Fight Promoter Looks To Challenge Showtime

With Showtime primed to sell its assets, a mixed martial arts promoter isn't going down without a fight. ProElite, which has aired MMA matches on the pay cable network, said Thursday that it plans to block the public auction.

Looking to resuscitate its business, the company said it would pursue all available options to retain its assets, which include the contract of Kimbo Slice (real name: Kevin Ferguson). Possible actions include trying to raise additional capital, filing for bankruptcy, negotiating a settlement with Showtime, or filing a lawsuit to prevent the sale from going forward, according to an SEC filing.

ProElite operates the EliteXC league, where matches have aired on Showtime and as "Saturday Night Fights" specials on CBS. An Oct. 4 event on CBS included a Kimbo Slice bout that brought allegations of match fixing, although no misconduct was found. An additional event scheduled for CBS this month was cancelled.

Showtime, whose parent is CBS Corp., notified ProElite on Oct. 31 that it will auction off the company's assets at a Los Angeles law firm on Nov. 17. The most valuable would appear to be the contract of one-time YouTube sensation Kimbo Slice. Also included are contracts with at least 13 other fighters, as well as a video library and the EliteXC and other brands.



A call to ProElite CEO Chuck Champion was not immediately returned. A Showtime representative declined comment.

Los Angeles-based ProElite continues to be publicly traded on the pink sheets market.

CBS Corp. made an initial $5 million investment in ProElite in early 2007. Since then, ProElite has racked up losses, including $24.3 million in the first six months of this year.

Showtime, which aired EliteXC events through September, held unsuccessful discussions about acquiring ProElite before moving to conduct the auction. ProElite was unable to pay Showtime back loans totaling $6.3 million, and had less than $550,000 in the bank, according to an SEC document.

Mixed martial arts has enjoyed popularity among young men in recent years, and Showtime had hoped to tap into the boom with EliteXC events. With few holds barred, MMA is not without its detractors. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the top draw, and EliteXC has joined the ranks of failed challengers.

EliteXC was the subject of some controversy following the Oct. 4 broadcast on CBS. Allegations surfaced that promoters for ProElite offered a fighter a payment to essentially throw his bout with the popular Kimbo Slice. Slice lost anyway.

A Florida regulatory body looked into the matter, but found no need to pursue the case further.

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