by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
“It’s like a funeral.”
That’s how Xtreme Couture head jiu-jitsu coach Neil Melanson summarized the gym’s feeling after Friday morning’s announcement of the cancellation of the Aug. 1 Affliction “Trilogy” show, and later, the shuttering of the promotional arm of the company.
“Everybody’s shown up to the gym, not all of them are training, but they’re there and they’re just… they’re all speechless.”
News of the cancellation traveled quickly Friday morning that the promotion was closing down the event due to its inability to find a suitable replacement for main event fighter Josh Barnett, who allegedly tested positive for an anabolic steroid earlier in the week.
Without Barnett, Showtime, who was carrying the pay-per-view, put pressure on to pull the plug, citing an inability to inform viewers of the change and market a new opponent for Fedor Emelianenko.
Melanson felt especially bad for the Canadian contingent of Chris Horodecki and Mark Hominick, both missed the last Affliction event due to injury and illness.
“You know, (Shawn) Tompkins’ guys, they’re all really nice guys and they worked really hard and were in the gym all the time (and) they were ready to win,” he said. “They wanted these fights to help them get to the next level.
“To have the card pulled from them like this, on this short notice… it’s tough.”
For Vitor Belfort, the eventual cancellation of the event capped off a rollercoaster ride of a week that saw him go from the undercard to a possible replacement for Barnett in the evening’s main event.
“I trained him closely, had lunch with him and would be with him every day; he would look at pictures of his kids at lunch and would say, ‘It’s so hard to be away from my kids and my wife right now,’ and was just really upset,” related Melanson.
Joining Horodecki, Hominick and Belfort is longtime Xtreme Couture welterweight Jay Hieron, who also now sits on the outside looking in.
“I don’t want to judge (Affliction), because I’m not them, they might have a damn good reason (for cancelling the show), but they definitely hurt and affected a lot of people,” stated Melanson.
“I feel bad for all these (fighters). They did nothing wrong – they trained their asses off and trusted their company, and their company took a dump on them.”
While the sting of losing money is one that is surely being felt by the fighters left without a match, the general consensus is that what is truly frustrating is simply not being able to do what they’ve worked so hard to do, fight.
“I sure hope they pay these guys,” said Melanson. “They’ve got to have some kind of contract agreement to pay these guys, but it’s still not the same.”