The news today is that Vitor Belfort has indeed been added to the July 19 Affliction event in Anaheim, Calif., where he will face another former UFC fighter, Terry Martin. Belfort is perhaps best known for being a once-brilliant prospect in the world of MMA who has since struggled to live up to his early potential, while Martin is probably best known for being on the wrong end of a couple of brutal knockouts.
But here’s the thing that makes me curious: this bout will most likely not be shown on TV, according to reports. Not on the portion of the undercard that will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net, nor on the pay-per-view portion.
So what’s the point? Are they betting that Belfort (a Brazilian unknown to most newer MMA fans) and Martin (a Chicago native with a mediocre record) will be a local draw? Judging by the rest of the card, it doesn’t look like they need it.
The undercard features somewhat well-known California fighters like Orange County’s Justin Levens, San Diego’s Patrick Speight, and L.A.’s Savant Young. While these names might not knock your socks off, the truth is they are something of a local draw in Southern California. Maybe not enough to convince you to buy a ticket by themselves, but if you also get to see Fedor and Tim Sylvia, yeah, why not?
But then the presence of Belfort and Martin, along with fighters like Aleks Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Mike Whitehead, “Babalu” Sobral, and Ben Rothwell — guys who are known among hardcore fans, though not necessarily the American mainstream — makes you think that Affliction is smarter than people are giving them credit for. They’ve got local appeal on the undercard, but are also setting themselves up as a destination for not only heavyweights, but light heavyweights as well.
That’s called hedging your bets. Maybe they sell a t-shirt or two on top of this, and things just might work out.