Affliction cancel show, agrees to sponsor of UFC as MMA landscape changes

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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On a day of twists and turns in the mixed martial arts world, Affliction cancelled its planned Aug. 1 show and threw in its lot with the UFC.
UFC president Dana White confirmed to The Canadian Press on Friday evening that rival promoter Affliction was to become a UFC sponsor, which would allow fighters to wear Affliction clothing again at UFC events. In return it seems Affliction will return to its core business of clothing mixed martial arts fans rather than promoting fights for them.
The UFC has already seen off EliteXC and the International Fight League. It bought up Pride and purchased the assets of the World Fighting Alliance.
"There was a war going on in mixed martial arts early on and it was a dogfight," White told ESPN 1100 in Las Vegas. "There were people out there who picked a fight with me, who literally picked fights with me. If you picked fights with me, we're going to fight and that's the way it's been.
"Time has gone by and I'm over it, I'm over a lot of it."
Whatever White's mood, the UFC's stranglehold on mixed martial arts got a little tighter Friday. Then again, no one has come close to rivalling the success and smarts of the UFC when it comes to cage-fighting.
In another strange turn, White said Friday that former light-heavyweight champion Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Otiz may be returning to the organization.
"It's a possibility," White told ESPN 1100 after tweeting "welcome back tito :)"
White, who used to manage Ortiz, has long been at loggerheads with the veteran fighter. But the two appear to have made up. Ortiz fought Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell twice in the UFC and a return by Ortiz could make for a third fight.
The Affliction development is a win-win for the UFC, which gains a sponsor and loses a rival, albeit one who only staged two shows. Still the Affliction cards were high-profile, featuring Russian heavyweight star Fedor Emelianenko - one of the few MMA superstars outside of the UFC's realm.
"I've said this for a long time, these guys are good at making clothes," White said of Affliction. "They're not in the fight business. We're in the fight business. This is what we do. That's what they do. So we'll see what happens with that."
Ironically in a sport that now features widespread drug testing for both performance-enhancing and so-called social drugs, a positive test accelerated Affliction's spiral.
Affliction's "Trilogy" show, slated for Aug. 1 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., was thrown into disarray Wednesday when the California State Athletic Commission confirmed that American heavyweight Josh (The Babyfaced Assassin) Barnett had tested positive for steroids.
Barnett was supposed to fight Emelianenko in the card's marquee matchup.
Tom Atencio, vice-president of Affliction Entertainment, said Wednesday he hoped to find a replacement fighter for Barnett. But he threw in the towel Friday.
"Finding an opponent for the No. 1-ranked MMA heavyweight champion in such a short period of time was a huge endeavour and I'm thrilled at the amount of fighters willing to take on this challenge," Atencio said in a statement. "But in the end, we just didn't have enough time to promote a new fight to our standards."
Barnett tested positive for 2a-methyl-5a-androstan-3a-ol-17-one, an anabolic steroid.
There was no immediate word on the future of Affliction's small stable of fighters. Emelianenko, for one, remains under a management contract to the M-1 group, which prizes keeping their star away from exclusive deals such as the kind the UFC demands.
Of course, with the demise of Affliction, there are few organizations left for Emelianenko. The UFC has already said their past offer for the Russian, turned down by his management, was the most lucrative out there.
Trilogy was to have been Affliction's third show at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., following "Banned" in July 2008 - Affliction chose the name to spite the UFC, which banned Affliction clothing from its events after Atencio's company decided to get in the fight promotion business - and "Day of Reckoning" in January 2009.
In assembling its group of fighters, Affliction drew the ire of the UFC, which tolerates more modest promoters like Strikeforce but has no time for competitors looking to occupy any part of its MMA high ground.
Affliction looked to bring its own stamp to the MMA game, televising undercard bouts and bringing in bands like Megadeth to entertain the crowd. And with Emelianenko on board, it had arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter as its flagship personality.
The UFC was put out enough by Affliction's foray into the MMA world that it hastily assembled and staged its own show the same night as its rival's debut card, bumping middleweight champion Anderson Silva up to light-heavyweight to fight James (The Sandman) Irvin.
The rivalry was also sparked by trash-talking between White and feisty rival Atencio, who at 42 defeated an opponent 17 years younger at an MMA show in June.

Organizations: California State Athletic Commission, Canadian Press, International Fight League World Fighting Alliance Honda Center Affliction Entertainment

Geographic location: Las Vegas, Anaheim, Calif., Huntington Beach

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