With Affliction: Trilogy collapsing around Tom Atencio's ears like a house of cards, two big questions need to be asked:
- Is this the end of Affliction as a ppv fight promoter?
- If so, who is more to blame? Josh Barnett for failing a drug test or the entire model of building an entire promotion around one fighter -- let's call it the Kimbo Slice model.
I suspect that Showtime PPV was the decision maker who finally pulled the plug on Affliction. Check this:
However, none (of the potential replacement opponents) would have the drawing power of Barnett, and a source close to Showtime PPV, which is Affliction's pay-per-view partner, told MMAjunkie.com www.mmajunkie.com) it's a major reason the show was canceled.
Executives from the show's co-promoter, M-1 Global, are flying into Anaheim, Calif., today. An additional announcement from the Russian-based promotion could be made later today that could give information about Emelianenko's next fight. It's possible, of course, some of the "Trilogy" fighters could be shifted to M-1's Aug. 28 card, which takes place in Los Angeles as the first event of the company's newly launched "premium fight series."
The fact that Showtime PPV and M-1 Global -- Affliction's key partners -- are both talking to the press while Affliction is silent reminds me ominously of EliteXC. Like that doomed promotion, Affliction's fate ultimately lay in the hands of their business partners.
After Kimbo Slice was dropped by Seth Petruzelli at EliteXC's final CBS show, it was CBS/Showtime's decision not to continue investing in the doomed promotion that closed the books on EliteXC.
Ultimately, Affliction was vulnerable to this kind of disaster because they had one draw fighter: Fedor Emelianenko. Despite the money and effort they put into signing a who's who of MMA stars -- Vitor Belfort, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Matt Lindland, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Gegard Mousasi, Takanori Gomi, Chris Horodecki, etc etc -- all that did was inflate their expenses since what was selling the PPVs was the prospect of seeing Fedor face the top heavyweights in the world.
EliteXC at least had Gina Carano to complement Kimbo Slice, but the utterly anemic ratings they produced on their sole network card to feature neither of their stars testified to the weakness of their approach. Building a fight promotion around a star fighter creates a corollary problem -- you must find a credible opponent for that star to sell the event. And unless you want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, the opponent shouldn't be too dangerous or you might lose your drawing power if your star takes a loss.
Ironically, that need to rely on opponents for the star proved to be the Achilles heel of both promotions. In EliteXC's case, aging star Ken Shamrock seemed like the perfect opponent to continue getting Kimbo over with fans. Shamrock was on an embarrassing losing streak and seemed to present no actual threat to beat Kimbo while being a name that would draw casual fan interest.
Unfortunately, Shamrock injured himself hours before the fight under very suspicious circumstances. (Next time Gary, pay the man what he wants) and Seth Petruzelli was pulled up from the undercard to face Kimbo. Shamrock had a long record of botching main events going back to UFC 3, and EliteXC fell prey to the same Sharmock karma. The rest is history and so is EliteXC.
In Affliction's case, they hoped to close out their trilogy by pitting Fedor Emeliananko, the consensus #1 heavyweight in the world against the one top heavyweights he'd never faced in PRIDE, #2 heavyweight Josh Barnett. Unfortunately for Affliction, Barnett's star-crossed history of failing steroid tests came back to bite them in the ass.
Once Barnett was gone, so was the credible opponent and despite a couple of days of aggressive floundering on Tom Atencio's part, it was too late to pick up the pieces. Sorry, Vitor Belfort, Jeff Monson, Don Frey, et al, there won't be a Seth Petruzelli of Affliction.
UPDATE: Kevin Iole has some big news, looks like Strikeforce will be the beneficiary of Affliction's collapse just as it benefited from EliteXC's end:
[NOTE from Kid Nate: The following tparagraphs were included in Iole's original post but have since been removed. VERY Interesting.]
Affliction itself is fighting simply for survival. Several sources have said that Affliction and Strikeforce will have some type of merger with Strikeforce retaining its name. Affliction’s Tom Atencio denied any merger is imminent, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is in Italy on vacation and couldn’t be reached for comment.
However, two independent sources told Yahoo! Sports a deal is either completed or on the verge of completion.
White said an Affliction attorney flew to Las Vegas only days after UFC 100 and offered to fold and turn its contracts over to the UFC if the UFC would remove its ban on its fighters wearing Affliction T-shirts.
“I told him, ‘I hope you idiots stay in business,’ ” White said. “We had a record year in 2007. We had a record year in 2008. And we’re going to have an even bigger record year in 2009. I said, ‘I hope you … stay around in 2010 and burn every dollar you have.’ What they do is of no concern to me.”
Graphic via MMAJunkie.com.