John Pollock of The Fight Network has reported that Vitor Belfort's trainer at Xtreme Couture, Shawn Tompkins, has confirmed that Belfort will face the Last Emperor at Affliction: Trilogy on Aug. 1.
While this news isn't a shock to the most rabid fans of MMA, it does decrease the drawing power of this event significantly.
Belfort, while a decorated and formidable opponent, lacks the size that Josh Barnett or any other heavyweight would bring to the table. When you're taking on the greatest mixed martial artist ever, every advantage you can get is appreciated, and Belfort will be venturing not one, but two weight classes up.
This spells trouble for Vitor, who has likely volunteered on the basis of the enormous payday he stands to receive. Fedor Emelianenko's past opponents have been paid handsomely for their brief appearances, including $800,000 for Tim Sylvia and a cool $1.5 million for Andrei Arlovski.
Barnett, Fedor's planned opponent, failed a drug test and has asked for a second sample to be tested. Affliction president Tom Atencio has already said that even if Barnett's second sample comes back clean, they have to move forward with the new opponent. If it comes back positive, Barnett will be released from the organization.
With the current situation, it's not unlikely that everyone will be released from the organization. Affliction's financial troubles are not likely to be helped by the last minute card change or the hefty payroll of the event. Potential buyers were already prepared to see both Fedor and Belfort, so this bout actually represents a net loss for the total card.