What Affliction MMA Should Have Been

July 29, 2009

By Kelsey Philpott

The fact that Josh Barnett’s positive test for anabolic steroids was able to bring down an entire card really speaks volumes about the level of structure, organization, and most importantly, depth, within Affliction.

A crisis such as this would not have hampered the UFC’s ability to put on an event; nor would it have likely impacted Strikeforce. Some might say it’s unfair to compare Affliction to the UFC or Strikeforce, but I’d argue that’s precisely the point of absurdity in this entire situation.

The real truth of the matter is that Affliction could not hope to compete with the UFC right out of the gate, and to expect otherwise was to set itself up for a rather large and costly defeat.

And, sure, the idea of what Affliction was trying to do is absolutely marvellous. What MMA fan in their right mind wouldn’t want another organization that is paying huge sums to its fighters, puts on some of the best fights in the world, and supports itself through millions in PPV revenue?

But as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Affliction should have done things properly right from the outset: going small, going responsible, and going from the ground up, all in order to build a solid foundation.

What would have been wrong with Affliction as a regional promoter – doing four shows a year – in any one of the many underserved MMA markets across the US? It could have easily leveraged its brand into a strong following, sufficient media coverage, and likely a TV deal (HDNet would have been a great full-time partner).

More importantly, as a regional promotion, Affliction would have had the opportunity to gain many of things it proved to lack: operational experience, fiscal accountability, organizational structure, roster depth, and a chance at consistency. In other words, the regional promotion business model would have equipped Affliction with all the tools it would have needed to deal with a crisis such as the one that occurred this week.

Call it what you want – the Strikeforce model, responsible management, whatever – this is the kind of approach and business model that would have produced success. It may not have made money right out of the gate, but it would have been a whole lot easier for the clothing line to subsidize a regional show than the international money glutton that Affliction actually produced. You can also bet that they would have been making money by the 3rd or 4th show; again unlike the model they decided to run with.

Further, the greatest strength of Affliction- aside from the brand itself – was Atencio’s passion and commitment to the sport. Under a better, more well-thought-out business model, you have to figure that it would have only been a matter of years before the correctly modelled promotion began to compete for big name contracts (just as Strikeforce has done).

That’s what Affliction should have been.

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