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Levick: How to Save Affliction

Watching UFC 96 this past weekend left me unfulfilled and wanting more MMA. While I am a big fan of Rampage and I found the amount of quick knockouts to be exciting the card left me feeling empty.

Unfortunately, having my needs met wasn’t so easy.

While DREAM held the first round of their featherweight Grand Prix early Sunday morning, I wasn’t awake to watch it. Japanese MMA really hasn’t caught my eye as of yet and while I am developing a thirst for it I have to admit the love affair is going through a long courtship.

It was at this point where I thought to myself: what if the North American MMA scene had a viable number two option behind the UFC?

What if?

Sure, Strikeforce seems like it is on the verge of becoming a solid number two organization and looks like it will grow from a strong regional show to a national organization to be reckoned with. But Strikeforce’s emergence into a true power is hardly a given in these tough economic times.

And while Strikeforce has a lot going for itself on paper, for whatever reason I just can’t stop thing about Dana White’s favorite t-shirt company, Affliction, as well as White’s favorite rival promoter, Tom Atencio.

A lot of people are counting down the days until Affliction breathes its last breathe but being that recent events haven’t satisfied my MMA fix, I am not one of them. I have some ideas that I think would help the fledgling promotion help keep its head afloat.

Most combat sports fans long for the days of a solid heavyweight division and Affliction certainly boasts some of the best big guys in MMA today. From Fedor to Josh Barnett, Affliction can matchup anyone of their heavyweights against the UFC’s.

That being said, Affliction still needs to work on some other aspects to help them thrive in a cut throat business.

Here are my suggestions…

The UFC does a magnificent job of humanizing their fighters with their pay-per-view preview programs. Their countdown shows really help a fan get into the head of a fighter inside and outside of the cage. For example, I have never been a big fan of Keith Jardine. While I respect him as a fighters and his accomplishments, he hasn’t done much to make me care about him.

From a fan’s perspective, Jardine doesn’t do anything to make me want to boo or cheer for him and apathy is a fighter’s worst enemy. People pay money to either see you win or see you get your head knocked off.
While watching the countdown to UFC 96, I learned a lot about Jardine and his work ethic. I learned how he started going to grappling events and winning them even though he really didn’t have much formal training. I learned that he is a deep person who is very intelligent and I also learned that he is the type of guy who would do anything to help a family member of friend.

During the UFC 96 Countdown special I also learned that Gabriel Gonzaga’s wife lost a baby during child birth. Some people may not care about these things but a lot of people do. It gives you a reason to cheer or boo for a fighter. It gives fans a sense of interest and when it comes to a lot of Affliction’s fighters, including their top dog Fedor, they are severely lacking in this area.

Most casual fans have no clue about Fedor and how dedicated he is to the sport or how hard he works. No one knows about how humble he is and how success has never gone to his head. Affliction needs to market these fighters to the casual fan because while hardcore fans will want to see the card regardless, a casual fan needs to have a reason to make that investment.

Get Tito Ortiz out from behind the announcer’s desk and into the ring. Whether or not Tito will ever be a viable contender again is not the question here. Tito knows how to sell himself and the fights that he participates in. No one in the world can self-promote like Tito. Love him or hate him the man has been one of the most watched mixed martial artists in the history of the sport.

Fans that no longer cheer for him love to see him get his ass kicked in the hopes that he will finally shut his mouth. There is a ready-made feud in place for him and against Renato Sobral that Affliction can exploit. The two have already thrown some verbal daggers each other’s way and as long as Tito is healthy this would be a very competitive fight.

Another fight that would pique the interest of both American and International fans would be Vitor Belfort vs. Gegard Mousasi. I realize that Mousasi has stated his desire to move up in weight but would it really hurt him to fight once more at 185? If weight is an issue then let these two fight at a catchweight.

Belfort has huge name recognition from his UFC and PRIDE stints. He has brought back a legion of fans waiting for him to resurrect his career following knockout victories over Terry Martin and Matt Lindland.
Meanwhile, Mousasi is riding high after capturing the DREAM middleweight Grand Prix in 2008. A figth with Belfort would give Mousasi the big name opponent he needs to gain traction with American fans. Belfort would also be able to attempt to continue his climb back to the top with a win over one of the hottest fighters to come out of Japan in quite some time.

Affliction needs to also go and out and find some of its own young talent instead of signing the UFC’s retreads. While Din Thomas is good fighter and brings an exciting style to the table, people will remember him as a guy who has a 4-3 career record while competing inside the Octagon. The promotion needs fighters that you associate with Affliction as opposed to rival organizations.

Highlighting young and talented fighters such as Dan Lauzon will help bring in exposure from whatever region they are coming from. Finding hot prospects from camps like Miletich Fighting Systems or the H.I.T. Squad would give Affliction an influx of young talent that it needs to help offset the high costs incurred by using so many established stars at the top of its card.

Another key to Affliction’s survival could be co-promotion. With Strikeforce having bolstered its roster following the acquisition of select assets from ProElite, it’s time for a potential partnership to be formed.
Affliction got into the MMA business to get targeted exposure for its clothing brand and working with Strikeforce in order to get its fighters on Showtime on CBS could help accomplish its goal in a more cost-effective manner than promoting pay-per-views loaded with high-priced talent.

Going forward, when Affliction does promote its own PPVs, it should look to establish itself in other markets. Trying to promote a show in the UFC’s backyard is a mistake but relying solely on Anaheim doesn’t ensure much of a long-term future. The UFC has long-neglected the East Coast and it is time for Affliction to gain some market share. Affliction should reach out to a well-known name such as Renzo Gracie and try to promote a show on one of Trump’s properties in Atlantic City. Or, why not contact Monte Cox and take advantage of Eddie Alvarez’s flexible contract and book him for a major Philadelphia show?

Additionally, Tom Atencio should go out and hire an experienced matchmaker and figurehead for the company. While a guest on HDNet’s Inside MMA, he did not come off as knowledgeable and lacked the charisma you’d expect from a fight promoter. What Atencio lacks for in charisma, he lacks for in experience. There is simply no need to sign fighters such as Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou for similar money he was making with the UFC. Sokoudjou’s contract defies logic considering he had been cut by the UFC after losing two out of three fights. Affliction needs to find MMA people who are more in tune with the going rate for fighters on the open market.

The final and most important piece of this puzzle is to not try and compete with the UFC. There’s no need to pay fighters more than what the UFC would pay them. Affliction is choking itself with exorbitant salaries. Andrei Arlovski is a great fighter who brings a lot to the table but where else would he have even sniffed a $1.5 million payday?

Worry about Affliction and not what the UFC is doing. If you have to offer a fighter four times what the UFC is willing to pay them just to sign a contract, then it just isn’t worth it. Most fighters are just happy to have another organization to fight for rather than being made to fight for the UFC. Find fighters who believe in the cause of building up a viable competitor to the UFC and get them to plant their flag with your organization.

Why write a column trying to fix Affliction’s many issues? It’s because those that want to see Affliction crash and burn continue to miss the big picture. Without competition we will continue to get main events like Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine. At UFC 97, we’re going to see Anderson Silva against an under-qualified title challenger and an aging Chuck Liddell taking on one of the biggest busts in UFC history.

MMA fans deserve more and the UFC can do better. Perhaps if the UFC actually had something to worry about in Affliction we’d able to watch Silva vs. Liddell instead of Silva vs. Thales Leites and Liddell vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua.

  • Brandon says:

    great read! keep up the good work

  • AlwaysRelaxing24 says:

    I am actually one of those fans who is rooting for Affliction to fai.. Two many companies spreads the talent too thin. And Affliction’s 1 card every 6 months just isn’t doing it for me.

    I would much rather see their talent spread across Strikeforce, UFC, WEC, DREAM, & Sengoku.

  • jfusco1084 says:

    I’ve enjoyed both of Affliction’s shows so far. That said I think one of the things they’ve also overlooked is merchandising. Besides t-shirts there’s no merch from their events. Not everyone gets so why aren’t their fights available on DVD or itunes? It would at least keep the name out there in between shows. The UFC has their name all over everything, Affliction should try something besides their own clothes.

    Might also want to consider running on a different night, maybe Sunday, to shift away from the UFC’s counter-programming on Spike.

  • phight phan says:


  • Joseph says:

    Great write up. I am rooting for Affliction to continue putting on shows, succeed, and work with Strikeforce. I have attended both their shows and they were superb!

  • king mah mah says:

    Definitely a good article. I’ve ordered both affliction shows and enjoyed both of them. I also have not ordered some of the past few ufc’s because of the lackluster cards. You hit the nail right on the head with affliction needing to get tito back in the ring. If they did that sooner rather than later they would definitely draw in more ppv sales. They desperately need to advertise more and get their name out there to the “casual” fan. I didn’t even see a commercial for the first event. I did see one for the second show so maybe they are starting to realize that they need more exposure. I will be rooting for their success, especially since i’m getting sick of the poor cards put on by the ufc.

    A quick point I would like to make is that the UFC needs to have a bigger time slot to show all of the fights ALL of the time. I mean this is getting ridiculous paying $50 for five fights. They have more than enough money to extend the time slot, even if they had to charge a few extra bucks for it. I would rather pay a little more to see all of the fights than pay $10 a fight!

  • king mah mah says:

    Also if I have to listen to a bunch of advertisments including a stupid poker plug on UFC 94 then I would think all that sponser money could pay for the extra time on the ppv slot.

  • Jak says:

    “From Fedor to Josh Barnett, Affliction can matchup anyone of their heavyweights against the UFC’s.”

    Ha, ha… the problem with this statement and more or less Afflictions ability going forward is that there isn’t anybody BETWEEN Fedor and Josh… Sylvia- too much money, AA- too much money… than who else? Buenetllo(sp?)…

    Afflictions problem is they have Fedor Emelianenko and that’s about it as far as names they can heavily promote. With a few more solid wins Belfort will be back in the mix with casual fans but right now he’s not a name that sells cards. An organization needs to be able to sell a card without just one fighter(see: EXC) and Affliction cancelled their last card when Fedor got injured.

    Even Barnett… can he sell a card by himself? So really you’ve got Fedor.

    I would like to see DREAM get better ratings, Affliction have a better business plan, and other organizations have good success(bellator), but the reality is they all make really bad decisions.

    The good thing right now is that Strikeforce has taken the next step and will hopefully continue their intelligent strategy to becoming the solid #2 in MMA.

    Good article though.

  • wardog says:

    Bryan knows that I have been saying Affliction should do more in the Northeast for a while (although I am not saying I am the only one). But their main problem is marketing. They have some of the most dominant fighters in the HW division, any of whom could legitimately be champs in the UFC. Sokoudjuo was a risk, but based on his performance in Pride perhaps they felt it was the cage vs. the ring mentality. Affliction has alot to build on but this whole “grass roots” approach does not work without exposure between cards. I do like that they are willing to do cross promotions and that they want to create big cards even if it is with less frequency in terms of PPV’s than the UFC. They should however, seek a tv deal that would feature lesser known fighters and perhaps either a replay of a “bigger fight” or even a live fight with someone with a name. And the idea of making a more fan connection is great. Perhaps a show once a month with smaller fights and interviews and insight from other fighters training camps.

  • wardog says:

    Also I think that Affliction should try to sign Carrano and other female fighters that would give it more of an edge over Zuffa’s productions, as well as put another face and name behind theirs.

  • stevefiji says:

    Pathetic article and I’m incredibly disappointed with the lauding comments… just goes to show you what appealing to the lowest common denominator of MMA fans will do for ya…

    Levick can turn to Sam Caplan and now say… “See, me writes a good article sir and peoples likes what i wrote… now give me more column space, sir….please”

    Where to start on this drivel? There’s just so much to tear up….

    “From Fedor to Josh Barnett, Affliction can matchup anyone of their heavyweights against the UFC’s.” Um… yeah….. that’s two! One who was kicked out of the UFC for steroids, the other saddled with stupid management… and now who else between these two because when you use the preposition “to” you are inferring many others exist IN BETWEEN them? Who would that be? … Rizzo? (pleeeeease) Arlovski?( glass chin, overpaid), Sylvia ? no comment necessary? The Dirty Dutch Oven? hahaha
    If Fedor bolts…Affliction HW’s suck… pure and simple!!!! They’ll have Barnett, who’s a Wigga wannabe who can’t even get people to hate him enough to be a draw, and who’s previous bout for Affliction was canceled for NO TICKET SALES! They’ll have AA who wants to box because he needs larger than 5 oz gloves to hit him in order to stay off the mat. They’ll have some fat guy(s) from the IFL and maybe let’s see if Werdum can get rid of the beer keg around his stomach and roll around for 10 mins before flopping.

    “Get Tito Ortiz out from behind the announcer’s desk and into the ring.” Hahaha
    Wow, put me down for $50 to see a READY MADE feud with Babaluuuuu. Let’s go back to MMA circa 2001… Dude, Tito is irrelevant… Affliction and Strikeforce already have proven that by NOT signing him to a big contract… Let’s give T-shirt guy some credit on this one… he doesn’t do much right, but not signing Tito to some ridiculous deal has been his one positive brain fart.

    “Affliction needs to market these fighters to the casual fan because while hardcore fans will want to see the card regardless, a casual fan needs to have a reason to make that investment.” Dude, TV costs ‘Money’, BIG $$$$$$$$ Affliction loses millions, that’s MILLIONS, per event and you wanna invest TV production funds and TV time into the human element? Fedor’s “Baddest Man’ special did ‘horrendous’ ratings… but you think I wanna learn that Babulu’s a great guy for NOT choking out his kids after they cuss? or Barnett likes rapping to Vanilla Ice tunes? or Werdum still living in a dream land? or Tito and Jenna’s love for their puppies? or that AA wants Timmy to taste some more pee pee? Do you really know how absurd this suggestion is? What is your friggin concept of a dollar spent?

    “Another key to Affliction’s survival could be co-promotion.” Yeah, and Golden Boy and Adrenaline are great examples… So they should combine with Strikeforce now? with what leverage? If Fedor leaves they are toast and they have lost millions on two events… Strikeforce bought ProElite assets for pennies on the dollar… they will do the same with Affliction’s roster when they go under… they are smart… that is why they are still considered viable. If Affliction listens to you, Strikeforce will thank you for you sage advice sooner as opposed to later.

    “Tom Atencio should go out and hire an experienced matchmaker and figurehead for the company. ” No ship, Sherlock! That’s why they suck… Can you try stating something any more obvious? The insightfulness of this piece just keeps getting more and more axiomatic.

    “The UFC has long-neglected the East Coast and it is time for Affliction to gain some market share.” You are serious? The PPV’s LOSE MONEY!!!!! and now you want to take the live gate and cut it down by promoting in the least developed market in the USA? Hahahah! Why not have Affliction do shows in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo)? There’s absolutely no major UFC presence there either.

    And now to the ‘piece de resistance’ of Levick’s stupidity….” There’s no need to pay fighters more than what the UFC would pay them. Affliction is choking itself with exorbitant salaries. Andrei Arlovski is a great fighter who brings a lot to the table but where else would he have even sniffed a $1.5 million payday?”

    Dude, AA ‘ONLY’ went to Affliction BECAUSE of the money…. if not, he would have stayed with the UFC… EVERY fighter who goes to Affliction not named Fedor faces a HUGE RISK of being later blackballed by the UFC… Now that AA is tainted and exposed of course he is not worth 1.5 million anymore and he’s worth less than nothing to the UFC. He made his kill and he’s smart enough to get out. Even WITH Fedor the shows have barely done 100kPPV’s and these other gate churning magicians are gonna risk pissing off Dana for chump change? Don’t think so!

    Overall, this is by far the most incompetent piece I have ever read on this site… but what bummed me out me was the glowing comments… Sam, PLEASE don’t let this be the standard your site accepts as publish worthy. Success is a dangerous thing… Levick given a forum to post anything on 5OoP proves that… hopefully you will perform a UFC lobotomy on this writer.

  • wardog says:

    Stevefiji, man layoff! Ok we get it the UFC is the greatest, Dana is a God, and you don’t have a clue! First off the article makes some interesting points based on the lackluster UFC cards being offered. And Arlovski left the UFC because they showed him no respect at the end (when Dana was still in love with Tim Silvia!) And the glass chin thing? Look who has KO’d the man, not a bunch of chumps! He may want to go to boxing, but given the money that boxers make compared to MMA athletes who would blame him. As far as the other remarks, Bryan’s point about the Northeast is well made dumb**s! Affliction has issues with going up against the UFC on TV as well as in the same venues. Bryan’s thinking is based on the FACT that if you look at the last time the UFC was in the Northeast for UFC 78, they soldout and had a great draw. Now look at the card and the headlining fight and you’ll see why he and other people say this market is untapped.
    Finally, Bryan’s article is something obviously people care about (even to an extent you!) and that is important to this site. But you have decided to bring your ignorant opinions into a discussion were it is unnecessary. Rather than slamming the guy and being well… a jack**s about it you should try to offer some constructive criticism next time. Unlike the the rant you posted, which hopefully you won’t end up choking on the UFC member you obviously cuddle up to!

  • stevefiji says:

    Wardog, love the warm and fuzzies from ya… big kiss to you too

    Let’s look in more depth at your lucid points, shall we?

    1) AA left for $$$$$$ ….and for you to think it was because of r-e-s-e-p-c-t is so damn hilarious if not so lamentable… Everyone needs to get it straight…Affliction did NOT overpay!!!! They paid what they had to in order to entice people from a potential long-term UFC blackballing. When Affliction wanted to go head-to-head against the UFC the fighters knew if their name was not Fedor that they we’re potentially tainted goods. It was Big Benjamins or no deal.

    And you think I am the only one who talks about AA’s glass chin? For someone who knows so much, try and Google “”andre arvloski” “glass chin” and see how many respected websites make the same reference. The ‘Pee Pee Taster’ can make note of that as well as 3 others who left him KTFO. He’s good, he’s quick, but he got glass in the chin… deal with it, bro

    2) Affliction will fight where in the Northeast? Your statistical survey points to exactly how many shows for proof? Oh yeah that’s right ONE show!!!! How many proven shows does Cali have to its credit? A teetering, fledgling operation will risk its ‘last potential chance for survival’ on a suspect geographical terrain? Dude, it’s called Common Sense 101, they offer a guide for Dummies…invest, please.

    3) Of course i care.. The UFC can hold 200+ in its roster. It needs fighters, lots of ’em… It does not need a WAMMA yielding, false campaigner of fighter rights, inept running, delusional head-to-head competitors. They need subordinate leagues that know their place and keep the mantra of one set of belts that truly mean something and not to follow boxing’s f’dup model.

    The UFC is still breaking ground in new territory all over the world… Is Affliction? NO, they try to offer pathetic parasitical WAMMA belts and offer their product as superior… a bunch of UFC rejects, a rebel and a dude with truly stupid management… sorry i am not a UFC nuthuuger but I do call out BS when i see it.

    Here’s my constructive criticisms for Affliction you so politely asked for.
    1) Don’t piss off Dana or Zuffa, if you do… humbly apologize and fix the problem
    2) Get diversified with your ugly Gothic look or you will be irrelevant in 5 more years
    3) Get out of the MMA promotion business, you have failed twice, you will fail again and when Fedor leaves you are totally screwed
    4) Don’t listen to a damn word that Levick said, he’s an idiot.
    5) Hire ‘wardog’ as a consultant if you wanna quicken the euthanasia

    Cheers Mates

  • wardog says:

    And you are so great and right because you can hang on to a product that has been successful? Yeah AA left for money, but when you are put on the undercard and not given post-fight interviews because your agent has talked to a rival company, then do not expect for him to resign with you! Glass jaw? I don’t care what some person says, look at the results. Yes he’s been KO’d but by Fedor, Silvia, Rizzo, Rodriguez, and Datsik. Guess Couture has a glass jaw as well because he’s been KO’d by Liddell twice, Lesnar, Belfort, and Barnett. Gee exactly the same amount of people as AA! And you say you’re not a UFC nuthugger but one of your constructive criticisms is not to piss off Dana or Zuffa! Why are they going to put out a hit or something? Fedor will not leave for who the UFC? Strikeforce? Get real! And why would he leave to fight who in the UFC Lesnar? As far as “statistical survey points” lets put it this way UFC 78 soldout in Newark (14000 plus) but had a buy rate of 400,000. Bisping vs. Evans headline, need I say more with that! But I guess you don’t realize that the UFC was in fact more likely to hold shows in the Northeast (esp. Atlantic City) in recent years before they sought to expand! And they have done well there, even when the rest of the country was not paying attention to the PPV’s! The gate for 78 was in fact bigger than 96, 95, 93, and others. To say that there is no money to be made in MMA in the Northeast just reeks of stupidity! Affliction has had how many events and you are compairing them to the UFC in terms of expansion? Get real! Many people want to see Affliction succeed for a variety of reasons, mostly because as MMA fans we enjoy good fights. But if all you know is that MMA=UFC I guess you can stand behind your points.

  • stevefiji says:

    Dearest buddy wardog,

    talk about beating around the bush to make a non-intended points…dammmmm

    Couture went out on a behind the ear punch on Lesnar …and a temple shot from Liddell in at least one of the fights that i can recall.

    AA goes down like a paperweight with a HIT TO THE JAW… that is a Websters definition of a ‘glass chin’ and that is what i said… done and done…. You, my sad man, are defending an indefensible point… AA has a glass jaw, it is common industry knowledge… Google and the experts that show up upon any search prove it, accept it and move on dude.

    Nuthugger? hahahaha… i love that…. from a dude who obviously wants multiple belts and confusion and a boxing model for the sport. What the hell in the last 50 years did you NOT learn from boxing???? You like to quote history…. well why don’t you check your history on that sport and show me where it is today…
    The UFC won the MMA battle (actually, before it ever really began)… they are, for better or worse, the belts that matter. They are economically successful in a time of near economic depression… the other promotions just need to feed the system. If T-Shirt Guy had the belts the mattered…I’d support him today instead…. I support the belts (who created them, who made them relevant and who continues to make them supreme) and NOT the organization. You support what? good fights? no shit…. so do I, who doesn’t? I just don’t support the WAMMA pandering, the this is vastly superior than the UFC delusional campaigning, the attempts at diluting the significance if the BEST IN THE WORLD BELTS! It’s a simple concept, but vastly above your challenged brain capacity.

    And finally in your laughable defense of the northeast venues…. Dude, you just don’t get it…. Affliction Clothing is not as strong in the Northeast, MMA is NOT as strong in the Northeast and it IS more of a risk… maybe not much more but indeed it is MORE… and when a company is teetering on the brink of ruin, even one small percentage point counts. So keep quoting your numbers and running your mouth, they prove you do indeed know facts but unfortunately can’t interpret realities.

    Cheers Mates


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