Unfortunately most of the news this week was bad news and the majority of it focused on the rapid decline and eventual extinction of Affliction’s fight promotion. Late last week, only mere days before Affliction’s third MMA event, one half of the main event, Josh Barnett, returned a positive steroid test.
Barnett, who was supposed to battle heavyweight champion and a contender for the title of best pound for pound fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko, found out he had tested positive for steroids for the third time in his career. This positive test was done weeks before in order to get his license to fight in Califronia where the card was to take place. He appeared as shocked as anyone figuring he would’ve heard about this long before just a few days before the fight.
Both fighters seemed staggered by the news that the fight they had trained and sacrificed for was now, suddenly called off, seemingly without warning. While this was a significant hit to Barnett’s reputation and career in the US this positive steroid test set off the landslide that took the entire promotion under.
Affliction was unable to find a suitable replacement and only within a couple days they had cancelled the entire event. This was very bad news for a promotion that seemed to be hemorrhaging debt and whose entire promotion was essentially based around one fighter. To borrow one of my favorite movie lines as Kevin Spacey put it in The Usual Suspects, “And just like that… poof, he was gone.”
Affliction folded the following day after announcing Trilogy had been cancelled. Even though they had given a lot of fighters who were not well known in the U.S. a chance to shine, their business model was shaky at best and mind bogglingly naive it worst.
They intended to go toe to toe with the biggest promotion in the world and expected to come out on top by being the nice guy promotion who paid their fighters more (too much) and based an entire organization around one fighter’s schedule. Affliction put on very solid fight cards and delivered some memorable moments but they were outmatched from the start.
However, even though the promotional venture of the company has shut its doors expect to hear a lot more from Affliction very soon. Affliction was a huge sponsor of UFC fighters before they entered the fight game but fighters were forced to rebuke any offers once Affliction entered the promoting business. Now however, only days after their demise, the clothing company is back in a big way. Affliction is currently in negotiations to become an official sponsor of the UFC much like another giant in the MMA apparel industry, Tapout.
While the terms are unknown at this point it brings up very interesting questions about what role Affliction will play in the UFC in regards to sponsoring fighters as well as how Tapout will feel about the new partnership. It is almost as interesting to this business person as where most of the fighters will land.
Speaking of the UFC, only one important announcement was made this past week and it was Ricardo Almeida announcing that his middleweight fight with Kendall Grove at UFC 101 will be his last at middleweight. Almeida will drop down to welterweight after this fight no matter the outcome.
Piling on to the bad news from last week of Alistair Overeem having to pull out of his heavyweight title fight it was announced this week that Joe Riggs had to pull out of his welterweight title fight with Nick Diaz for the vacant Strikeforce title. Diaz still expects to fight for the title but a replacement opponent has not been named.
However, the one bit of good news to come out of the Affliction disintegration and the Overeem injury is that Renato Sobral will defend his light heavyweight title against Gegard Mousasi. This fight was going to be a non title fight on the Affliction card but now that the promotion has folded and Strikeforce was out a title fight this made perfect sense. Fortunately all parties agreed to put on the fight at the last minute. This should be a great fight and it will be a great introduction to American fans for Mousasi who dominated the middleweight division outside of the UFC and now looks to make an impact on the American light heavyweight scene.