Petruzelli/Kimbo Fight Officially Under Investigation

Written by Tom Ngo
October 10th, 2008

The nightmare for EliteXC continues in the wake of Seth Petruzelli’s upset win over Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson on their Saturday night “Heat” event on CBS. Oddly enough it isn’t the loss that their most popular fighter suffered that is causing the promotion trouble, it is what Petruzelli said two days after his fight that has the company under investigation by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Hours before accepting the fight against Kimbo as a last minute replacement, Petruzelli stated that EliteXC management offered him additional “bonus” money if he were to make sure that his fight against the street fighting legend remained a stand up affair.

“The promoters kind of hinted to me, and they gave me the money to stand and trade with him. They didn’t want me to take him down, let’s just put it that way,” Petruzelli stated Monday on the “Monsters in the Morning Show” on 104.1 FM in Orlando, Florida.

As soon as EliteXC brass caught wind of Peruzelli’s statement, they vehemently denied any wrongdoing, suggesting Petruzelli misunderstood the “bonuses” that they were offering him.

“Absolutely not,” EliteXC Vice President Jared Shaw, who was present when the “bonuses” were discussed, told MMAWeekly.com about the allegations. “Whether that was something Seth was taken out of context or Seth was trying to say something different, I don’t know. What I can tell you, I was in the locker room with Seth with the contract; that did not happen.”

Late afternoon on Monday, Petruzelli seemed to retract his initial statement, perhaps after EliteXC management got a hold of the fighter. However, their stories still weren’t consistent.

“What was meant to be said was that I wanted to keep the fight standing for myself because I knew that was what the crowd, the promoters, and everyone wanted to see because that’s more exciting than just taking someone to the ground,” Petruzelli told FiveOunceofPain. “That was my thing only. I wanted to keep it exciting, so I decided to keep it standing. It had nothing to do with anybody else. That was all me.”

The “bonuses” that were discusses with Petruzelli are the typical fight bonuses that larger promotions, including the UFC, hand out to their fighters based on their performance for the night.

“Yes,” Petruzelli told FiveOuncesOfPain regarding the bonuses. “There were Submission bonuses, Knockout bonuses, and a “Fight of the Night” bonus — just like the UFC does it. They just want an exciting fight no matter where it goes.”

However, what got people questioning the “bonuses” discussed where the contradictions of what kinds of bonuses EliteXC actually offers. EliteXC head of fight operations, Jeremy Lappen’s aren’t the same ones that Petruzelli mentioned.

“We don’t give Submission bonuses,” Lappen told SI.com. “(But Petruzelli) knew a Knockout bonus was possible before the fight.”

What raises more eyebrows is that Benji Radach, who was defeated Murilo “Ninja” Rua earlier in the night, stated that he had never heard of EliteXC ever offering fighters any kind of fight bonuses.

“No, not at all,” Radach said, when asked whether EliteXC officials ever mentioned Knockout, Submission, or Fight of the Night bonuses, before or after the event. “I wish there was a bonus because I think my fight was really exciting, maybe fight of the night or knockout of the night. But nope, I never heard anything.”

The situation seemed to be deing down, as it seemed to be nothing more than just a “misunderstanding.” That was until late Thursday evening when the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which oversees the Florida State Boxing Commission, decided to open up an investigation to make sure the truth is brought to light.

“While the Department of Business and Professional Regulation doesn’t have any reason to believe there was a problem with the Slice-Petruzelli fight, given the interest in it, the Department has begun a preliminary investigation to thoroughly review the circumstances of the fight,” Jennifer Meale, Communications Director for the DBPR, told ESPN.com.

A person that had little interest in Saturday night’s event, but a major interest in MMA as a whole, is UFC President Dana White. Although he was probably doing cartwheels when he saw his rival company’s prize fighter get knocked out in 14 seconds, the aftermath that is tainting what he has spent the last decade trying to prevent is what has him upset.

“This is how it hurts [the UFC]; it hurts our mainstream growth,” White told ESPN.com. “The people who aren’t hardcore fans … ask me ‘Oh, you have that Kimbo Slice guy.’ And I have to say no, ‘I don’t have Kimbo Slice.’ I would never bring Kimbo Slice into my organization.”

The significance of the alleged “bonus” completely compromised the integrity of fight, and MMA in general. White went into detail on how bad this could be for the sport if Petruzelli’s initial statements are found to be true.

“The Mandalay Bay and Venetian [casinos] took bets on that fight,” White stated. “If you’re a fan of mixed martial arts and you sit down and do all the stats and you’re like ‘man, if this thing goes to the ground, Seth Petruzelli can win this fight, I’m gonna bet on Seth Petruzelli.’

“Then you don’t know the promoters are paying the guy and saying ‘don’t go to the ground?’ That’s criminal. If that was in Las Vegas and the Nevada Athletic Commission had put that fight on, the FBI would be investigating them right now.”

Over the past few years, MMA has been the fastest growing sport in the world, and a controversy like this could set the sport back significantly. It will be interesting to see what unfolds. Hopefully nothing.

(Photo Courtesy of Tom Casino/EliteXC/CBS)

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