Then, days after that, they announced a co-promoted Affliction/EliteXC match on the upcoming Oct. 4 CBS show that will pit Andrei Arlovski against Roy Nelson.
Those developments have given a shot in the arm to the upstart companies as they attempt to usurp market share from industry leader UFC.
While such a scenario might ultimately improve the fortunes of both companies – and their fighters along with it – there is, for some, an immediate price to pay. While the headlines speak of potential, it comes largely at the sacrifice of the fighters. At least 20 athletes were preparing for an Oct. 11 matchup before the postponement. Not every one has been promised a slot on the January rescheduling, and perhaps just as importantly, paydays have been lost.
Fighters must simply hope that they are taking one step backward to take two forward in the future, and that their faith is rewarded.
Dan Lauzon signed with Affliction just a few weeks prior to the show date was changed. When he was informed he wouldn’t be fighting on Oct. 11, he immediately spoke with World Championship Fighting promoter Joe Cavallaro and discussed participating on their Sept. 19 show.
“We would’ve put him on, no doubt,” said Cavallaro, who has promoted three Lauzon fights in WCF. “But I asked him, ‘Isn’t your brother [UFC’s Joe Lauzon] fighting two days before that? Aren’t you cornering him? How are you going to get back and make weight? How are you going to be prepared? We both realized it wasn’t the right decision.”
While Cavallaro said it might be possible to get Dan Lauzon on a November event and keep him active, not every fighter will be able to find a matchup and pay to their liking. NBCSports.com spoke with several fighters and managers, and all of them praised Affliction’s Tom Atencio for his professional handling of the situation, realizing that in this case, they would have to put the company’s fate ahead of their own. However, most acknowledged the difficulty that comes from a postponed or canceled match.
Paul Buentello is an MMA veteran and was slated to fight Roy Nelson until the plug was pulled. Buentello lives in Amarillo, Tex., but trains in San Jose, Calif. When he got word of the news, he was in the midst of training camp. He immediately packed up and went home, unsure of his future.
“It’s a little frustrating,” he said. “Being a fighter, it’s never easy. It’s always a struggle financially because your money situation is tied to your fights. It took the wind out of my sails a little. It slows the money train.”
Still, Buentello commends Affliction on their handling of the situation despite the fact that they did not immediately guarantee him a place on the January event.
“Sad to say it, but I’m used to it,” he said. “This isn’t the first time this has happened to me.”
From the beginning of the Affliction fight promotion’s existence, Atencio has said the company will not tolerate losing money. Although details are still being worked out, a partnership with Golden Boy will spread the financial liability while doubling the promotional muscle. Both sides see it as a win-win.
“What this partnership does is mainstream the sport,” said Affliction chief operating officer Michael Cohen. “There are many who refuse to watch it because of ideology, because of perception. We believe that with Golden Boy, we can mainstream MMA to dispel any mischaracterization in the sport. This is a sport that despite its combative nature has very strict rules that are adhered to for the benefit and protection of the fighter.”
While boxing and MMA are close relatives in the combat sports world, they have often been bitter enemies. Many boxing purists have called MMA barbaric, while many MMA fans simply see boxing as boring and outdated. So combining the two on the same card will be an interesting experiment, though one that has been tried before. In June, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, a free card was held with five boxing fights, followed by four MMA bouts that drew an estimated 8,000 fans.
“I’m kind of worried and interested to see how it goes,” said Buentello, who counts himself as a boxing fan. “You might get an MMA match where there are two guys going at it in an action-packed fight for seven or eight minutes, and then you might transition to boxing and slow down the pace of crowd. But from another angle, I think it’s good. When it comes to sponsors, everyone knows what Golden Boy is about. That’s something I can bring to the table with sponsors. It’s interesting.”
“Affliction is aligning themselves with someone with experience in promoting,” said Jeff Clark, whose NCFC Fight Management counts Affliction fighters Chris Horodecki and Mark Hominick as clients. “It’s a sport that is similar to MMA. [Golden Boy] has significant business experience, and believe it’s a good mix to add boxing with a more exciting sport. The contacts and promotion helps Affliction, while the demographic and action of MMA help boxing and Golden Boy.”
Video: MMA from NBC Sports
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