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Home MMA Affliction: Trilogy, Actually the Finale?
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Affliction: Trilogy, Actually the Finale?

affliction_08

With only a couple weeks to go until Affliction’s biggest event to date, news is starting to leak that perhaps this show could be the last for what many thought would be the UFC’s biggest competition. Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio has stated publically that the August 1st event will have to perform far above expectations if the organization is to continue promoting fights. With Dana White’s proclamation from a year ago that Affliction wouldn’t last finally coming true, is it safe to say that MMA can’t exist outside the UFC? And if Affliction Entertainment does indeed fold what will this mean for its key assets?

It’s difficult for hardcore MMA fans to fathom that a promotion with the likes of Vitor Belfort, Renato Sobral, Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko could fold after only three events. But for the casual fan, this news is hardly worth mentioning. Many would say it was inevitable while others wouldn’t even know that Affliction or the fighters I listed above even existed. And that is really the main problem. For most casual fans MMA doesn’t exist out side of the UFC, which means for any promotion trying to compete with the UFC they have a gigantic hurdle to over come right from the get go.

Take for example main event on August 1st, featuring consensus #1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko against consensus #2 heavyweight Josh Barnett. On paper, this matchup is more important to the heavyweight division than the Bock Lesnar/ Frank Mir bout that helped fuel UFC 100 to an estimated 1,000,000 buys and more media coverage than any other MMA event has ever received. Leading up to the event, you couldn’t go one day without hearing at least one person bring up the Lesnar/ Mir rematch, but I have yet to hear any one of those same people discuss the match that pits the world’s two best heavyweights against each other.

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for other promotions. There is still a large pool of educated MMA fans who are interested in fights outside the UFC. Afflictions roughly 200,000 PPV buys for “Day of Reckoning” is proof of this. Those are by no means UFC numbers, but they’re nothing to laugh at either. The problem is not with Affliction’s revenue, but rather their multi-million dollar payroll. Even 300,000 PPV buys for “Trilogy” would leave Affliction in the red for third time and force the promotion to fold.

If other MMA promotions are to survive they need to target the hard core MMA fans and keep costs low. Take Strikeforce for example. They’ve been patient, slowly building a solid stable of fighters, rather than pouring all their money into top notch fighters and trying to compete with the UFC right away. Even UFC president Dana White, usually quick to attack any potential competition, has shown admiration for the way Strikeforce has managed their operation.

It may be too late for Affliction, but Strikeforce looks to be in good position and their will always be a market for MMA in Japan, as shown by the ever growing DREAM promotion, as well as various local promotions that continue to hold their own. With these various avenues available, where will Afflictions assets end up?

Heavyweight fighters Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski are in jeopardy of falling into obscurity after suffering embarrassing losses in their last bouts. Strikeforce is a likely destination for these two; however, another loss for either could spell the end of their careers.
Despite denying the statement, Dana White clearly stated that Vitor Belfort was a possible addition to the UFC middleweight division during the Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale. Belfort’s history with the organization, as well as slightly weak middleweight contingent could leave the UFC as one of the more viable options for the fighter.

Renato “Babalu” Sobral has been blacklisted from the UFC ever since his controversial choking of David Heath at UFC 74, so the chances of him returning are slim to none. Sobral hasn’t faught in Japan since 2001, so a return to Strikeforce to defend his light-heavyweight belt is much more likely.

If Josh Barnett can does the unthinkable and defeats the seemingly unbeatable Emelianenko, a return to the UFC is not out of the question. Barnett is a former UFC champion and you can be sure that Dana White would work hard to bring him back to the organization to unify the UFC and WAMMA belts. If he loses, a return to Japan to fight for DREAM is most likely.

And finally Affliction’s prize possession, Fedor Emelianenko. Whether he wins or loses his upcoming match, the pressure will be on to sign in the UFC. Assuming he does retain his title, fans and media a like will praying for a super fight between him and current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. Emelianenko has expressed interest in a Lesnar fight, but has maintained his stance that the UFC’s contract terms are unacceptable and too restrictive. A much more likely scenario is a match against Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem before heading back to Japan to finish his career.

Although it seems that Affliction’s fate is already pre-determined, Affliction: Trilogy promises to be one of the best cards of the year. Tell you’re friends and spread the word. Let them know there is such thing as MMA outside the UFC and it’s definitely worth checking out. As entertaining as the UFC is, a few alternatives are always a good thing; and Affliction: Trilogy is about as good as they get.

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