Atencio Unfazed by Couture's Re-signing

Written by Tom Ngo
September 5th, 2008

After the UFC officially announced the re-signing of their heavyweight champion Randy Couture on Tuesday, many MMA enthusiasts wondered how that would impact the start-up MMA promotion, Affliction Entertainment. For the first time, Vice President Tom Atencio has spoken out about Couture’s situation, and how that will impact his company.

“Randy needs to do what he needs to do to handle his problems,” Atencio told MMARated.com. “I’m happy for him.”

Couture resigned from his post as UFC champion last October, after the UFC failed to land free agent Fedor Emelianenko, the last fighter Couture wanted to take on before he hung up his gloves for good, as well as receiving high levels of “disrespect” from the organization.

During his 11-month layoff, Couture was actively trying to make the fight happen on his own, while invovled in a legal battle with the UFC during the entire process.

After Emelianenko signed an exclusive USA MMA deal with Affliction, the parent company of Couture’s “Xtreme Coutre” clothing line, it seemed ideal that the mega fight would take place under the Affliction promotion.

Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Couture was present at Affliction’s debut event, “Banned,” in July, entering the ring and speaking to the audience after Emelianenko won the WAMMA heavyweight title. Both fighters respectfully expressed to the fans their desires to make the fight happen, knowing that it would be easier said than done.

Many felt that if Affliction was able to make that fight happen, they would position themselves as legitimate contenders to the UFC’s MMA monopoly in the US. Atencio, however, kept things in perspective and never got his hopes up.

“I think the biggest problem is people assume everything,” Atencio stated. “The bottom line is Randy is our partner with Xtreme Couture. Randy is sponsored by Affliction. He’s been with us and we work with him. Randy needs to handle his legal problems with the UFC and he did so I am happy for him.”

It seems as though Atencio is the only one sharing heart felt greetings after the signing, as UFC President Dana White, who is never shy on stating what is on his mind, lashed out at Affliction and their chances of surviving this war against the UFC.

“Randy Couture’s going to fight November 15,” White said after Tuesday’s conference call. “He’s going to fight Brock Lesnar in the biggest fight in UFC history. The rest of the heavyweight division will be figured out in December. I would be [expletive] horrified if Affliction is still in business by January. They’re going to burn a lot of cash in the next couple of months, believe me. Good luck to them and I’ll be sitting here waiting to see what happens.”

As usual, Atencio decided to take the high road, refusing to counter White’s harsh statement about his company.

“Dana has his right to his opinion and he is very open about it and that is completely fine,” Atencio said calmly. “Since day one, I have always handled things this way. I don’t need to bite my tongue because I don’t need to talk [expletive] about people.”

Whether White’s comments were uncalled for or not may be irrelevant, because they might be true. The UFC, with White as their ringleader, has done a fantastic job of marketing the company and its fighters in the domestic market. They have also been aggressive in their international expansion efforts within the past few years as well.

Unfortunately for Affliction, they may have a few big name fighters, but their ability to consistently put on high level cards will always be a concern because they don’t have the talent pool, nor the luxury of a farm system, like the UFC has with their “Ultimate Fighter” reality show.

Affliction will be holding their second event, “Day of Reckoning,” on October 11th.

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