Notes on the Affliction M-1 Global Presser

Affliction M-1 Global “Trilogy” is scheduled for Aug. 1 in Anaheim, Calif. Fedor Emelianenko headlines against Josh Barnett, and Gegard Mousasi meets Renato “Babalu” Sobral in what Affliction described Wednesday as the co-main event. It’s a solid card. Notes from the news conference in New York:

• The conference was delayed briefly because Babalu was in the bathroom.

• Donald Trump is clueless about MMA. I’ve seen him at three pressers now. When asked about the sport, invariably he says something along the lines of, “Really exciting stuff and this Affliction is amazing,” and then passes the microphone to whoever will take the thing off his hands. He’ll take the mic back, though, if you ask him about “The Apprentice.” (And people do, they really do.)

• But what do you expect? Trump’s purpose: When he shows up, so does the media. Not just MMA media either -- I mean mainstream outlets that don’t know much about Affliction but might mention it alongside a photo of Trump grinning and looking rich. Fedor doesn’t get the first question at these news conferences either; Trump does.

• Chatter from the photographers illustrates this best. Notes on their demands during the post-conference photo op: “Put Trump together with the fighters!” “Yeah, put Trump in the middle.” “Get that guy with the black glasses [Affliction VP Tom Atencio] out of the shot, why don’t ya?” “Promote this right. Put Trump in the middle.” “Yeah, that’s what we like. That’s the ticket. Put your dukes up, Donald!”

• The photographers pushed Fedor and Barnett around too. The heavyweights made the mistake of shaking hands in front of the cameras: “Ah geez, you can tell these guys are friends.” “Don’t shake hands. They’re supposed to kill each other, these guys.” “Don’t smile!” “Face off.” “Put Trump in the shot.” And so on. At one point they tried to kick Mark Cuban out of a photo until someone spoke up and said he could stay.

• Fedor had called Barnett a “true friend” during the conference but also said he fights his friends daily in training. “It’s a sport,” Fedor said. “We’re athletes, and we’ll be in the ring to compete. I’m very confident that our friendship will continue after the fight.”

• Barnett replied by saying the friendship wasn’t an issue and that, if anything, they owe it to each other to put on the best fight possible. With that said, this stuff is usually more interesting to read when fighters loathe each other. But Barnett and Fedor aren’t going to fake it, and that’s respectable.

• Atencio on holding a third straight event in Anaheim: “We’ve built a great base there. It’s our backyard, so it makes life a little bit easier, and California is definitely the Mecca of MMA. … It just makes sense for us.”

Ed Mulholland for Affliction Entertainment

Trump (left) and Cuban holding up
their fists. We're not sure why.
• You can tell criticism of Affliction has agitated Atencio some. He pointed out again that the promotion is just starting up and that the Aug. 1 event is only Affliction’s third show. “We’re kind of between a rock and a hard place here. The public acts like it’s our 10th, 15th show, but everybody else sees this as our third event.” By “public,” I think he meant “asshole journalists and the fans in the forums who keep saying we’re doomed.” You know, people like Jake Rossen.

• “We’re taking everything slow,” Atencio said. “Once we get past this event, then we’ll announce our next event and go forward.”

• Atencio on whether Affliction can sell pay-per-views despite a crappy economy: “I think in this economy -- actually, I know in this economy, people need an escape.”

• In this economy, people need a job.

• M-1 Global’s Joost Raimond called out the UFC, challenging Dana White to match the UFC’s best against Affliction and M-1 Global’s. Nothing new here. Atencio knows it’s not happening and said as much later. Barnett chimed in with thoughts on UFC heavyweight champions Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir: “Fedor can have Brock and I can take Mir or vice versa, doesn’t matter.”

• Mark Cuban’s HDNet will be showing the undercard. Cuban expounded on his view that MMA is an international sport bigger than the UFC. He’s positioning his network accordingly: “HDNet’s goal is to dominate mixed martial arts. Other than one organization, when it comes to anything internationally involving mixed martial arts, it’s going to be on HDNet.”

• “The groundswell of MMA fans behind Affliction and Strikeforce and other non-UFC events is enormous,” Cuban said. “It’s only going to continue to grow. What’s going to [succeed] in the end are the organizations that develop the best talent.”

• Cuban also believes the UFC is playing catch-up outside of the U.S.: “There are so many other fighters out there, internationally. That’s why you see the UFC trying to get out to the rest of the world -- because they know M-1 is already there; they know they’re losing that talent.”

• Counterpoint: Before the conference began, footage of Fedor played on two plainly visible screens, showing the top heavyweight choking the bejesus out of Tim Sylvia, knocking out an airborne Andrei Arlovski and beating the radials out of a tire with a sledgehammer. He’s awesome. The video showed that. But a random guy who wandered into the conference while it played wasn’t looking for Fedor. “Excuse me,” he said. “Is Brock Lesnar going to be here?”
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