Tom Atencio: “I Don’t Blame the UFC for Doing What They Do”

Written by Tom Ngo
August 21st, 2009

Tom Atencio

It’s been exactly three weeks since Affliction Entertainment officially closed their MMA promotional doors. Although the wounds are still fresh, former VP Tom Atencio shares his thoughts on negotiating with the UFC and M-1 Global, as well as Fedor Fedor Emelianenko’s new Strikeforce deal.

“I had a great relationship with [M-1],” Atencio said. “One of the things I always said is I would co-promote and the UFC doesn’t co-promote and they have what they do, and it works for them.

“I’ve always said I don’t blame the UFC for doing what they do. They don’t really need anybody else, and that’s what Dana said. They’re not going to co-promote because he doesn’t need them and that’s 100-percent true. The bottom line is it worked out for Strikeforce, and Vadim [Finkelchtein, Fedor’s manager]is still co-promoting his brand, M-1.”

Once again, the ability to ride the UFC’s coatails to a massive payday, ahem co-promoting, was the deal breaker for the Russians and that is why they shunned the world’s biggest MMA show for the second consecutive time.

UFC president Dana White blasted Fedor and Co. for choosing the smaller Strikeforce over them, even prophesying that M-1 and Emelianenko would put the San Jose, California-based company out of business, just like they did with Pride FC, Bodog Fight and Affliction Entertainment.

In addition, White stated that Fedor’s Strikeforce deal wasn’t even close to what the UFC had on the table for the planet’s best heavyweight. Although the specifics of his contract are unknown to everyone not named Fedor, Vadim or Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, Atencio didn’t disagree with White’s assessment.

“I guarantee you the deal he got at Strikeforce isn’t even in the (expletive) universe of what he got (from the UFC),” White stated. “The deal he got at Strikeforce probably isn’t even the deal he had at Affliction. They have no money.”

Logically, the best way for Strikeforce to generate funds to pay Emelianenko would be to showcase him on pay-per-view events. However, the Russian has never proved to be a blockbluster hit with PPV numbers and Strikeforce has never put together a pay-per-view show.

Either way, Atencio appeared to be comfortable with Strikeforce’s current position, regardless of their potential financial woes, as it was a similar spot that he held not too long ago.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Fedor is the No. 1 fighter in the world,” Atencio said of his former employee. “He’s fought; he’s proven that. It’s not like he’s fought easy fights. But nonetheless he still has the hurdle of making a huge name in the U.S.”

There is no doubt the UFC could have done it, but Fedor opted for the road less traveled. And because of that choice, he may go down as the best mixed martial artist to have never fought on MMA’s biggest stage.

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