Evaluating Affliction

One of the questions that I keep thinking about is whether or not Affliction in here to stay and whether or not they will compete with the UFC.  No one disagrees that UFC is the standard of MMA right now, but Affliction is making up ground quickly.  It has been a tell tale sign of a slight change that Affliction has signed so many guys lately including many of the stars from the now defunt IFL, which was bought by the parent company of the UFC, Zuffa.  Affliction has signed Champs Roy Nelson and Vladimir Matyushenko.  They have signed lightweight star Chris Horodecki and are rumored to have welterweight champ Jay Hieron.  Affliction is cleaning up the free agents and doing better in that regard than even the UFC as of late.  So, what is there to judge a promotion…

1. Fighter Talent – Fight promotions are fight promotions.  There are other factors that come into play, but primarily if a promotion does not have top level talent they will not stay relevant.

2. Show Quality –  While good fighters is essential, the promotion must put on a good show.  They must entertain fans.  This includes exciting fights, good commentators and a solid show production.  Promotions have to build shows people will come to or buy.

3.  Solid Managment –  Managment is important to a fight promotion, not just anyone can do it.  A promotion may suceed or fail based ont he business savvy of the fight promoter or president.  The PR, fighter pay, contracts, TV deals, etc. all come into play here.

With that said, let’s see how Affliction is doing…

1. Fighter Talent…

There is a lot of hype around Affliction’s fighter talent.  Here is who I can think of off hand that they have and will use on their cards

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Andrei Arlovski
  • Josh Barnett
  • Tim Sylvia
  • Ben Rothwell
  • Roy Nelson
  • Pedro Rizzo
  • Paul Buentello
  • Aleksander Emelianenko
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Vladimir Matyushenko
  • Renato “Babalu” Sobral
  • Mike Whitehead
  • Edwin DeWees
  • Vernon White
  • Vitor Belfort
  • Matt Lindland
  • Jay Hieron
  • Mike Pyle
  • J.J. Ambrose
  • Chris Horodecki

I went to HDNet’s Rankings to see how many Affliction Fighters were ranked in the top 100 pound for pound or top in their divisons  here is the results.

(Pound for Pound Rank, Divison Rank)

  • Fedor Emelianenko (2, 1)
  • Andrei Arlovski (25, 4)
  • Josh Barnett (27, 5)
  • Tim Sylvia (55, 7)
  • Ben Rothwell (81, 12)
  • Roy Nelson (84, 13)
  • Pedro Rizzo (NR, 19)
  • Paul Buentello (NR, NR)
  • Aleksander Emelianenko (76, 10)
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (85, 13)
  • Tito Ortiz (87, 15)
  • Vladimir Matyushenko (66, 12)
  • Renato “Babalu” Sobral (92, 16)
  • Mike Whitehead (NR, NR)
  • Edwin DeWees (NR, NR)
  • Vernon White (NR, NR)
  • Vitor Belfort (NR, NR) – Unfairly I’d admit
  • Matt Lindland (22, 5)
  • Jay Hieron (59, 11)
  • Mike Pyle (NR, NR)
  • J.J. Ambrose (NR, NR)
  • Chris Horodecki (NR, NR)
  • Put this into perspective, out of the top 100 the promotions faires like this in pound for pound top 100 fighters…

    • UFC -39
    • Affliction – 13
    • DREAM -12
    • WEC – 10
    • EliteXC – 10
    • Strikeforce – 5
    • World Victory Road – 3

    The point is that Affliction’s talent is overrated. 

    • They are right about the level of DREAM talent wise
    • They are no where near the talent level of the UFC
    • 10 of the Affliction guys that appeared on the rankings list have fought in the UFC before.  Some have been sucessful.  There are several former UFC champs (Sylvia, Barnett, Rizzo, Ortiz and Arlovski), however most of them did no better than fair in the UFC (see Matyushenko, Hieron, et. al)
    • Most of the top Affliction guys are in the second half of their careers and are past their prime.  They still have fight left in them, don’t get me wrong, but not for the long haul
    • What happens if two or three of those gusy get injured?  Affliction is hanging their hat on Fedor, Barnett, Arlovski and Ortiz.  They cannot keep putting everyone on every card, they will run out of match-ups.
    • To their credit, they can put on good fights.  The talent isn’t bad.  Their guys can fight exciting fighter, but they have exciting fights at tough man competitions. They need to sign younger talent and more talent.

    Show Quality…

    • I cannot judge them solely on their sole show.  Affliction needs to improve their show quality as far as commentating, interviews and production is concerned
    • Also, I thought with the exception of the last 3 fights the card wasn’t what it was billed to be
    • They are nowhere near the UFC level as far as enjoyability to watch

    Solid Managment:

    • The UFC with Dana White and the Fertitas is still the managment standard.  I have problems with the UFC and Dana White’s managing style.  I don’t like his constant expletives, I don’t like the way he trashes other promotions, I don’t like the stubborness he exhibits with signing guys like Lindland and Barnett, and even Fedor.  However, Dana is crafty.  Atencio is no Dana White.  Watch his video below where he can’t remember Josh Barnett’s name and he is the main event for the second show. 
    • Affliction does have the deep pocketed Donald Trump behind them which helps.  Trump is a business guiness, but he doesn’t neccessarily know MMA.  The money helps thought he same way it helped having Lorezon and Frank in the UFC early days when they lost tons of money.

    Here is the point folks…Affliction is a solid upstart company.  They may be around for a while, but before we jump ont he bandwagon and label them peers to the UFC and competitors to the UFC let them get through a few shows first.  Let’s see how much money they lose after 3 events.  Let’s see how many fights they can do after 3 card.  They could compete, but as for now it is the UFC and then everyone else.  Zuffa is sitting pretty in the MMA world.  They are the big leagues, everything else is just the minors.  Affliction, EliteXC and DREAM are in the same boat and in a year from now at least one of them will be non-existent.

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    The Big Announcement Is…

    Bloggers and die hard MMA fans have been awaiting the “mind blowing announcement” for over a week now. Well….here it is. According to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports

    Lorenzo Fertitta, the president of one of the most successful casino chains in Las Vegas, resigned his position with Station Casinos on Wednesday to work full-time with the UFC.

    This hardly seems mind blowing.  How much do you want to bet that no one guessed this earth shattering news?   Hopefully Dana White can be tamed by Lorenzo Fertitta and he will stop putting his foot in his mouth.  I don’t guess Dana is out of a job, but if the UFC was wise Lorenzo would assume more of a visible role in the UFC.  The report indicates that Fertitta will assume the responsibility of working on international marketing, which would be huge for the UFC, but not that big of an impact of U.S. fans unless it means more shows.  Here is the rest of the report from Kevin Iole:

    White, the UFC’s colorful and outspoken president, earlier this month had promised a bombshell announcement that he vowed would rock the mixed martial arts world. His long-awaited announcement, which had many in the industry in a lather speculating about what it might be, may turn out to be ho-hum news to the sport’s hard-core fans.

    But White insists that Fertitta’s decision to resign as president of Station Casinos to work full-time for the UFC is a seminal moment in the company’s history.

    Fertitta and his older brother, Frank III, are the primary owners of the UFC. But until now Lorenzo Fertitta has devoted more than three-quarters of his time to running the family business as president of the burgeoning casino company.

    But Fertitta, who according to In Business Las Vegas magazine was the second-highest paid casino executive in Las Vegas in 2007 with a salary of $113.8 million, said the growth of the UFC demanded a more significant involvement.

    Fertitta insisted the move was no indictment of White, his long-time friend and next-door neighbor, but rather one which is desperately needed because of the significant growth the company is undergoing.

    “The problem, if there is a problem, is that the business has gotten so successful, it’s requiring more time, focus and attention,” Fertitta said. “Station Casinos is a business my family and I have built and now it’s a multi-billion dollar company. But the reality is, the UFC has gone through so much growth in the last eight years, my brother and I felt we’d be better in divide and conquer mode. He’ll stay at Station Casinos and take care of that and I’ll come over here and work on the issues involving the UFC.”

    Frank Fertitta III will remain as chief executive officer of Station Casinos, though he’ll retain his ownership stake in the UFC. Lorenzo Fertitta, meanwhile, will work to develop the international business for an organization which once struggled to gain a foothold in the U.S.

    When the Ferittas purchased the company from Semaphore Entertainment Group in 2001 for $2 million, it had four employees and staged its bouts in small hotel ballrooms to save costs. Now, the company has expanded to over 100 employees with offices in both the U.S. and Europe and promotes fight cards in state-of-the-art arenas around the world.

    White said that when he and the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC, they believed this kind of success was possible, though few others did. Influential members of Congress were against the sport, and, for a time, it was banned from cable pay-per-view television in the United States.

    Now the UFC is thriving domestically and has expanded internationally, having in the last 14 months staged five cards in the U.K., including two in London and one apiece in Manchester, Newcastle and Belfast, Northern Ireland. White has already said the UFC plans to put a show in The Philippines and a UFC event is expected to be among the early acts to play at the ritzy new O2 World Arena being built in Berlin.

    Fertitta says the UFC plans to expand outside of the U.S. and U.K. and into mainland Europe, with plans to go to Italy, France and Spain, in addition to Germany. He said he foresees expansion into the Baltic countries, including Russia, and was recently in Dubai working on establishing a foothold for the UFC there.

    Asia also is in the plans, he said, citing China, South Korea, Japan and India as prime markets for the company.

    “Think about this for a second: India has 350 million men between the ages of 18 and 34, and that’s our key demographic,” Fertitta said. “The magnitude of these markets is staggering. Dana has been doing a phenomenal job with this company, and I’ve been doing what I could given my responsibilities (at Station Casinos).

    “The UFC is going to have a global footprint in the not-too-distant future. We’re already working on furthering our position in Brazil. This is getting so big that it demanded I spend more time with it.”

    Speculation was rampant among MMA fans and media after White said earlier this month that he was going to make an announcement that would change the face of the industry. Guesses ranged from the UFC landing a network television deal to a purchase of the struggling International Fight League to a settlement with its estranged heavyweight champion, Randy Couture.

    White said he understands that some may see Fertitta’s move as a sign of the owners’ unhappiness with him or as an indication that the company is in peril.

    He laughed at the thought and said he believes the UFC is about to explode.

    “If they think that, beautiful, because it’s better for us,” White said. “There just isn’t enough time in the day for me to do everything that needs to be done. Lorenzo’s wife said to me the other day, ‘The two of you together is scary.’ I think what we’re going to be able to do now is amazing.

    “I think the potential for the UFC within the next five years globally is that it is going to be bigger than the NFL, bigger than Major League Baseball. As huge as the NFL is here, they don’t give a (expletive) about the NFL in Europe. But fighting transcends continents. Everybody on every continent understands a fight.”

    Fertitta also plans to work on landing more big-name sponsors, particularly in countries other than the U.S. The UFC signed two blue-chip sponsors, Bud Light and Harley Davidson, earlier this year.

    He said he’s excited about the merchandising deal the UFC signed last week with Jakks Pacific, which will produce action figures of UFC fighters. White said the Jakks deal is critical, because it will help fighters make significant amounts of money.

    “Our top guys now are making millions. Others are making hundreds of thousands,” White said. “But when we get this thing globally where I know we can, with the merchandising and all the ancillary stuff, the fighters are going to be paid when they’re sitting on their couch.

    “It’s going to be a great situation for them. They’ll still be paid when they fight, but now, when they’re sitting at home doing nothing and checks are rolling in and they’re making money, that’s when they’ll know they’ve hit it.”

    Fertitta and White made the announcement to their employees in a meeting on Wednesday at Palace Station, one of the Station Casinos’ properties.

    White said Fertitta’s presence in the office on a daily basis would have a significant impact upon his staff.

    “These people who are working for us, maybe some of them wonder if they did the right thing coming to a company that promotes mixed martial arts fights,” White said.

    “Everyone has doubts, right? Well, when you see Lorenzo Fertitta, a guy who was the No. 2-highest paid casino executive in Las Vegas, quit that job to come to work full-time for the UFC, that will be pretty strong evidence that they’ve made the correct move. “The Internet may not consider this huge news, but what the people on the Internet think is huge and what I think is huge are two different things. But you know what? I think I have a pretty good track record. I think this is maybe the biggest day in UFC history. I’m so excited, I can’t begin to explain it to you. This is an historic day for me and this company.”

    No doubt it is big news for the UFC and will serve to exapnd the UFC internationally, but it isn’t the earth shattering news I expected.