Affliction Follows EliteXC's Path to Failure

Mike LeanzaAnalyst IJanuary 21, 2009

Feb. 10, 2007: The night EliteXC put on their first show. This just two months after ProElite and Showtime announced their partnership in an attempt to take advantage of the ongoing U.S. love affair with MMA.

EliteXC, working very hard with very little, was able to put on a card with stars like Charles Bennet, Renzo Gracie, and Frank Shamrock. Unfortunately, the main event flopped due to a second-round DQ stoppage.

July 19th 2008. The day that the partnership between Affliction Clothing and Adrenaline MMA had all there hard work come to fruition in the form of an excellent mixed martial arts card.

The card featured such stars as Vitor Belfort, Renato Sobral, Matt Lindland, Pedro Rizzo, Josh Barnett, and Andrei Arlovski. The main event of that card was supposed to be the holy grail of MMA. The former UFC champion was pitted against the best in the world, Fedro Emelianenko in a fight that lasted a mere 36 seconds.

Did you see the similarities there? The partnerships between one well-known party, and one unheard of party. The main event level stars stuck trying there hardest to boost the popularity of their fledgling company.

The main event that everyone wanted to see, only to end abruptly leaving the viewer rolling their eyes and turning their backs. The eerily similar beginnings to these two businesses leaves me with one question. Can Affliction go down the same path of EliteXC, yet still survive?

I've been going back and forth for a long time now. One part of me wants to believe that Affliction will succeed, but the other part of me knows the bitter truth.

One part of me wants to know that the UFC will have steady competition, while the other part of me knows that competing with the UFC is the one thing that will kill any MMA organization.

The UFC started the phenomenon known as MMA in the USA. It was the UFC that in 2005 put on a show called The Ultimate Fighter.

On the line was a six-figure contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and the title of The Ultimate Fighter. The show included eventual stars Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, and Kenny Florian.

The show's finale stands in history as the first non-pay-per-view showing of MMA on U.S. television. It drew 1.9 million viewers, shattering all previous expectations.

The Ultimate Fighter put MMA on the map, and made the UFC a household name. To this day you will hear people talking about training in "ultimate fighting."

Can any organization succeed with such a powerhouse standing in there wake? The answer is simple, yes. Can said organization compete with the UFC? Absolutely not.

EliteXC tried to compete with the UFC. They failed miserably. It is hard to believe that an new organization in a generally new sport could get a major TV deal, and squander it before meeting the terms of the contract.

On Feb. 27, EliteXC signed a contract with CBS to broadcast their MMA cards on prime time. If successful, it was thought that CBS would broadcast EliteXC specials every other month on Saturday nights.

Yet just three shows in, Elite XC was forced to cease operations after going $50 million into debt.

As of right now, Affliction is on a slippery slope towards failure. The amount of money they pay their fighters is ludicrous, not to mention a main reason why they are going down.

The payroll for fighters at Affliction Banned topped $3 million. In comparison, at UFC: Ultimate 2008 the total fighter payroll, including bonuses, was just under $1.4 million.

Yet Ultimate 2008 netted just under $3.5 million in total gate, while Affliction got just under $2.1 million.

The total payroll for Affliction: Banned does not even include the money they paid Megadeth to perform, Michael Buffer to do announcements, and the money they lost giving away 3590 seats to help fill the Honda Center.

Where UFC succeeds, Affliction and Elite XC tried to do better. They thought that spending an ornate amount of money would bring them success. The thing about that is, the fans don't see how much you spent. They don't care if you pay your fighters $5 million or $500,000. They pay to see fights.

Elite XC paid Kevin Ferguson (Kimbo Silce) $500,000 to fight for them. In comparison, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, one of the biggest stars in all of MMA, was paid $325,000 to fight at Ultimate 2008.

Affliction paid Tim Sylvia $800,000 just to show up and fight Fedor. The most the UFC ever paid Tim Sylvia in a single night was $200,000. That included a win bonus of $100,000.

If you were to combine the one night salaries of Kevin Ferguson and Tim Sylvia, you could pay the entire UFC 91 card, which included Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, Kenny Florian, Joe Stevenson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Demian Maia and Nate Marquardt, along with 11 other fighters!

Overpaying fighters killed Elite XC. No, it wasn't the only cause, but definitley didn't help. The same thing is happening to Affliction.

Affliction lost more money than they gained putting on Affliction: Banned. That's no way to start a business you hope will some day be a major player in the MMA game.

If you are not convinced that Affliction is going down, I give you this last point. At EliteXC Heat, Affliction lent out Andrei Arlovski for a one fight deal in an effort to draw more attention to themselves. Let me explain to you how devastating that move could have been.

Had Andrei lost, you could say goodbye to his fight with Fedor. Affliction would either have to feed somebody else to Fedor, or go ahead with Arlovski. Would you honestly care about Fedor/Arlovski if Andrei had lost to Roy Nelson? I know I wouldn't.

What if Andrei suffered a major injury? Any sort of setback could have proven to be enormously costly to Affliction and their future plans.

I see what Affliction was trying to do and I commend them for being brave enough to do it, but their is a fine line between bravery and stupidity. That move was borderline stupid. You would never see the UFC lending out Brock Lesnar to DREAM in order to get a leg up on Affliction.

Now for those intelligent MMA fans, you may be looking at that last paragraph and calling me an idiot. For those who don't know, back in 2003 Chuck Liddell entered the PRIDE middleweight Grand Prix as the official UFC representative. Chuck won his first bout, but was TKO'd by Rampage Jackson in his second.

Their is a big difference between what Affliction did, and what the UFC did. When Chuck Liddell went to PRIDE, there was nothing going on for him in the UFC. He had just gotten finished by Randy Couture for the interim UFC light heavyweight belt and an immediate rematch was out of the question. 

Chuck needed to prove that he deserved another shot at the title, but with such a fogged up picture in the UFC LHW division, Chuck needed somewhere else to go. PRIDE had some of the best fighters in the game back then, so what better pace to prove yourself than PRIDE. If he gets hurt, not a big loss for the UFC at that time because he wasn't needed. If he loses, which he did, no big deal because he lost to on eof the best in the world.

When Affliction loaned out Andrei Arlovski, they knew that Andrei was one of their main attractions, and the best guy willing to get into the ring with Fedor. Yet they still allowed Arlovksi to go inside a cage with Roy Nelson. Andrei was and still is needed very much by Affliction and they couldn't and still can't afford to lose him for any reason.

Now the difference between the two moves should be clear.

Affliction is dying, we all know that. The formula they are following mimics the same formula that killed off EliteXC. Hell, they even worked with EliteXC to boost popularity. If they want to survive, they need to change that formula. The new formula needs to include three main points:

  1. Stop Overpaying Fighters- You can't get out of debt when you're paying more than you're earning.
  2. Stop Making Stupid Moves- Lending out one of your top fighters is dumb. Making a partnership with a boxing promoter might alienate your MMA fans. Stick to MMA, fix the main problem before you take on another.
  3. Stop Competing With The UFC- Why is DREAM so successful? They keep to themselves and put on great cards with the fighters they have. Why did EliteXC fail? They tried to compete with the UFC. You can't compete with an organization that put MMA on the map. People still call mixed-martial-arts Ultimate Fighting, they will never call it Afflicting.

Follow those three rules, and Affliction WILL survive. If they continue to do what they are currently doing, say goodbye because after "Day of Reckoning", it will be all over.


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