EliteXC “Primetime” Tix Sales Strong

By Loretta Hunt May 16, 2008
EliteXC "Primetime" seems to be living up to its name.

Ticket sales for the historic May 31 event on CBS have reached the 5,000 mark, according to the Prudential Center's box office in Newark, N.J., with a boost anticipated in the final two weeks leading up to showtime.

With additional tallies expected from a strong contingent of local fighters on the undercard, New Jersey Athletic Control Board Deputy Attorney General Nick Lembo estimates the show is on track to becoming the second highest paid-attendance MMA event in the Garden State to date.

UFC 78 "Validation," held last November at the same venue, drew 11,828 paid attendees and earned $2,101,360 in live gate receipts, according to figures released by Zuffa. A Cage Fury Fighting Championships event attracted 7,138 paid attendees to the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. in June 2007.

In a teleconference held Thursday, EliteXC Live Events President Gary Shaw confirmed the newly-built Prudential Center is currently configured to hold 12,000 spectators on May 31.

Local draws like Nick Serra, brother of former UFC welterweight champion Matt, and former New York Jets offensive guard and All-American wrestler Carlton Haselrig, as well as circuit fighters like middleweight Chris Liguori (Pictures) and bantamweight Zach Makovsky, could draw another 3,000 spectators, estimates Lembo. Many of these athletes are selling tickets on their own through family, friends, and their gyms.

"The one factor that might affect live attendance numbers would be the event's ready availability on broadcast television," said Lembo.

"Primetime" is the first of four EliteXC events scheduled for CBS's Saturday night slot in 2008, and could be watched by millions gauging past ratings in that time slot.

Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, and the curiosity surrounding his rise from Internet tough guy to bona fide MMA athlete, is expected to draw fresh viewers previously unfamiliar with the sport formerly relegated to cable television.

Ferguson's starring role has not come without criticism.

UFC president Dana White, who was in negotiations earlier this year to air the UFC on CBS before EliteXC nabbed the coveted spot, has been unfavorable of the network's choice to use the 2-0 fighter.

"To have CBS, a big network like that, move forward with a guy like Kimbo Slice headlining it - there's no secret, that's what I tried to stay away from," said White during a teleconference on Thursday touting UFC 84 "Ill Will" on May 24. "Kimbo Slice isn't a mixed martial artist. This guy was fighting in your backyard three months ago, and now he's going to be headlining on CBS. Personally, I think it sucks."

EliteXC's Shaw was quick to defend Ferguson, along with the remaining May 31 roster, which includes a handful of athletes that have fought in the UFC before.

"In the UFC, nobody can be bigger than Dana White and the UFC," said Shaw. "In EliteXC, everyone can be bigger than Gary Shaw, at least not in the waistline, but in notoriety and [they] can be bigger than our brand. It's supposed to be about the athletes."

If it is all about the athletes, EliteXC has done its best to pick and choose them to cater to fans' preferences. All five main card bouts on May 31 feature strikers, including a quartet of middleweights who all relish in the stand-up game.

Scott Smith, who will challenge EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler (Pictures) for his title, goes by the moniker "Hands of Steel" for a reason. Eleven of his thirteen victories have come from knockout or TKO.

"There's no secret to my game," said Smith during Thursday's teleconference. "I'm not going out there to try to out-point him. Every combo I throw is going to try and finish the fight. If I land a clean shot, I can knock anyone out."

Smith, whose past performances have graced more than a few highlight reels, voiced strong sentiment regarding the gravity of his role on May 31. It was shared by his opponent Lawler, as well as fellow middleweights Phil Baroni (Pictures) and Joey Villasenor (Pictures), who will face off in a featured bout.

"Every time I talk to people that watch an MMA fight for the first time, they get hooked instantly. People just don't always want to buy it on pay-per-view," said Smith. "This is going to be on free television. We're going get millions of people watching this that may have never watched MMA before and they're going to be hooked. We're going to get a lot of new fans, and I'm honored to be a part of it."
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