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Kimbo, Gina

This weekend marks network TV’s first foray into the MMA craze sweeping the nation when CBS presents its Saturday Night Fights featuring the talent from the Elite XC stable of fighters. The headliners includes Internet sensation, Kimbo Slice and American Gladiator, Gina Carano, a favorite of ours around here.

But is this the right way to bring MMA to the masses? By relying on star-quality instead of talent? Dan Wentzel of Yahoo Sports doesn’t think so and he gives some very compelling reasons why:

The sport has taken off in a way few others have – fueled purely by fan interest. It stands in stark contrast to all the network airtime spent on sports propped up on political correctness or obligation. MMA long ago deserved network attention.

Individually, nothing is wrong with a shooting star such as Kimbo Slice fighting on Saturday’s EliteXC card on CBS.

Together, plenty is. In fact, practically everything is.

EliteXC is a desperate promotion that’s hemorrhaging money. It’s willing to sell anything, even a false portrait of its sport, to succeed.

Kimbo is a guy with unexpected and most likely fleeting earning potential; understandably he’s willing to cash in even if it means tomato-can opponents and an image so unfortunately stereotypical.

The gist of Wentzel’s article is instead of relying on recognizable names, they should follow the lead of the UFC and focus on the proven talent. Yes, Kimbo is becoming a household name because of his YouTube fights (and ESPN’s 60 Minutes knock-off) and Gina Carano is very well known around the sports blogosphere but are these two really the face of MMA?

I doubt Dana White would agree as long as he has the Anderson Silvas and Quinton “Rampage” Jacksons of the world under contract.

Nevertheless, the MMA is coming to your network television whether you are ready for it or not. Just be warned, instead of seeing the best of the best, you’ll be seeing the most recognizable faces — and in Gina’s case, one of the hottest. Although, it would be nice if she actually made her fighting weight. Giving up a portion of your fight purse because you can’t get down to the regulated weight can’t feel very good.

For your enjoyment, FanHouse has a great little guide for those of you new to the MMA craze. Before I go, is there anyway possible we can get a Kimbo Slice/Eric “Butterbean” Esch match-up before I die? It’s not like Butterbean is some kind of pushover, even though he’s as big as a house. Observe: