MMA Humpday

The two big news stories this week center around the fall out from this weekend’s fight cards.

According to Affliction VP Tom Atencio, 13,228 fans were in attendance for “Day of Reckoning”. The paid attendance was 8,946. This means 32% of the audience watched the fight card for free. While it is standard to give away free tickets, dolling out almost one third of your tickets for free is a lot, and not a good indicator of business success.

If you were to sort though all the numbers – Fighter salaries and promotional fees vs. pay per view, ticket, advertising and merchandise revenues – now matter how you slice it, Affliction lost a significant amount of cash. The only way to “justify” the cost is to write it off as an advertising expense for their clothing line.

So will the fledgling MMA organization put on another show?

In a recent interview with Five Ounces of Pain, Atencio said that the next Affliction show is likely to take place this summer.

“We’re going to have a third event,” said Atencio. “It’s just a matter of when. Possibly in July, possibly in August. I’m just not really sure. We’re looking and we’re sitting down (and) trying to figure everything out.”

When questioned about the potential fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett, Atencio said.

“That’s what I’m hoping for but right now I’ve got to sit down with these guys and figure everything out,”

In other Tom Atencio chatter, courtesy of Steve Cofield’s MMA Experts blog, the Affliction VP sounded less confident:

“I just don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m just not that guy. Until we get things finalized and until I have 10 fights under my belt, I’m just not gonna be that guy. You don’t know what’s going to happen in this industry, the economy is not doing well. These guys are the ones. These guys are the warriors. They put their lives on the line and fight and train hard. Hopefully, there’s someone out there who can give them another home and hopefully that will continue to be us.”

It is clear as an outsider what Affliction needs to do to turn a profit. Cut their fighter salaries in half while doubling their PPV numbers. The difference between doing it and saying it might mean the end of the road for Affliction in 2009.

The “other” fight card this weekend was WEC 38. Things were going “as expected” all the way through round four of the main event. Then, in the fifth round, things took a turn for the worse. No. 1 contender Donald Cerrone looked to hit the champion, Jamie Varner with an accidental (but illegal) knee.

Varner opted not to continue after having difficulty seeing, providing a disappointing ending to a fantastic fight. Despite the split-decision, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Varner was on his way to a clear-cut victory.

The real controversy came shortly after it was announced that Varner was letting the fight to go to the judge’s score cards early. Fans began to boo and Varner pleaded with the crowd that he couldn’t continue. Varner  put his put in his mouth when he revealed he had broken his hand in round two. Fans implied: He was quitting, not from the errant knee, but because of his hand.

According to MMA Bay, A member of Xtreme Couture went even farther saying the following on the Xtreme Couture Blog:

“In no way am I taking what Jamie Varner has done to get the belt, but come on, are you serious. Donald Cerrone was there to fight. He was getting beat up, but still marching forward. From the moment Varner walked out, too when he got into the cage, he looked pail white and nervous. He stuck to a good game plan, because Cerrone is quite tall and good with his hands, so stick and move is fine. It just seemed to me like he was trying to point fight instead of bringing the fight to Cerrone.

Yes he was beating Cerrone up, swelled both of his eyes, but the pace was dictated by the “Cowboy” and when an inadvertent knee came into play, Varner took a dive, knowing he probably was winning on points. I have to give him this though; he should have been at the SAG Awards last night excepting the award for “Best dramatic performance by a female in the cage” because that was ridiculous.
The knee, in the replay didn’t hit him, he was tired and he was in pain from his hand. I am revoking his Man card until he shows me otherwise. Anyone of our 155lb fighters in this gym would eat his lunch, probably our 145lb fighters too.”

Harsh words indeed. It is most likely that Varner and Cerrone will meet in a rematch when Varner is fully healed from his broken hand, and broke foot, which was later reported. The question is: will the WEC have Cerrone fight someone else in the meantime. A likely opponent would be the winner of “McCullough vs. Hicks” who fight at WEC 39, March 1.

In other UFC/WEC news….It looks like Carlos Condit will finally join the big show. Inside Fights first reported that news that Condit will be making his UFC debut against Martin Kampmann at Ultimate Fight Night 18. It will likely serve as the main event.

Five Ounces also reported the story and added that a scheduled fight between Condit and Brock Larson, which was set to take place at WEC 39, was canceled when Larson sustained an injury. Condit has already cleared out the WEC’s welterweight division so the move to the UFC seemed to make sense now rather then later.

I have to say I was initially surprised by the match up. Condit certainly deserves a quality opponent in his fight first. But I thought they might give him a slightly easier path in his first fight to ease the transition. I also thought the UFC would progressively increase the level of Kampmann’s competition to build him up in the welterweight division. This is a great fight though.

Prior to that fight, we have a new main at Ultimate Fight Night 17. The original main event had Hermes Franca battling Joe Lauzon. However,  Franca injured his knee and will not be replaced by his training partner Jeremy Stephens.

Stephens was expected to collide with The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 lightweight winner, Efrain Escudero, at UFN 18. Jeremy could pull a “Josh Koscheck” and still compete then too,  if he escapes the bout with Lauzon  injury-free.

“Little Heathen” was most recently in action at UFC 91, back in November, earning “Knockout of the Night” honors after flooring Rafael dos Anjos with a vicious upper cut which he threw from near the center of the cage.

Stephens vs. Franca, while not nearly as main event, could be an even more entertaining show.

As for Franca has been a rough ride over the past 18 months. The former No. 1 contender recently returned from a 12-month steroids suspension, and lost to Frank Edgar in his July comeback fight at Ultimate Fight Night 14. Hermes then rebounded with a win against his former Brazilian jiu-jitsu teacher Marcus Aurelio at UFC 90 back in October.

Shortly thereafter he was arrested in Jupiter, Fla. on suspicion of Driving under the Influence (DUI). Hopefully for Franca, he can get his affairs in order, heal himself and return to the octagon later in 2009.

In one last bit of news… the UFC 91: “Couture vs. Lesnar” replay, which aired for free on Jan. 24, 2009, to counter program the Affliction: “Day of Reckoning” pay-per-view, peaked at 3.3 million viewers. It scored an average of 2.3 million viewers.

That is very impressive for a two month old fight card.

In comparison, UFC 75 holds the record the highest recorded rating for a UFC broadcast. The fight card took place in London, England and was subsequently tape delayed. The event drew a total of 4.7 million viewers with 5.9 million at its peak.

The all time record for viewership is held by Elite XC: Primetime which was shown live on CBS. The event featured Kimbo Slice in action. The show averaged 4.85 million viewers and peaked during the main event at 6.5 million, making it the most watched MMA show in television history.

It makes you wonder what kind of ratings an event like UFC 91 would take in if it aired live, and for free, on a major network.

That’s all I have got for Humpday. Make sure to tune in tonight for the third and final installment of UFC: Primetime which will lead us into this weekend’s historic fight between Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn. Two Inside Fight’s writers will take sides in the UFC 94 War Report so be sure to check back tomorrow to read the full report.

See you next week MMA fans.

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