After months of teetering on the verge of disaster, Affliction was pushed over the edge this week when Josh Barnett dropped out of his heavyweight title match against Fedor Emelianenko scheduled to headline its August 1 PPV after failing a drug test. Yesterday the company announced that it was canceling the “Trilogy” PPV and has decided to cease operations.
And now comes word that Affliction has rejoined UFC as an official clothing supplier, which was the whole reason Affliction formed its own MMA organization in the first place. Effectively, Affliction waived the white flag, becoming the latest challenger to Dana White’s UFC empire to crack under the enormous pressure the MMA giant places on competition.
Not that Affliction didn’t try. They spent (many would say overspent) millions of dollars acquiring big-name talent in order to put on two cards that rivaled UFC PPVs in quality. But despite good box office and PPV numbers, the huge money they spent putting on the shows (and Affliction’s relative lack of deep pockets compared to UFC parent company Zuffa Entertainment) eventually crippled them as a promoter, and Barnett’s positive steroid test was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Meanwhile, this has left Affliction’s fighters scrambling to find new homes. M-1 - the co-promoter of “Trilogy” with Affliction - is trying to secure some of the fights from the card, including Gegard Mousasi vs. Renato “Babalu” Sobral, for its upcoming show on August 28 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (And you know that quality sporting events always happen in convention centers.) Meanwhile, UFC will surely be looking to land any Affliction talent they can - as long as the price meets their needs.
The one fighter from the Affliction card who is most attractive to UFC is Emelianenko. Commonly acknowledged as the best heavyweight fighter in the world, UFC has tried multiple times to get the hulking Russian to sign with the company. But each time he has refused, mainly over his desire to also compete in grappling matches outside of UFC. (In fact, he is scheduled to have a grappling exhibition with Mousasi at the M-1 show.) But with Affliction going under and a huge payday for a megafight against Brock Lesnar in the cards, now might be the best chance for Emelianenko to join UFC.