The third event from up and coming mixed martial arts promoter Affliction was supposed to have taken place on Saturday, August 1 in Anaheim, Calif. The show was entitled “Trilogy” and was supposed to feature a main event of Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko battling Josh Barnett. Last week Barnett tested positive for an anabolic steroid and was denied a license to fight by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC).
A few days later it was announced that the show was cancelled altogether largely in part to the fact a replacement for Barnett could not be found on such short notice. Almost immediately after the cancellation of “Trilogy”, Affliction announced they would be ceasing operations as a fight promoter and they would go back to being one of the UFC’s biggest clothing sponsors.
When I found out Affliction ceased operations as a MMA fight promoter, I felt like a kid in one of the old Frosted Mini Wheat commercials. The pure fan in me was excited at the thought of Emelianenko, arguably the world’s top heavyweight being able to sign a deal to fight in the arguably the world’s top MMA promotion, the UFC. However the part of me that enjoys competition and feels its good for the growth of the sport was disappointed to see yet another in a long line of failed MMA promotions.
I am someone who thinks that competition is a good thing because it gives the consumer a choice of where they want to spend their dollar. It also forces the competing companies to provide the very best product possible thus making their respective shows better for the fans to enjoy. Having competition is also good because it gives the fighters themselves choices of where they want to ply their craft to earn a living. While I enjoy the UFC and am a regular viewer of their products, occasionally I like to get my MMA fix from a different outlet.
I enjoy watching promotions like San Jose, Calif. based Strikeforce and have even had the opportunity to cover a couple of their shows. I enjoyed Affliction for the fact that I was able to see talented fighters like Emeliananko have a chance to fight in America under terms that he was comfortable with. Without competition for the UFC, talented fighters like Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, Nick Diaz, Josh Thomson, Vitor Belfort, Chris Horodecki, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Cung Le and Renato Sobral would not have a viable outlet to showcase their abilities in front of the American fan.
If history has shown us anything it’s that another company will come along to try and make a dollar on the world’s fastest growing sport. But if anything else can be learned, whoever does should take a page from the Strikeforce playbook and pay the fighters similar to the same pay scale of what the UFC does. Affliction overpaid many of the fighters on their roster and in the end they weren’t able to sustain themselves.
While Strikeforce is small by comparison to UFC they are doing many things right. They have acquired several fighters with name value; have a solid outlet on Showtime in which to showcase their product and have a contract with CBS to broadcast live shows on network television which is something that UFC doesn’t have.
MMA will continue to grow in leaps and bounds over the coming years. Let’s just hope there will be enough outlets to give us the best product possible.