(Barnett elaborates on his plan to “hug Pedro to death.”)
There may not have been much in the way of new information at this morning’s Afflcition press conference, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Especially not when Josh Barnett and Donald Trump are both there. Not only did Trump have plenty of bottles of “Trump Ice” — his official bottled water — laying around, he also joked with some of the fighters during the event before quietly disappearing along with his son.
“The Babyfaced Assassin” stole the show, however, entertaining reporters and fans by reenacting his knockout loss to Pedro Rizzo in 2001. Standing on a stage with some of the biggest names in the heavyweight division, Barnett didn’t miss the opportunity to remark on the magnitude of the fight card.
“You can have the biggest buzz, the biggest stage, the biggest fireworks, but it’s up to us to provide the bang,” said Barnett, who got a rousing ovation from the fans gathered in Trump Tower to witness the event.
When announcer Jay Glazer attempting to retake the microphone by beginning an analogy comparing MMA and sports like basketball and football, Barnett couldn’t help but burst back in.
“I’m not even going to make the ‘playing with balls’ joke,” he said. “I’ll just say that you play football, you play basketball…You don’t play fighting. There’s no playing going on. When you get to this level, you really get to know yourself…and your opponents get to find out who you are.”
Barnett went on to say that he was excited to rematch Rizzo, who he described as a “wonderful guy.”
“I love him so much I’m going to hug him to death on July 19,” joked Barnett.
Also a fan favorite at the event was Ben Rothwell, who joked along with Glazer about preparing to face “TBA” and won over the audience with his awkward sincerity. Standing beneath a huge Affliction banner that pictured Rothwell next to a blank mystery man, Rothwell all but said that he fully expected to face Andrei Arlovski. After the event, he remarked that he expected the announcement to come shorty, but that he was “preparing for the worst” in terms of possible opponents.
“I don’t ever try to prepare too much for one single opponent,” he said. “In this business, guys get hurt, guys get replaced. You never know what can happen, so I just try to train everything, the MFS way.”
When asked if he was aware of any contingency plan in the event that Arlovski was not signed in time, Rothwell said he’d heard of the possibility that the card might be changed to match him up against Aleksander Emelianenko or Paul Buentello, who are slated to face each other at this point.
“Of course I want to fight someone who’s ranked above me,” Rothwell said, when asked whether he would prefer to face Arlovski. “Even if it’s the same pay and there’s no difference in money, I always want to fight someone who’s ranked higher than me. That’s what I want most, to keep climbing that ladder.”
While most of the fighters were clad in Affliction t-shirts or leather jackets decorated in skulls, Matt Lindland took some ribbing from his colleagues for wearing a suit to match his new political career. Renato “Babalu” Sobral also went the formal route, and used his time in front of the microphone to thank Dana White for “kicking me out of the UFC.”
As for the main eventers, Tim Sylvia and Fedor Emelianenko kept their time in front of the crowd brief, with Sylvia telling the crowd, “I’m not the sacrificial lamb. They need a good fighter to fight Fedor. A lot of guys won’t fight him. I will.”
As usual, Fedor spoke softly with a translator at his side. The Russian smiled shyly and thanked the crowd for “popularizing our sport”, before slinking back out of the spotlight.