Florida DBPR LogoDue to the “interest” in the EliteXC alleged bribery scandal, the Florida Department Of Business And Professional Regulation has changed their minds and elected to move forward with a “preliminary investigation” after all.

Jennifer Meale, the Communication Director for the DBPR gave ESPN.com’s Franklin McNeil the news.

“While the Department of Business and Professional Regulation doesn’t have any reason to believe there was a problem with the Slice-Petruzelli fight, given the interest in it, the Department has begun a preliminary investigation to thoroughly review the circumstances of the fight.”

While I’m glad Florida has decided to move forward with any sort of investigation, Ms. Meale’s comments don’t exactly inspire confidence that they’re going to exert much effort into the investigation. It’s better than nothing though, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I just hope they do more than go through the motions.

I do want to make this crystal clear though. In case anyone believes I hope EliteXC burns for this, that is simply not true. Ideally, I hope the truth is found, and I hope the truth is that nothing happened. If the allegation is found to be true, I hope the individuals responsible are properly dealt with. I likely have a different opinion of what that is than what the State of Florida has, but that’s another discussion entirely that I’m not going to get into now. In the end, all I care about is that mixed martial arts remains free of any criminal acts and corruption. Perhaps, I’m a little naive to think that is possible, but I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t help fight for it.

Moving on, this of course didn’t please EliteXC Head of Fight Operations Jeremy Lappen. According to McNeil, Lappen maintains that no one from EliteXC attempted to influence the fight in any manner, and the money Petruzelli was referring to was a knockout bonus. But wait, remember when Lappen told SI.com they didn’t offer Seth a submission bonus? Well, guess what? Yep, he’s changed his story too.

“We offered Seth Petruzelli a knockout bonus, a submission bonus and “fight of the night” bonus. If we were trying to influence the fight, why would we do that?”

Better question Lappen, WHY IS EVERYONE CHANGING THEIR STORIES?!?! Good lord, if you can’t keep each other’s stories straight, at least keep your own straight!

It’s like they’re running in a circle chasing each others tails. And seriously, why would EliteXC offer Seth or any fighter for that matter an incentive to knock Kimbo out? Lappen said before the knockout bonus isn’t offered to everyone. Why Seth? It makes no sense whatsoever. (Edit: Scratch that question. This whole situation has apparently depleted my critical thinking skills. I suppose they would offer a knockout bonus to Seth for the same reason they would give him money not to take him down. Ahh, I’m losing it.)

McNeil also spoke to Dana White about the situation, who he says welcomes the DBPR’s investigation. White elaborated on his comments from earlier today, and no, he’s not any happier about it than he was before.

“The Mandalay Bay and Venetian [casinos] took bets on that fight. If you’re a fan of mixed martial arts and you sit down and do all the stats and you’re like ‘man, if this thing goes to the ground, Seth Petruzelli can win this fight, I’m gonna bet on Seth Petruzelli.’

“Then you don’t know the promoters are paying the guy and saying ‘don’t go to the ground?’ That’s criminal. If that was in Las Vegas and the Nevada Athletic Commission had put that fight on, the FBI would be investigating them right now.

“This is how it hurts [UFC]; it hurts our mainstream growth. The people who aren’t hardcore fans … ask me ‘Oh, you have that Kimbo Slice guy.’ And I have to say no, ‘I don’t have Kimbo Slice.’ I would never bring Kimbo Slice into my organization.”

And that’s the downside to the UFC brand being synonymous with MMA in the mainstream audience’s perception. It may seem like Dana has the coolest job in the world, but it’s definitely not one I will ever envy.

Speaking of the mainstream’s misperception of mixed martial arts. Michael Wilbon dropped a doozy today on ESPN’s PTI. Wilbon made the claim that the Kimbo-Petruzelli fight was fixed, but not for the reason you would think. He actually believes Kimbo took a dive! MMA Fanhouse has a few key quotes and Zach Arnold has the audio. I tried to get the video but ESPN’s clips of today’s PTI didn’t include this discussion.

This is so absurd I really don’t even want to address it, but as Arnold pointed out his ridiculously irresponsible comments could be damaging. Hopefully, people have figured out that Wilbon and Kornheiser (not present here) have absolutely no clue about MMA, and have even admitted as such in the past. Obviously, if there’s any fighter on the planet that EliteXC isn’t going to pay to take a dive it’s Kimbo Slice. I would like to think Wilbon’s at least smart enough to figure that out, so perhaps he believes an entity outside of EliteXC paid Kimbo off. I can be skeptical at times, but that is way too far into tinfoil hat territory than I’m willing to go.

And one more thing. Ken Shamrock says he’s sorry for being idiot, and hopes you still want to see him fight Kimbo, but I’m guessing you probably don’t. Oh well, sorry Ken, no one here does. Try the PTI crew. They might be interested.

[UPDATE 10/10/08 5:21PM ET]Josh Gross has a report that supports EliteXC’s claim that it was a knockout bonus.

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.

Apparently, it’s a bonus they only usually offer fighters if they ask for it as Jeremy Lappen tells Gross.

“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.”

If a knockout bonus truly what was offered to Petruzelli, I suppose EliteXC is in the clear. However, by only offering it to certain fighters, especially only ones who know about it and ask, they were just asking for trouble. It falls into that ethical gray area, and while I’m sure no one ever expected this shitstorm to come from it, they should have known better. And like Gross said, the way they handled the PR with all the inconsistencies and contradictions, they only invited further speculation. Of course, that’s assuming this is what actually took place.

Hopefully, it is.

[UPDATE 10/11/08 12:18PM ET] – Here we go again. Michael David Smith with AOL Fanhouse spoke to Jeremy Lappen earlier today. Smith asked Lappen to explain his contradictory statements from Josh Gross’ story on SI.com and Franklin O’Neil in ESPN.com. Here’s Lappen’s answer.

Regarding the controversy over whether EliteXC paid Petruzelli a bonus (or, as some would call it, a bribe) to keep the fight on his feet, I pointed out to Lappen that he had seemed to contradict himself about what, exactly, EliteXC offered Petruzelli.

“They’re both wrong,” Lappen said. “We have given submission bonuses in the past but they’re not as common as knockout bonuses. If the question is, ‘Have we ever given submission bonuses?’ The answer is yes. But we give knockout bonuses more often. We gave Seth a knockout bonus before the fight started. That was part of the deal.”

First of all, now he’s claiming two of the most respected journalists in the industry misquoted him. Zach Arnold already did a great job of addressing that one, so check his post out on FightOpinion.com.

Second of all, as reader Drew asks below, how do you give a knockout bonus to someone who hasn’t knocked anyone out yet?

Obviously you can’t, at least not legitimately. I’m trying my best to be fair, and I’ve looked at this from all the angles I can possibly think of. Here’s what I came up with.

If you take the literal meaning of what he said, he’s essentially implicating EliteXC for the alleged bribe and and just tacking the “knockout bonus” label on it to make it appear legitimate. However, if you give someone money upfront to fight a certain way, whether you tell them to stand and not take him down, or tell him to try to knock him out (and label it a “knockout bonus”), you’re attempting to influence the outcome of the fight with money. That’s a bribe.

However, it’s a possibility he just misspoke and used “gave” instead of “offered.” Looking at the entire quote, he uses give or given in every sentence before the one in question. Perhaps, he wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying and going with the flow of his comment he used the wrong word. Or perhaps he meant they gave him the opportunity to earn a knockout bonus. Not trying to defend him, just trying to be fair.

If it was one of the latter, seriously Lappen, that was a very poor choice of words.