(Photo courtesy of Combat Lifestyle.)
Something strange happened at the Affliction post-fight press conference last night. Co-promoter Roy Englebrecht got up in front of the microphone and thanked the media for their support. Then VP Tom Atencio did the same thing.
‘They must be talking about the L.A. Times,’ I thought to myself. But then they specifically mentioned all the blogs and the websites. As in, the MMA blogs. On the internet. Where the pussies live. Was I dreaming? An MMA organization that puts on a blockbuster card and yet still sees the MMA media as something other than an inevitable aggravation? Was that even possible?
Affliction thinks so. Their first event was not without a few snags — like trouble with the in-arena audio and long, unexplained delays that even forced the cancellation of the Justin Levens-Ray Lizama bout due to time constraints — but they still delivered something unforgettable. In front of almost 14,000 fans in Anaheim, they proved that there really is such thing as an MMA fan base, rather than simply a UFC one.
Of course, that’s a little easier when you’ve got Fedor on your team.
After destroying Tim Sylvia in thirty-six seconds, the number one heavyweight on the planet showed up at the press conference looking in all ways like an unremarkable man. He smiled shyly, as if embarrassed by all the attention, and played down his own accomplishments while saying that his celebration would include a trip to “the big rollercoasters” at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Just a few minutes earlier a humbled Tim Sylvia had appeared before the press. For that alone he deserves some credit. Few of the night’s losers bothered to show up and answer questions. Sylvia didn’t have to, but he came anyway and described Fedor as an awesome force which may or may not be human.
“I’ve never been hit that hard before in my life,” the former UFC champ said. “And I don’t care who knows it. …This guy is unreal. He’s incredible and I don’t think he’s going to be beaten for a long time.”
Fedor hardly seemed as if he had been in a fight at all. The only indication was a thumb that had popped out during the fight, which he later popped back in.
“I’m not too worried about it,” he said.
The question now is just how worried should the UFC be about their new competitor. Even with a sellout crowd Affliction most likely lost money on the event, if for no other reason than their epic fighter payroll for the event, which has been reported as being somewhere between $3-5 million. But after last night’s show they should have the momentum they need, provided they can put together another big event soon enough to capitalize on it.
Atencio said he expected the second show to take place in November, though he was vague on details. With Fedor, Josh Barnett, and Andrei Arlovski all victorious in their matches — and with Randy Couture still waiting in the wings — there’s no shortage of options the next time around. Renato “Babalu” Sobral also noted that there was one name he had in mind for his next fight, and he hoped Atencio would make it happen. If he does, Sobral said, “I’ll be here to kick his ass.”
After that remark, the name ‘Tito’ drifted in the air.
Other notes from the press conference:
- Matt Lindland said he’ll likely have to take a little time off from fighting if he wins his race for the Oregon State House in the fall because “it’s kind of a full-time job for a little while.”
- Mike Whitehead admitted he lied about his weight during the Affliction press tour, telling reporters he was actually closer to 275 than the 250 he claimed to be at the time.
- Tom Atencio claimed that even he didn’t know why Aleksander Emelianenko was denied a license to fight, saying that the CSAC “doesn’t necessarily give us a reason.”
- Josh Barnett said he wasn’t happy after knocking out Pedro Rizzo because “there aren’t many people in the world who have a beautiful soul, and Pedro’s one of them.” Barnett also said he was surprised by the positive reaction from American fans because the UFC seems to breed a “more negative” type of crowd. He said there were some boos, but “that can’t be helped. I know what they’re weaned on.”