From the night of their first show, Affliction Entertainment was on shaky ground in their battle against the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport’s pre-eminent league.
Affliction should be praised for figuring out a way to sell thousands upon thousands of 70-dollar t-shirts to people in one of the worst economic messes the world has ever seen and starting up a quality MMA promotion on the back of that business, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
That’s the problem with building a promotion around just one superstar fighter or a handful of fighters, as CBS learned the hard way when Kimbo Slice was exposed by former Ultimate Fighter Seth Petruzelli, killing their EliteXC franchise.
Affliction boasted some of the best heavyweight fighters in the world including former UFC heavyweight champions Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski, as well as some other top international stars like Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Vitor Belfort, but in reality, their only Pay Per View draw was the Russian legend, Fedor Emelianenko. Without Emelianenko, even the first event, Affliction:Banned, would have been a Pay Per View disaster.
Barnett is a well-respected fighter and fans were psyched to see him challenge Fedor, thinking he was up to the challenge, but the second positive test for a banned substance in his career was all it took to deal Affliction its final blow.
The demise of Affliction also shows just how important promotion is to the UFC’s success. Also lurking on the Affliction: Trilogy card was Gegard Mousasi, a fighter considered to be one of the top 2-3 middleweights in the world; and he was scheduled to fight Renato “Bobalu” Sobral, another top 10-15-caliber fighter in the weight class.
If this were a UFC event, a guy like Mousasi might have held superstar status because of the way the UFC can afford to spend money promoting him. A new opponent would have been found for Fedor and the show would have gone on because the card would have held more drawing power.
The UFC has put a bunch of fighters considered to be cans in relative terms up against one of their top draws, Anderson Silva, in what looked like non-competitive fights, yet still drew decent Pay Per View numbers due to the overall product and drawing power of the fight cards.
Affliction didn’t have UFC-type money to spend on promotion, and that put them on thin ice, unable to withstand a problem like the one it encountered with Barnett. The UFC will now collaborate with Affliction, yet again, as it has un-banned the popular clothes maker from sponsoring and outfitting fighters.
Any bad blood between Affliction and UFC appears to have subsided, which gives many the impression that Dana White and the UFC weren’t too worried about the company’s promotion venture and knew it didn’t have a whole lot of staying power.
Now, the eyes of fight fans are focused on whether UFC and Affliction Entertainment can join forces to bring in Fedor Emelianenko for a mega-fight with Brock Lesnar that could line both of their pockets for the foreseeable future.
As long as the UFC is willing to make a few contract concessions to Emelianenko, the dream could become reality soon.
MMA fans everywhere should keep their fingers crossed in the meantime, and also thank Affliction for bringing them two solid fight card promotions and for bringing more revenue into the sport through its clothing business.