The big Kimbo gamble

JOSE RODRIGUEZ

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

It doesn't take a degree in economics to figure out that few are willing to pay for something they can get free.

"Ticket sales are at about 7,000 right now," says EliteXC president Gary Shaw of tonight's fight card at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.

The card, featuring a main event between Kevin '"Kimbo Slice" Ferguson and James "The Colossus" Thompson, will make history as the first mixed martial arts card to be broadcast on a major network during prime time.

"I think we have done such a spectacular job talking about CBS that it is almost like people want to stay home and watch it on CBS and have a party."

The arena can hold 19,500 for concerts and barring an unprecedented walk-up sale, there will be plenty of empty seats.

Shaw is hopeful the gamble to take a hit at the gate to build his fight club's name will pay dividends down the road.

The upstart organization, admittedly losing money, is in for the long haul, says Shaw.

EliteXC is banking on the CBS show turning their stable of fighters into household names.

YouTube fighting sensation Kimbo Slice -- who made his name taking on all comers in bare-knuckle backyard fights shown on the Internet -- is key to the company's success, says Shaw.

"There are great basketball players, but nothing like Michael Jordan. There are great golfers, but nothing like Tiger Woods. Every once in a while there is someone who crosses over that line to a superstar," explains Shaw.

"Well, Kimbo Slice is a superstar. He is probably the most recognizable name in all of MMA. (Tonight), when he gets in the cage, he will be the single most known face of MMA."

HEAVY BURDEN

It's a heavy burden to put on a fighter with only two pro fights on his record, who has never had to prove his ground skills in a bout.

Slice, a former porn set bodyguard, has been training with MMA legend Bas Rutten and at Randy Couture's gym in Las Vegas.

He says his newfound mainstream celebrity has changed his life -- especially when he is in training for a fight.

"There's no drugs, no smoking, there's no drinking and there's no sex.

"And that's some serious commitment," says the Miami native.

"I'm fighting for a reason. I'm fighting for my family. I'm fighting for myself. I'm fighting to never go back to the gutter again."

Slice says he's been learning the ground game.

"I'm not just in there slugging it out," he explained in a recent conference call.

"It's a chess game. I've learned to use my brain. I can drink a cup of water and also write something and watch TV and read a book. I'm versatile now. I'm no longer one-dimensional."

Tonight's card will also feature "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler taking on Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith in a middleweight championship fight and American Gladiators star Gina "Conviction" Carano will fight Kaitlin Young.

The fights hit the airwaves at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.


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