

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."

Fox Sports president Ed Goren says his company didn't pursue a relationship with mixed martial arts because, "We don't need money that badly."

WORTH A BILLION

Television exposure 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 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 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 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. -- Shaw and his crew have not only positioned themselves to bring MMA to a new level, they have also created the biggest challenge to the UFC's chokehold on the sport.


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