MMA debuts on CBS in primetime

May 31, 2008 8:29 PM

by Mark Mayer | Kimbo Slice is the featured fighter in the first live network telecast of Mixed Martial Arts slated for 9 p.m. ET in Newark, New Jersey. The card will be tape-delayed on the West Coast and showed on CBS at 9 p.m. Slice is a solid -500 favorite over James Thompson.

"In terms of recognition and perception, I believe May 31 is the biggest and single most important MMA fight card ever," Elite XC Live Events President Gary Shaw said in a published report prior to the bouts. "It will forever change the landscape of the sport and how it is perceived."

Only three of the five scheduled fights were booked at the Hilton. In other betting bouts, Robbie Lawler is a -260 favorite over Scott Smith and Joey Villasenor is a -120 choice over Phil Baroni. Also featured is undefeated ladies fighter Gina Carano, best known as "Crush" on the television show "American Gladiators"

It will be Slice, who CBS is banking on in its first shot at the MMA and expected high network ratings. Slice, a 6-foot-2, 240-pounder, was a high school football standout at Miami (FL) Palmetto High School under his real name Kevin Ferguson. The native of Nassau in the Bahamas made his MMA debut last year against former WBO heavyweight boxing champion Ray Mercer. Slice defeated Mercer with a guillotine choke at 1:12 of the first round.

Slice’s two other bouts against Ray Cantrell and Tank Abbott lasted 43 and 19 seconds respectively. Lawler is the current Elite XC middleweight champion with a lifetime 15-4 record. The 6-foot, 185-pound Villasenor is 25-6. One of Villasenor’s defeats was to Lawler.