When word came out that promoter Gary Shaw was downsized from president to consultant at Elite XC, the organization that has made a made a name for itself with two appearances on CBS and as the home to the YouTube Heavyweight Champion of the World Kimbo Slice, cynics scoffed at the reasoning for the move.
On July 11, Elite XC chairman Doug DeLuca said that Shaw, known as a successful boxing promoter prior to his entrance into MMA, had heaped such a workload on himself that his health had been affected. "He was traveling nonstop," DeLuca said. "It took a toll on his family, on his health." Then, two weeks later, DeLuca himself was given a buyout by Elite XC, and shifted into a consultancy role.
Since when, the cynics muttered when DeLuca brought up Shaw's health, do execs at multimillion dollar corporations make decisions from the heart, with a genuine concern for somebody's health? Wasn't he actually shoved out by rival execs in the organization, or perhaps CBS execs unhappy with the uneven inaugural show that featured the IED otherwise known as James Thompson's ear?
TSS caught up with Shaw, a month after he was downsized. The promoter shed some light on the shift, what he learned from his 1 1/2 year stint in the sport, and whether he thinks Elite XC can carve out a niche for themselves in a sport dominated by the UFC.
"I am a consultant with Elite XC," Shaw told us. "I speak to new CEO Chuck Champion a few times a week. They ask my opinions, I give them. I still like the sport, I think it's exciting, it has room to grow, and I think the company could be viable."
New CEO Champion, who Shaw helped bring aboard, says that the promoter is still a valuable asset to ProElite. Members of the board and big-block shareholders, he says, thought it would be wise to enlist managers most comfortable in transitioning from startup company mode into the next phase. Shaw didn't go ballistic when apprised of the plan, to move from startup to next phase. He considered his health and the potential toll on his marriage, and agreed with the shift. "Tim Russert had just died," Champion says.
Shaw has jumped back into his boxing business with both feet; he has a hand in two promotions that run on Sept. 13, one on HBO, one on Showtime. But he will take some of the lessons learned in his MMA foray back to boxing, and continue to root for Elite XC. His son Jared is a VP with the company and Shaw owns a hefty number of shares of the publicly traded Elite XC, which goes for $2.75 a share. But his days of trying to juggling Elite XC and his boxing interests are over, he said.
Shaw, were he a model, would be in the plus-sized category. Living in hotels, eating fast food and being away from his wife of 30 years, Jude (pronounced Judy) took its toll.
"It was taking a toll on my marriage," he says. "I don't want to say that it was on the verge of divorce but my wife was not happy."
Jared Shaw agrees with the reduction in duties. "It was the right move," he says. "Gary was exhausted. He's 68. Boxing is his bread and butter, and he has boxers he needed to pay attention to."
No, Shaw says, he wasn't shoved out by boardmembers who didn't like his style or lack thereof (Shaw is a fan of tracksuits, not three-piece numbers) or his verbal grappling matches with Dana White.
"Are there those in the company that don't like me? Absolutely," he concedes.
Having Kimbo Slice headline the May 31 CBS/Elite XC show, the premier outing, was not a bad strategy, Shaw says. The May 31 show with Slice drew an impressive number of eyeballs, with a max of 6.5 million people tuning in to watch the Slice fight. The next card, sans Slice on July 26, dipped 40% in viewership. Why? "I think the company needs stars," Shaw says. As of now, it is trying to gain a foothold with UFC retreads, female fighters and Slice, and that will likely not be enough to poach UFC fans and rein in lurkers.
Shaw hopes to bring some lessons learned back to boxing. He knows that MMA does a better job at loading pay per views with pick 'em matches, for one thing, but comprehends that there is a lifestyle element to the MMA craze that isn't present in boxing. "It's one hundred times easier to put butts in seats in MMA," Shaw says.
Finally, it almost sounds like Shaw will miss his smackdowns with Dana White; the two went back and forth via Internet-delivered putdowns since Elite XC was born, with Shaw labeling White a greedy megalomaniac, and White dismissing Shaw as a clueless buffoon who was in over his head. "Shaw is a low-level bottom feeder," White said. "He didn't like MMA a few years ago, but when he finally couldn't make
money at boxing any more, he came over to this sport to try to leech money out of it."
"I've never met Dana in person," says Shaw. "My going back and forth with him, I'll say this...I'm a promoter. Would I break bread with him? I would, if he was buying. I heard he said some things about me in Playboy. I thank him, because without Dana White, there is no way I'd ever make Playboy."
Truth be told, I will miss Shaw in MMA. The White vs. Shaw battles were juicier than a number of Elite XC's scraps.
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