by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
Word from Affliction’s rank-and-file fighters this morning was that no one was getting paid.
A little over a week out from an expected payday at Affliction “Trilogy,” most are still floored over the event’s sudden cancellation early Friday.
“There’s no words that can even describe it,” said Jay Hieron, who was scheduled to face Paul Daley on the event’s undercard. “It’s still fresh for me. I’ve already paid all my trainers. I trained my ass off for this fight.”
Affliction vice president Tom Atencio on Friday said the loss of co-main event fighter Josh Barnett proved an insurmountable hurdle for the young promotion to overcome, and that pulling the plug was the only option.
Until Thursday night, the MMA world was holding its breath over who would replace Barnett to face Fedor Emelianenko. The front runner, middleweight Vitor Belfort, had drawn mixed reviews from both fans and media, mainly because the match-up would deprive them of a main card showdown with Sengoku champ Jorge Santiago.
Now, there will be no match-ups to look forward to. According to a UFC official, Affliction is ceasing its fight operations to become an official UFC sponsor.
For Hieron, it’s the second time he’s had a major promotion roll up its tent and leave him in the lurch.
“I think I’ve been through everything that’s bad in this sport,” he said. “I don’t know what I haven’t been through yet. I know everything happens for a reason… I hope it’s a good reason.”
Standard fight contracts rarely allow for compensation in light of a cancelled event. For all but the top-drawing fighters, a cancelled show means months of hard work out the door.
The only recourse, it seems, is to look for another fight.
“To tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Paul Buentello, who was due to fight Gilbert Yvel on the main card. “It took a lot of wind out of my sails.”
Multiple sources have indicated to MMAWeekly.com that several managers are attempting to place their fighters on two upcoming cards: Carano vs. Cyborg, due for Aug. 15 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., and M-1 Global’s “Breakthrough,” due for Aug. 28 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Affliction’s deal with the UFC could mean work for some, but it’s unknown who will fold into the industry leading promotion and who will be a free agent. Most Affliction fighters were tied to non-exclusive three-fight deals, although many chose not to take fights in other promotions.
Strikeforce is entertaining either Jay Hieron or his originally scheduled opponent, Paul Daley, as a new opponent for Nick Diaz on Aug. 15. Diaz’s original opponent, Joe Riggs, withdrew from the fight on Friday morning.
Daley is game. “I have trained so damned hard for this fight, probably the hardest ever and I am in great shape and now this happens. I still want a fight – if they need someone to replace Riggs against Nick Diaz give me a call.”
It has also been tossed around that Affliction fighters Ben Rothwell or Gilbert Yvel are being considered to replace Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, who had to withdraw from his title defense against Fabricio Werdum.
A lot of fighters could still be out of work. One fighter places the blame squarely on Barnett.
“Bottom line is, Josh Barnett should pay everybody,” said Rothwell, who had drawn Chase Gormley for his undercard fight. “He (expletive) up, bad.”
But Rothwell and Buentello, both longtime veterans of the sport, agree that Affliction was not to blame for the cancellation.
“They didn’t do it,” said Rothwell. “They didn’t make (Barnett) do the drug test.”
Buentello said he would continue training until next week and decide what to do from there.
“Right now, I’m eating a big old helping of biscuits and gravy,” he said. “I’m gonna be myself today and just relax. Take the day off.”
Others weren’t so sure of their next step.
“I don’t just feel bad for myself, I feel bad for all the other fighters who aren’t going to make money,” said Rothwell. “I feel bad for Affliction. I feel for the fans. Everybody suffers.”