by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
By now, Affliction vice president Tom Atencio has become used to swimming upstream against the doubters of his company. Since he launched Affliction Entertainment as the new fight promotion on the block in early 2008, he has faced naysayers at every turn, despite assembling one of the most talent-packed MMA cards in the sport’s recent history with “Affliction: Banned” this July.
None have been more vocal than UFC president Dana White. Since Affliction’s emergence, his not-so-affectionate moniker for the company, “the t-shirt guys,” has often been followed by a prediction of the company’s approaching demise. In a teleconference on Tuesday announcing Randy Couture’s return to the UFC, he was true to form.
“In this economy right now, losing money is a really bad thing,” White said. “There’s nobody out there looking to fund anything, nobody’s spending any money, nobody’s investing in anything. When you’re losing the kind of money that these guys are losing, you’ve gotta sell a lot of t-shirts to get back that money.”
Until now, White’s attacks have been limited to verbal slings and arrows thrown at Affliction. But during Tuesday’s conference call, in response to questions about various legal disputes surrounding the Randy Couture case, the outspoken president also may have hinted that his company could take its opposition to the next level – possibly the courtroom.
“My dispute with Randy Couture is done,” White said. “I’m not saying that my dispute with anybody else is done.”
Atencio told MMAWeekly.com he had no knowledge of any forthcoming litigation against his company. He does, however, believe the UFC was interfering with his ability to promote in Las Vegas, though he wouldn’t say how.
“They’ve been messing with me every step of the way,” Atencio said. “There have been issues that I’ve been dealing with. So I can’t say it’s them, but there’s been things we’ve been dealing with that have never happened before, so I guess that’s why.”
Atencio declined to discuss the financial state of his company, but said their plans had not changed – promote three shows in July, October, and February, and assess future plans from there.
“Once I get past these first three events, then I’ll start talking about the next three,” he said.
White told reporters he doesn’t plan on stealing Affliction’s crown jewel, Fedor Emelianenko, for a fight with Couture, even though Emelianenko’s Affliction deal is exclusive only to the U.S. White remains unwilling to co-promote with Emelianenko’s management company, M-1 Global, preferring to wait for Affliction’s demise to pick up the Russian’s services.
“These guys are dying on the vine, they’ll be gone in a couple of months anyway, and Fedor will have to come here,” said the outspoken UFC president. “You’re not under contract if the company isn’t in business anymore.”
Atencio seems resolved to a dogfight with the industry-leading promotion in order to make his company’s Oct. 10 event a reality. If that means going to court to do so, he’s got a Zen attitude about it.
“It’s their town, so it wouldn’t surprise me,” he said. “It is what it is.”
Meanwhile, White issued another prediction of Affliction’s end.
“I would be (expletive) horrified if Affliction is still in business by January,” he declared. “They’re going to burn a lot of cash in the next few months, believe me. Good luck to ‘em. I’ll be sitting here waiting to see what happens.”