East Coast Pimpin’

With CBS’s imprimatur, EliteXC has been kicking it old school this week with West and East Coast press conferences. To provide the insider reportage unavailable to couch-bound Canadian bloggers, Fightlinker employed (a term I use loosely) Esther Lin to provide her thoughtful, delightful, and insightful play-by-play of the Los Angeles presser in two – here’s uno y deuce — parts.

The very next day Jake encouraged me to toss a few bon mots Fighterlinker’s way whenever my muse was aroused. “This way you can totally pimp your next book on MMA,” he said, by which I assumed he meant: “We won’t be paying you.” Usually, I ignore all write-for-free requests but since the Fightlinker boys so kindly sheltered my drunken self during my northern UFC83 trip and then gave me the bestest birthday present of all time, how could I refuse?

Alas, I lack a smidgen of originality, as proven by my current zeitgeist quest to ride the MMA wave, so the only thing I could think of was to write up a play-by-play of EliteXC’s New York presser. Be warned: what it lacks in thoughtfulness and delightfulness, it does not make up for in insightfulness.

Too much knowledge is a terrible thing.

For example and for comparison and contrast sake, Esther opened her LA account by saying that she loves established media company press conferences because it is tightly scheduled and fully catered. “Everyone, even the fighters, gather around the pastries and juices.”

Pastries?!

I arrived at the Times Square bar at 2pm to discover celery, lettuce, and watermelons. The “open bar” was only for water or soda. Even with my pleading, I was unable to buy a real drink. It was worse than an Evangelical white trash wedding.

Speaking of which, I dipped celery and ranch dressing with Matt Hughes, who I’m guessing was there in support of Robbie Lawler. My intention to ask him about that was confounded by the first conversational-starter that popped into my brain: “I read your book.” But then I realized I would have to follow up with “I enjoyed it” and the lengthening of my nose might break the time-space continuum.

Fortune of fortunes, the trainer of Kimbo and all-around MMA-media-macher Bas Rutten was nearby. I reintroduced myself.

“Ah, the writer,” he said with that huge, welcoming grin of his.

Oh, how I love Bas Rutten! Let me count the ways!

First, there was El Guapo’s Pride commentary, which redeemed so many unredeemable fights. And then there was his latest gig as the motion-capture fighter for Grand Theft Auto 4. If only his timing and film career had been slightly better, he’d be governor of California today. We shook hands, and Master Rutten wandered off to bond with Kim Couture, who was, for the first time I’ve seen at a press event, on her own.

Around this moment, the lights dimmed for EliteXC’s video montage.

Every major promotion has a package like this. Far be it for someone as lowly as me to be critical but their pitch did suffer from certain inherent deficiencies. For one, Kimbo’s total time in an MMA ring is one minute and two seconds. For seconds, EliteXC’s only proprietary video of Phil Baroni was his devastating loss to Frank Shamrock. Thus, the video was edited oh-so carefully to only show the moments when he was doing well. The fact that Frank was also on-site, only added to the dramatic irony. But more on that in a moment-

Once the video was down and the lights were up, EliteXC Big Boss Gary Shaw was holding onto the podium like a member of Tony Soprano’s crew choking a rat and holding forth like Don King without the Shakespearean quotes. After thanking everyone at CBS and EliteXC to the point that I was begging for an Oscar orchestra to signal him off, Shaw introduced the CBS EliteXC announcers.

Of slight interest was the fact that Mauro Ranallo was the only survivor of the Showtime team. He used his moment to give a shout-out to Bas Rutten for making his career possible. It was like Dr. Phil thanking Oprah.

Of more interest was MMA-expert commentator Frank Shamrock who closed his remarks by saying that he still had a few good years left in him and then dramatically turned to stare at Phil Baroni. This caused the first few ripples in a largely somnolent press corp. Was Frank calling Baroni out? Didn’t he already beat him? Shouldn’t he be calling out Cung Le? If he plans on reliving past victories, will he fight Tito Ortiz?

To recapture the moment, the Big Boss Gary Shaw went on to overwhelmingly introduce fighters who overwhelmingly had nothing to say. Despite some game but failing efforts by the challengers, the EliteXC stars were monotone. Nobody in the press expected Robbie Lawler to wax poetic. I’ve watched him spend an entire dinner with close, personal friends and not say a word. But to see a closed-mouth Phil Baroni was almost like an insult. And when Gina Carano clipped and feathered her remarks with a fine sheen that nearly matched her high-priced coiffure, the reporter standing next to me said, “And she wants to be a Hollywood star?”

For the rest of the formal session, it was the Gary Shaw Show. Quick shorthand: he hates Dana White (“I got CBS, nahnahnahnaa”), and Kimbo is this generation’s Mike Tyson (“We won’t be doing face-offs,” Shaw said, “Because that’s something Kimbo’s switch won’t work with.”)

After a series of sad and perfunctory questions that would have done the White House press pool proud, the NYC MMA media was released to do what they really wanted to do and that was get one-on-one video of themselves interviewing either Kimbo (the masses) or Gina (the rest). I find this kind of scrum slightly embarrassing. So I held back to see what would come of it.

Kaitlin Young broke free and headed for the appetizer remains.

In an effort to shade off the fan boys who had collected around her looking for pictures I raised my voice and said, “So! After this week you must be tired of all the media!”

“No, I don’t mind it.” Kaitlin responded in her southern Minnesotan accent. “It’s just the repetition. It gets a little boring. They keep asking the same questions.”

“Which are?”

“Well, they keep asking, ‘How’s training?’ as if I’d say, ‘Oh, it’s terrible.”

“And the others?”

“They ask: ‘What’s it like being a female fighter?” And then they always ask, ‘Is Gina going to make weight?’”

At this point a very vigorous EliteXC handler motioned me to the side. And I must say he had a point. The poor girl had only wanted a celery stalk. It was time for the big show.

  • http://www.combatlifestyle.com esther

    Whee! That was fun. Thanks. I wish we would have met though, since I was shooting in the line of cameramen at the front of that … balcony thing. Reading your eloquent writeup, I can feel my vocabulary dissolving and embarrassing me.

  • Ben F

    Polly, you son of a bitch. That was indeed an eloquent write-up, though I have to think that if you’d been able to finagle a “real drink” it might have come out, I don’t know, livelier. And by that I mean your day would have ended at Central Booking. What a shame.

  • ninjitsu

    Good to see more posts from the FL community. Thanks for the write-up :)

  • http://flyingguardpass.blogspot.com garth

    Matt, I finished American Shaolin last week, what a blast! Thanks for a great read there, and here. I’m looking forward to the next one.

    Ominous sign: My 15 year old daughter read some of your book and is all jacked up about it. I skared.

  • http://www.mattpolly.com Matthew Polly

    Esther, I would have loved to meet except I was there pretending to be a photographer for Black Belt (slightly true) and my puny camera and awful photos would have dissolved and embarrassed me. Perhaps, I’ll see you at Saturday nights event, if I haven’t already been banned.

    And as Ben F knows, the sly dog, I should be banned from all MMA events, because one never knows where the Irish curse will lead. Often to central booking. But I prefer to think of it as the IFL curse. And once I hit bottom I therefore swore off all IFL events.

    And to Garth, all I can say is as I kowtow over my keyboard is: “So sorry, sorry, sorry about your daughter.” My work on this earth may not always be for the impressionable. Please tell her for me to stay in school. A good education is a terrible thing to waste. And I should know. On the other hand, I’m very happy you enjoyed the first book, because odds are the next one is going to suck.

  • Elfenstein

    very nice article – i like it

  • http://flyingguardpass.blogspot.com garth

    right now i’m worried about that sneaky little boyfriend of hers. i remember clearly being a teenage boy. thus my worries.

  • Ben F

    Don’t sweat it Polly. The exact same tendency toward overindulgence has landed me in Central Booking before. That’s where I learned that not only can they hold you for up to three days before arraigning you, but you can also take your shoes off and use them as a pillow!

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