So Close, But Yet so Far

Written by Tom Ngo
October 23rd, 2008

Reports are surfacing that Affliction Entertainment and the UFC were recently involved in serious talks of a partnership together. Affliction initially gained their popularity as a sponsor for many popular UFC fighters, however once the UFC caught wind that they had their sights on starting their own MMA promotion, the UFC banned all of their fighters from wearing Affliction’s clothing at any of their events. The report states that it was Affliction that ultimately turned down the offer by the UFC.

MMAWeekly.com confirmed with sources close to the situation that the UFC would allow Affliction to once again sponsor their fighters, as well as produce some co-branded clothing, in exchange for Affliction to no longer promote their own MMA events. The UFC would swallow up some of the more significant fighters under contract with Affliction, most namely Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski.

The two parties had their first meeting on September 26, with both Affliction Vice President Tom Atencio and UFC President Dana White present.  The gathering was professional and cordial, as Affliction left the meeting with the understanding that they would come back to the UFC with a proposal of their own.

As days turned into weeks, the UFC still had not heard anything. Then, they saw that Affliction was going to help EliteXC co-promote their October 4th “Heat” show on CBS.  In addition, Affliction ran multiple ads promoting Emelianenko’s return to the ring, leading UFC brass to think that Affliction’s intentions were not genuine.

However, this past Monday the two sides held a conference call, with Affliction co-founder Todd Beard and UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta spearheading the negotiations. The talks were positive, however at some point the two sides started bickering and directed profanities towards each other, with Beard telling Fertitta  that, “You’ve (expletive) with the wrong guy!”

At this point, it may be safe to say that these two will never partner together, however a case could be made that it would be beneficial for both sides if they did. For Affliction, it would once again allow them to promote their clothing line directly to their largest target market. Clothing is their bread and butter, and with access to the UFC again, they can focus on their area of expertise, clothing, not MMA.

For the UFC, it would have allowed them to eliminate their second competitor in a week, as EliteXC announced on Monday that they have filed for bankruptcy and will be closing their doors by week’s end. Furthermore, the UFC would be able to bring over the highly coveted WAMMA champion Emelianenko, setting up the much hyped, but out of reach, Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko matchup.

The good news for Affliction is that with EliteXC’s exit, they have now stepped up their negotiating efforts with CBS to run future MMA events on the network. CBS is very interested in the MMA business, and experienced a decent level of ratings success with their three EliteXC shows.

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