Monday, July 21, 2008

Affliction: Banned Luke's review

Does this whole Affliction thing really have legs? Short answer is yes, long answer is no. We'll go with the short answer first. Affliction will be here for now because it has Fedor and a stellar list of heavyweights to fight him. He hasn't ever faced Barnett or Arlovski, both of whom looked awesome in their respective bouts Saturday night. Not to mention, Randy Couture is a mere few months away from getting passed his legal situation and ready to fight the mad Russian. Strictly based on that they should be able to put on at a minimum three more shows based strictly on the content they have now. Plus, there are a few guys out there who could come in and give them a little more depth in other weight classes, most notably Tito Ortiz, who sat right next to The Donald the entire night. Despite the thoughts of Dana White, money should not be a problem because Trump recognizes that this sport has the ability to be much bigger than boxing or pro wrestling. In other less lucrative business he has shown no issue with losing a bunch of money up front if he thinks can make a buck later.

Now for the long answer. I don't see Affliction, in its current state, remaining as a long-term threat to the UFC for a number of reasons. First, they are a tee-shirt company trying to put on a MMA event. Red Bull has taken this approach to selling their energy drink, by buying up two soccer teams and I think it can be said it has not been a great investment on their part. Neither of the teams is successful and I am not sure people are buying more Red Bull because of it. The same goes for Affliction, if their end goal is to increase their brand name and exposure at a profit then get out now, because aside from the talent the production quality of their event sucked. Everything was off, from the previews, to the segment transitions, to the announcing, nothing seemed to mesh. They tried to go with the Japanese show format with over the top ring walks, the Megadeath show and Michael Buffer doing the ring announcing but no one seemed to know their place. The first televised fight started off in the second round!!!!!!!!!!! Granted, it was their first rodeo, but if you are going to pump the money into it get a good event co-coordinator and producer. It looked bush league. Thank god, the guys in the ring performed because if they hadn't it would have made the IFL shows look like the Super Bowl. Bottom-line: Production quality has to increase and they need to hire some professionals to do it right.

Second, the whole WAMMA thing is a joke. People hate boxing because of junk like this and they love the UFC because the market isn't segmented. Put on the shows but don't expect me to recognize a WAMMA champ in any other division as legitimate because Affliction doesn't have the fighters to back it up. The top ten fighters in the UFC, in the 205, 185, 170 and 155 pound categories would straight up murder the top Affliction guys in those respective weight classes. If you try an force feed me a WAMMA champ at 185 that isn't Anderson Silva I will laugh in your face and there is no way I am buying an Affliction PPV that headlines a belt that isn't in the heavyweight division, it just doesn't make sense. In short, broaden the spectrum of fighters otherwise you'll end up a one trick pony.

Third, the UFC brand is so strong that it can afford to let guys like Tito Ortiz, Arlovski and Sylvia go because there are younger, hungrier and probably more talented fighters out there clamoring to fight in the UFC even if it means starting out with a small contract. We haven't even come close to seeing the best this sport has to offer, in terms of talent. Dana White can spot young talent, maximize their ability quickly and he knows when to let the guys go. GSP, Forrest and Brandon Vera are young home grown guys with strong fan bases. Sylvia is a top notch guy, but it’s hard to argue after his performance Saturday night that Dana wasn't right to let him go. How many fights does Ortiz have left in him? Liddell smashed him and he put up mediocre performances against Rashad and Lyoto Machida. Where was he going to go from there? The UFC’s 205 lb division is too stacked, give a younger, hungrier and cheaper fighter a shot it makes sense. We can debate Arlovski for days, but I think you'll see him back in the Octagon because he'll realize that long-term it is better for him as a fighter. Affliction can’t rely on the older, expensive fighters; the business model just won't work because the fighters aren't as hungry and therefore not as entertaining.

The bottom line is that Affliction will only be around as long as Trump is willing to sink the money into it. Remember, the Fertitta’s bought the UFC $2 million then sunk in another $50 million before it turned around and that took four years. The UFC brand name is strong not only with fans, but with the corporate world as well. They have multiple streams of revenue to rely upon whereas Affliction and Elite XC need to prove their legitimacy every single show just to get the PPV and advertising dollars. Personally, I don’t see the production going much farther than a Fedor versus Couture match up, which will be a great event for the fans, but who do they fight afterwards?

No comments: