Since Monday, ProElite been forced to answer questions about whether or not it paid Seth Petruzelli to avoid taking Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson to the ground. First, Petruzelli said he was paid, then he "clarified" his statements, claiming he was given an incentive for a knockout.
Petruzelli would have been offered the same knockout clause(for far less than the $20,000 to $30,000 he received for dropping Slice) against Aaron Rosa, the light heavyweight Petruzelli was set to fight on the non-televised undercard. Rosa, a wrestler and sparring partner for Tito Ortiz, was also in line for a knockout bonus had the fight not been cancelled.
Rosa's manager, Monte Cox, is one of three veteran MMA negotiators who confirmed to SI.com that ProElite regularly offers knockout, finish and submission bonuses. The others -- Ed Soares and Cesar Gracie -- suggested guaranteed bonuses are standard fare, though the figure Petruzelli said he earned was significantly more than what the company tends to shell out. Meanwhile, MMA Agents boss Ken Pavia said he hadn't negotiated similar bonuses for his fighters, including one for Slice's first opponent on CBS, James Thompson.
"I'm now aware that ProElite has a willingness for finishing bonuses and submission bonuses, which I'm encouraged to hear," Pavia said gleefully.
When word circulated Saturday evening that a doctor had stopped Ken Shamrock from fighting, Cox called EliteXC's Head of Fight Operations, Jeremy Lappen, to offer Rosa's services. Cox, however, was told the slot already belonged to Petruzelli.
In agreeing to meet Slice, a heavyweight with nearly 30 pounds on him, Petruzelli scored a new bout agreement with an increased purse and KO/TKO bonus.
"Sometimes there's ways, if people are asking for more money in a contract, we say we'll give you a KO bonus to try to bump up the money for them," Lappen said. "So it's not something everybody gets. A lot of times there's people who don't ask for it, don't get it. It's something Gary Shaw started when he came in, and we've always kept doing it. I guess, all things being considered, the spectacular knockout is something fans really like."
EliteXC has beocme known for matching stand-up affairs, as shown in its initial effort on CBS in May. From top to bottom, the card's fighters favored standing and striking to the ground game.
Inside Slice's entourage, there was debate about whether to take the bout with Petruzelli.
"The first time when I heard Shamrock was out, I said not to fight," said Slice's trainer, former UFC heavyweight champion Bas Rutten. "That's when we were at the house. With him being a karate guy, to tell you the truth, I didn't want Kimbo to stand. We didn't train any kicks and this guy is a karate champion multiple times. He was going to kick him! So that was just very weird to me."
Slice's manager, "Icey" Mike Imber, along with the brawler's lawyer, negotiated new terms with Lappen, Jared Shaw and other EliteXC officials. For $500,000, Slice agreed.
So, to the biggest question now: Was the fix in?
Let there be no doubt, EliteXC officials attempted to motivate an exciting fight out of Petruzelli. They did so with an increased purse, a bump in his KO bonus and a pep talk that was meant to inspire. But none of those things seem like indictable offenses. EliteXC has handled the PR so badly that, according to ESPN.com, the Florida Department of Business And Professional Regulation, which oversees the state athletic commission, opened a preliminary investigation on Thursday under the heat of questions from the media.
Talk of fight fixing is incredibly dangerous to the continued growth and acceptance of MMA. The only thing worse than allegations of impropriety is the actual thing -- and that's yet to be proven.