Snowden: Who Really Killed Affliction?

July 26, 2009

by Jonathan Snowden

As the smoke cleared from Affliction Entertainment’s implosion, the media vultures were quick to assign blame for the promotion’s demise. Some pointed a finger at Tom Atencio, the organization’s front man and the architect of fight cards filled with untenable contracts, cards too good and too expensive for an upstart promotion. Others blamed Josh Barnett, the self destructive enigma who once again allegedly resorted to using illegal performance enhancers to prepare for the biggest fight of his career. But the real culprit is a true American hero, or a titular one at least. Yes, Randy Couture killed Affliction and he did it all the way back in September 2008.

When Couture retired from the UFC in 2007 while still under contract, it was for two reasons: money and a chance to fight the undisputed world heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. Affliction risked everything on the Couture-Emelianenko fight, throwing their business relationship with the UFC out the window for the chance to promote what many thought was the biggest heavyweight fight in the world. Couture was all in, or so they thought. The two stood face to face for an Affliction photo shoot to start getting fans excited about the fight, and Couture made an appearance at Affliction’s first PPV show July 19, 2008. It was all in an effort to get people talking about the next show, headlined in theory by the dream fight between the PRIDE and UFC champions. And then Couture stuck the knife in the back.

In retrospect, Affliction shouldn’t have been shocked by Couture’s decision. It was part of a pattern of behavior, one that had characterized his entire MMA career. Couture had left the UFC twice and walked out on Team Quest as well. His decision not to risk his career on Affliction shouldn’t have been a big surprise to them, but it was. The clothing brand was already in for several million dollars, running a cost prohibitive show in an effort to get Fedor ready for what would be a huge media blitz leading up to his fight with Couture. But the pressure was getting to Couture.

Already a millionaire several times over, Couture was in the perfect position to test Zuffa’s seemingly indefensible employment contracts. If anyone could wait them out, it was Couture, a fighter with money in the bank and several ancillary sources of income. But Couture was a 45-year-old man and could hear the clock ticking on his career. In the end, he did what was best for Randy Couture, returning to the UFC for a mega-fight with Brock Lesnar. And make no mistake: bad decisions by Atencio and Barnett put Affliction at risk. But, Couture killed the company.

Jonathan Snowden is the author of Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting, as well as a contributor to and the Fight Network blog among other MMA websites. Snowden is a former lawyer, has worked for the U.S. Army and the White House Communications Agency, and currently works for the Department of Defense.

Official Release on UFC & Affliction Collaboration

July 25, 2009

SEAL BEACH, Calif., July 24, 2009 —-Zuffa, LLC, owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship “UFC” organization and Affliction Holdings, LLC announced today they have agreed to a collaboration that will benefit the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and ultimately the sport’s growing fan base.

The collaboration ensures commitments by UFC and Affliction for Mixed Martial Arts to continue to be recognized as a mainstream sport.

“We are excited about the return of Affliction to the UFC and look forward to seeing our fighters once again walk into the Octagon wearing the Affliction brands. Affliction is an innovator of mixing fashion with this sport and we are looking forward to working together to promote the sport.” Dana White, President of UFC.

“Our brand is synonymous with the ‘Live Fast’ approach to life and UFC is the perfect venue for us to market our brand. We have come to an agreement with the UFC which we feel will be the best for the sport and will help the UFC continue delivering the highest caliber of fights.” Eric Foss, Co-Founder of Affliction.

Update: Affliction Back with UFC

July 24, 2009

According to Kevin Iole at Yahoo! Sports, Affliction has decided to throw in the promotional towel in return for a sponsorship placement with the UFC.

In addition, there’s talk of a major UFC announcement tonight on ESPN radio.

Payout Opinion:

It’s certainly a shocking turn of events – especially considering that Iole had earlier reported the UFC as turning down Affliction just last week (and earlier this year, for that matter).

If Affliction is coming back on as a sponsor, it creates a distinct conflict of interest with the Tapout brand that is currently the UFC’s official clothing sponsor and long-time loyal business partner.

I suspect that if Affliction does get back into the UFC, Zuffa will retain some sort of ownership share in the company. A good amount of historical precedence with Zuffa exists to back this up (Tapout, Xyience, etc.).

And, really, what other reason might this deal be of any interest to the UFC?  The UFC doesn’t need Affliction’s sponsorship dollars, nor was it worried about the promotional competition that Affliction had presented (obviously, Affliction had done enough to sink its own ship).

More to come…things are happening quickly!

Affliction Trilogy Cancelled

July 24, 2009

SI’s Josh Gross is reporting that Affliction’s third event, Trilogy, has been cancelled from its August 1st date at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

The fate of the event has been in question since late Tuesday, when headliner Josh Barnett tested positive for an anabolic steroid and left Affliction’s prime ticket, Fedor Emelianenko, without an opponent.

Promoter, Tom Atencio, noted that the organization would not have been able to give the new main event the proper lead-up and marketing it deserved and therefore they chose to cancel.

Affliction III: Barnett Out, Belfort Possibly Stepping Up

July 22, 2009

It was revealed Tuesday that Josh Barnett has tested positive for a “performance enhancing substance” and will be unable to compete at Affliction: Trilogy on August 1st in Anaheim, California.

The story is still developing – the CSAC expects to release a more comprehensive statement later today and Affliction plans on announcing Fedor’s replacement shortly – but it appears as though middleweight Vitor Belfort is primed to step up and face Emelianenko.

Payout Opinion:

While I feel for Tom Atencio and Affliction, I’m not willing to buy the bad luck argument either. Rather, I’m left to question the foundation of any organization that could be brought down by the cancelation of one fight.

This situation really brings me back to the demise of EliteXC in a way: Affliction, too, is a promotion that has built itself around a single fighter, whilst spending excessively and failing to establish sustainable revenues.

It makes me wonder – and so, I suppose, I ask the question – did these guys have a plan? If so, what was it?

I understand the goal has always been to create a “fighter friendly” organization, but that’s more akin to an organizational mission or vision statement than it is any sort of strategy. It’s a guiding principle that they should have kept in the back of their head: one to frame policies, but not to interfere with the bottom line.

Even if Affliction was gambling that its personnel approach would generate the star power needed to generate massive PPVs – something more in line with an actual strategy – they could have gone about organizing their business more efficiently.

There’s no rule that says you have to lose millions of dollars before you can become profitable – quite to the contrary. 

The $40 million that Zuffa lost between 2001 and 2005 represents the time, effort, execution, and the money involved to create a foundation that would allow an MMA organization to flourish. The serendipitous birth of The Ultimate Fighter helped, no doubt, but it was the foundation Zuffa created that allowed it to capitalize on that success.

Times are different now, the sport is well more established, and at some point Affliction is going to have to create a foundation of its own – one that is not dependent upon a clothing line for subsidization.

Unfortunately, things just got complicated.

Snowden: Reaction to Brock Piece; The PR Value of Affliction

July 20, 2009

Last week what I thought would be a fairly obvious article about Brock Lesnar’s post-fight antics, and how they could easily turn off network and advertising executives under enormous pressure to make safe decisions in a turbulent market, turned into one of the most controversial articles I’ve ever written. Many of MMA’s most influential reporters, caught in their pro wrestling pasts, were unable to grasp what was obvious to almost everyone else: not everyone likes pro wrestling antics mixed into their conventional sports.

Lesnar is very likely well on his way to being the top American PPV draw ever (although he has to show some longevity before surpassing Tito Ortiz, Ken Shamrock, and Chuck Liddell). But that doesn’t mean he can’t also be bad for the long term future of the sport, especially as the UFC attempts to market and present the sport as mainstream entertainment and not a pro wrestling side show.

Sometimes the business of MMA can be confusing to people used to seeing the world in strict black and white terms. Take, for example, Affliction. The t-shirt company will hold their third PPV mega show this month and many of the sport’s reporters and fans are actively rooting for them to fail. In their minds, because Affliction hasn’t made a profit in their first two shows, they are a company filled with imbeciles and cannot possibly ever make it in the MMA business.

Putting aside the inconvenient fact that Zuffa failed to make a profit from the UFC in their first four years, let alone their first four shows, and you are still left shaking your head. Affliction, more than being a fight promotion, is a t-shirt company. A very succesful t-shirt company, with a reported $125 million in yearly revenue, but a company in an increasingly crowded marketplace. They needed a way to differentiate themselves from Death Clutch, Silver Star and an ever-growing list of other competitors.

Promoting their own MMA shows was a brilliant way to get their name and product in the MMA news on a constant basis, at a reasonable price. If Affliction issued a press release, it would only be picked up by a scant few websites that publish everything that hits their inbox. As reporters, we gets dozens of these messages a week, ignoring all but a few that ctahc our eye. What Affliction has done is guarantee their releases are picked up everywhere, because they aren’t just about a t-shirt company. They are also about a hot MMA show with some of the best fighters in the world.

The Affliction MMA shows are more than a struggling PPV entity-they are an extended PR move. Public Relations is different than advertising and in many ways more valuable. Often a good PR plan will provide advertising value that exceeds a company’s wildest expectations, and their meagre budget, by planting a constant stream of stories in the media. The benefit is two-fold: the company gets lots of attention their message is much more credible because the media provides a third-party endorsement that advertising cannot provide. Everyone knows that a company pays for advertising and takes those messages with a grain of salt. In a clever PR campaign, the cost of the advertising is hidden.

So when you read reports elsewhere, often from reporters with business and personal relationships with Affliction competitors, it is important to remember that while Affliction has lost several million dollars in the MMA business, the losses haven’t been all for nothing. People know the Affliction name-and in the world of PR and advertising, that’s like money in the bank.


July 10, 2009

CHICAGO, IL (July 10) – ( announced today that it is offering Mixed Martial Arts fans an unprecedented opportunity to meet and spend time with WAMMA heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko during the week of the Affliction M-1 Global “Trilogy” event.

The week-long buildup will include a face-to-face meeting with Fedor and culminate with an appearance as Fedor’s personal guest at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. for his title defense against former UFC heavyweight champion “The Baby Faced Assassin” Josh Barnett.

“ is an exciting new site dedicated to providing subscribers with extraordinary access to the world’s most extraordinary people,” said NameDrop CEO Ted Foxman. “Fedor Emelianenko is one of the most extraordinary fighters in MMA today and any fan of Fedor or MMA would be fortunate to spend time with one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. That’s what is all about.”

Fans visiting can register to win many valuable prizes, including this once-in-a-lifetime experience to come face-to-face with Fedor. In addition to meeting Fedor and attending “Trilogy” as his personal guest, the grand prize winner and their guest will win an expense paid trip to the event that will include airfare to and from Los Angeles as well as accommodations at the same hotel as Fedor. Additionally, the winner and their guest will be able to have dinner with the living legend following the official press conference for Affliction M-1 Global “Trilogy.”

The appearance as Fedor’s personal guest will include ringside seats and VIP credentials that will place the ultimate MMA fan in the middle of the action to give the winner and their guest unprecedented access to this highly anticipated event.

Many more contest entrants will win prizes, including tickets to Affliction M-1 Global “Trilogy” or autographed items from Fedor Emelianenko — all presented by… Extraordinary names. Extraordinary access.

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NameDropTM is a trademark of Productive People, LLC in the U.S. and other countries. All product names are trademarks of Productive People, LLC.

White Entertains Barnett Signing, Reality Makes It a Long Shot

June 14, 2009

The old maxim of business making strange bedfellows is never more true than in MMA. The thought of Top 5 heavyweight Josh Barnett and UFC Prez Dana White pairing up being a perfect example, but one that White is not ruling out. MMAJunkie has the word from a recent UFC Q and A session that if Barnett can beat Fedor, the Zuffa door may be open:

At Friday’s UFC 99 Q&A session with UFC Fight Club members in Cologne, Germany, White once again expressed the difficulty in his attempts to acquire the Russian heavyweight while suggesting the organization may possibly target an ex-employee.

“If Josh Barnett beats Fedor, obviously I’d be interested in signing Josh Barnett,” White said. “Obviously if he beats Fedor, he’s one of the best in the world.”

Barnett for his part has spoken in the past about the possibility of working with the UFC again, and his sentiments don’t make one optimistic:

TK: Could you see yourself fighting in the UFC again one day?
JB: It’s really up to them. From my perspective, all I’ve ever done is called them on things they’ve said or done concerning me or blanket statements they’ve made that include me. For me, it’s about not agreeing to be used, abused and kicked to the curb or letting someone just run over me. I’ve spent enough time in the business building up who I am and getting to where I’m at. I believe that time, dedication and accomplishment deserves to be treated a certain way. Honestly, I can do business with just about anybody and if they want to do business they just have to come with good faith and not try to pull on over me.

Whether it be a laundry list of biz practices of the UFC that would run counter to Barnett’s beliefs or an air of disrespect towards fighters at times by White, the odds of there being a meeting of the minds between the UFC and Mr Barnett would seem to be long.

Affliction III: Daley vs. Hieron Confirmed

May 26, 2009

Sources have confirmed to that the highly speculated bout between welterweights Paul Daley (21-8-2) and Jay Hieron (17-4) has indeed been signed for Affliction III – an event tentatively scheduled for August 1st in Anaheim, California.

Daley, 27, is a former Cage Rage welterweight champion and is currently enjoying a two-fight win streak. However, his last notable fight was a three round decision loss to Nick Thompson at MFC 20 in February. The international striking sensation will look to get back to his winning ways of old – and avoid some of his previous weight cutting issues – when he climbs into the ring with the former IFL welterweight champion, Hieron.

Hieron, 33, is coming off an impressive KO victory over Jason High at the last Affliction event in January and is as tough as they come. He’s competed in numerous organizations, including the UFC and the IFL, and owns victories over the likes of Jake Ellenberger, Pat Healy, and Delson Heleno.

Although Affliction has yet to officially announce its next fight card, today’s confirmation seemingly adds yet another piece to Affliction III’s impressive puzzle. Earlier in the week, MMA Fanhouse reported that Fedor vs. Barnett had been verbally agreed to and just yesterday Gegard Mousassi announced via M-1 Global that he will be taking on Vitor Belfort on the same card.

HDNet Fights Presents Affliction: Day of Reckoning

March 12, 2009

WHAT: HDNet will present the first airing of “HDNet Fights Presents “Affliction: Day of Reckoning” since the live event on January 24.  Originally broadcast on pay-per-view, the event featured the long-awaited match-up between WAMMA Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski, which turned into one of the most talked about matches in MMA.  Other spectacular bouts included on the card are Josh “Babyface Assassin” Barnett taking on Gilbert “The Hurricane” Yvel and in the light-heavyweight match, Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.

WHEN: Friday, March 13 at 10:00 p.m. ET on HDNet.

About HDNet

HDNet ( is a network that is original, thinks independently and delivers

unique content and provocative, authentic programming that appeals to men of all ages, delivered in true high definition.

HDNet is the exclusive, high definition home for popular, original programming, including television’s only HD news feature programs “HDNet World Report,” and the Emmy Award winning “Dan Rather Reports,” featuring legendary journalist Dan Rather.  Only HDNet goes beyond the headlines to deliver real news that is redefining the way we look at our world.  HDNet News is provocative, sometimes controversial and always relevant  – telling the important stories of our time in-depth, with attitude and with independence.

HDNet presents championship sports coverage featuring the best of Mixed Martial Arts through HDNet Fights.  HDNet Fights partners with leading MMA promoters including Affliction, DREAM, Sengoku, XFC, M-1, K-1, K-1 Max, MFC, Adrenaline and more.  HDNet produces more live mixed martial arts events than any other network and HDNet’s “Inside MMA” is the hottest mixed martial arts program on television, giving MMA fans their weekly fix for everything MMA.

HDNet also delivers the world’s largest and most diverse concert line-up through the HDNet Concert Series.  The HDNet Concert Series features leading artists and bands including Coldplay, Gwen Stefani, John Mayer and more.  HDNet also features revealing lifestyle programming featuring “Art Mann Presents,” “Vegas Confessions,” “Deadline” and “Get Out!”  HDNet is also the exclusive high definition home to critically acclaimed and award winning documentaries as part of the InFocus series.   “NASA on HDNet” presents all live shuttle launches through 2010.

Only HDNet Movies delivers exclusive Sneak Previews of new movies before they hit theaters.  The HDNet Movies Sneak Preview series features top Hollywood stars in critically acclaimed performances including Gwyneth Paltrow, Joaquin Phoenix, Demi Moore, Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Vera Farmiga, Parker Posey, Brian Cox, Matthew Broderick, Brittany Snow and Eric Bana.

Upcoming Sneak Previews include “The Great Buck Howard,”starring Colin Hanks, John Malkovich and Tom Hanks, and “HarlemAria,” starring Damon Wayans.

In addition to being the exclusive home of Sneak Previews, HDNet Movies presents viewers with over one hundred films and an average of twenty-five  “HD Premieres” each month.    HDNet Movies viewers enjoy the best films from the classics of the 1950s-1970s, to favorite films from the 1980s and 1990s, to recently released theatrical films.

HDNet Movies offers subscribers a premium movie viewing experience in true HD, and more original movies shot entirely in HD than any other network.

Launched in 2001 by Mark Cuban and General Manager Philip Garvin, the HDNet networks are available on AT&T, Bright House Networks, Charter Communications, Comcast, DIRECTV, DISH Network, Insight, Mediacom, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and more than 40 NCTC cable affiliate companies. For more information visit

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