(What’s he looking for? A war.)
I spoke with Affliction VP Tom Atencio for this week’s SI column on his fight with local card dealer Randy Hedderick at tomorrow night’s “Ultimate Chaos” event in Biloxi, Mississippi. Contrary to my suspicions before our talk, I came away convinced that Atencio isn’t doing this so much as a self-promotional Affliction publicity stunt, but rather because he genuinely wants to. What makes me think so? Mostly his reluctance to even talk about the fight, as well as mild surprise that anyone would want to talk about him considering the other fights on the card.
He also offered some insight on his life as a highly-publicized but low-level MMA fighter, as well as his career as a fight promoter. And naturally he managed to slip in some shots at the UFC…
On why he’s fighting a twenty-something card dealer in Mississippi:
“For no reason. For me. Why do other guys go out and play sports on the weekend? It’s the same thing."
On why there are so many Affliction fighters on this “Ultimate Chaos” card:
"The promoter said he needed fighters. I don’t want to keep these guys from making money. With [Affliction] not holding fights all that often, these guys still need to get paid. If I can help them do that I’m happy to."
On what he thinks of the UFC’s decision to ban more fighter sponsors unless they cough up some cash directly to the UFC first:
“It’s their company and that’s their decision. I’m against it. It’s taking the opportunity to make money away from their fighters. I think it’s wrong, but they can do what they want to do. That’s how they do things. They like to control everything. Would I ever do something like that? No. But I’m not the UFC.”
On when a VP of a clothing and entertainment company finds time to train MMA:
“I train every day, usually at 2 pm. I always try to train every day even if I don’t have a fight. The kid I’m fighting, he works and still trains. I’m no different, except maybe I work longer hours.”
On what kind of fighter he is:
“I like to think that I’m well-rounded. I came from Marco Ruas originally and he’s one of the first well-rounded Vale Tudo fighters. Before that I trained with Joe Morreira.” [Ed. note: but watch out for his head kick.]
On what his critics will say about this fight, especially if he loses:
"I’m never concerned with what people think. Once I started being in the public eye I stopped caring about that. You just can’t. There are always going to be those people. They say my next [Affliction] event will be my last event. They said that about the first one. But if you’re going to be out there you can’t listen to any of that."
On his age and the youth of his opponent:
"That’s the least of my worries. I’m in the best shape of my life right now. My cardio is good. My weight is perfect. I don’t look my age and I sure don’t act my age."