I know you may think I am a bit of a conspiracy theorist based on this comments, but I believe things have worked out too much in Dana White’s favor for it not to be true.
Now don’t get me wrong, many things were involved in the collapse of Affliction and the cancellation of “Trilogy”, but I think Dana White probably had more influence on the decision than people think.
First off, let’s take a look at the major factors major factors in the cancellation.
Obviously, Barnett opened the window for all of this. His scandal created the opening for everything that transpired and without him there may have been a card on Aug 1.
That said; Barnett did not cancel the event.
After Barnett was pulled from the card, a mad scramble ensued. Fedor needed someone to fight.
A few names were in the hat, and it seemed as though Vitor Belfort was selected. The parties had talked about numbers, and Belfort seemed to believe the fight was going to be signed.
Other fighters also petitioned to take Barnett’s place on the card.
I know the lack of a quality opponent was officially listed as the reason for cancellation, but I don’t buy it. They say that Barnett was too big of a draw to be replaced on short notice.
Was Barnett that big of a draw?
The fight was being hyped as the number 1 and 2 heavyweights in the world, but I don’t believe the majority of domestic fans don’t have much interest in Josh Barnett.
Fedor was the draw and for me while many undercard fights were of great interest as well. Barnett was just an opponent, not a draw to me.
Unless, Fedor refused to sign off on potential fights, the lack of an opponent for Fedor doesn’t seem to have been the problem.
Showtime could have plausibly cancelled the card. They could have done this for many reasons including fear that a last minute change to the main event would scare away fans.
It was reported that Showtime wanted to choose a fighter carefully, but that is as far as reports went. Nothing was said about a possible cancellation.
Did Showtime cancel “Trilogy”?
Or maybe that is only part of the story…
The reason I suspect Dana White’s involvement came just a few short hours after news of the Trilogy’s cancellation. That is all it took for the partnership between the UFC and Affliction was announced.
Let’s take a look at the timeline for events on July 24th.
1:00 PM - News of the cancellation of “Trilogy” first broke (SI.com)
2:30 PM - Tom Atencio confirms cancellation (MMA Junkie)
6:00 PM – MMA Junkie reports a partnership between Affliction Clothing and the UFC
Does anyone believe Dana White and Tom Atencio hammered out negotiations in that time?
Does anyone believe that Dana White wasn’t in Tom Atencio’s ear before that?
Did Dana White give Atencio an early reason to give up on “Trilogy”?
Dana White was obviously not in a position to cancel the event on his own, but if he was talking to Atencio before decisions were finalized, he may well have influenced the final decision.
Especially if he offered Atencio a well paid way out of a corner.
What Does Dana Gain?
There are many reasons for Dana White to want “Trilogy” cancelled.
The first and most obvious reason is competition.
Dana White is known to enjoy watching the competition fail. This is especially true in a month with seven major MMA events scheduled.
Sure, the UFC is the “king of the hill”, but they are already competing with themselves by having two events within the month and every buy Affliction received could potentially take one away from the UFC.
Getting rid of Affliction means less competition (and more money) this month and in the future if they continued to promote events.
The second major reason is the fighters.
Even though Affliction had many flaws with their business plan, they were very successful in building a stable of quality fighters. Fedor is an obvious example, but veterans such as Vitor Belfort along with up and comers like Gegard Mousasi are desirable talents.
Dana has already proven this motivation to be true by signing both Ben Rothwell and Chase Gormley. I am sure there are already negotiations underway with others as well.
The third major benefit for Dana is fear.
Not fear from the public, but fear from the fighters. Watching Affliction go down and watching fighters go unpaid for weeks or even months of training has to strike a little bit of fear into some of the free agent’s currently on the market.
The idea that you could sign off on a fight, train for months, pay your training partners, pay your coaches, pay for a place to stay if you train out of town, and walk away with nothing has to scare some fighters.
It is proof that fledgling companies may offer the fighter more, but security is worth something as well. Dana can tell people that and use that to increase the value of a UFC contract.
Dana White had a lot to gain from the collapse of Affliction. He is a smart man; he had to know this was going to happen.
Did he get in Atencio’s ear and influence his decision to pull the plug?
We may never know the truth, but I think it is very likely. I believe White offered a deal to Atencio that was hard to refuse. I am sure Affliction clothing will be a major sponsor of the UFC in the coming months. I am sure Affliction will have high visibility at most UFC events.
Dana White knows that sometimes you have to spend money to make money, and I think this is one of those situations. White may have surrendered some of the profits he could have made for ad space in exchange for fighters, fear, and the removal of competition.