Impressions from Affliction Presser

By Loretta Hunt Jun 4, 2009
LOS ANGELES –- There wasn’t much in the way of first impressions at Affliction and M-1 Global’s press conference for Affliction III “Trilogy,” which will be held on Aug. 1 at the Honda center in Anaheim, Calif.

Fedor Emelianenko’s opponent, Josh Barnett, did not attend. Affliction VP Tom Atencio said Barnett had travel issues making his way up from Orange County –- pretty understandable if you’ve ever had to deal with the unpredictable L.A. traffic.

Without Barnett, whose on-point commentary and analysis makes him one of the sport’s better interviews, it is hard to get a detailed dialogue going, though the fight matches the No. 1 and No. 3 world-ranked heavyweights says a lot on its own.

One interesting tidbit revealed by the stoic Emelianenko himself –- this is the last fight on his Affliction contract.

Of course, it gets one wondering about Emelianenko’s next move and if Affliction will be able to keep the world’s No. 1 heavyweight in its stable.

“Personally, I’ve really enjoyed my relationship with Affliction and the relationship that Affliction and M-1 Global has formed,” said the Russian Thursday. “I truly hope in the future that we can work together and that’s where I’d like to be.”

I do get the impression that the relationship between M-1 Global, which steers Emelianenko’s every move, and Affliction is a strong one. It’s also a unique arrangement, one of equal promotion of brands that I don’t see happening with other groups, especially the UFC. (I don’t fault the UFC at all for this stance –- they’re doing just fine on their own.)

Strikeforce seems to be another organization that would be willing to co-exist with another promotion sharing the spotlight, if it meant the bolstering of its fight cards. Scott Coker and Co. have already exchanged talent between themselves and Affliction without hesitation. Emelianenko will also be in attendance at Strikeforce’s show this Saturday in St. Louis.

I have to admit, it would be pretty interesting to watch the country’s reaction to an Emelianenko fight on CBS –- which is where I believe Strikeforce is heading by the new year. A promotional trifecta between M-1 Global, Affliction, and Strikeforce is also a possibility.

Other impressions:

Renato “Babalu” Sobral has managed to keep himself quite relevant following his controversial dismissal from the UFC in August 2007. Strikeforce’s light heavyweight champion had to bail out of a June 6 title defense against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante to make time for the birth of his second daughter Sophia. But he was picked up right away to take on talented Armenian upstart Gegard Mousasi in this co-main event on Aug. 1.

The always entertaining and animated Babalu told me he’s been impressed with Mousasi’s progress up the international ranks, and felt a fight between a Strikeforce champ and a Dream titleholder (Mousasi was the middleweight king until recently) is a bona fide matchup. I wouldn’t argue with that.

Babalu also apologized to Cavalcante for his withdrawal and said he wouldn’t hesitate to meet the fellow Brazilian for the strap if that is what Strikeforce assigns next.

Gegard Mousasi is poise and professionalism personified. At the age of 23 and only a few years into his career, Mousasi understands his Aug. 1 debut on U.S. soil is a crucial one. He was also keen to point out that Sobral has experience and a stronger wrestling and jiu-jitsu background in his favor. I can guess what Mousasi will be concentrating on in the next two months.
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